LITTLE ROCK - A $1 million grant to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) from Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield will enable the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation to advance digital health statewide to provide patients better and more streamlined access to health care.
The grant was announced today as leaders from UAMS and Arkansas Blue Cross unveiled a digital health interpretive wall on the first floor of UAMS Medical Center. The interactive display will allow visitors to gain a better understanding of the benefits of digital technology and how it serves as an important tool for not only patient care, but for improved health and wellness
The support of Arkansas Blue Cross in the UAMS digital health initiative honors Mahlon O. Maris, MD, for his nearly 50 years as a practicing primary care physician, providing quality care with great compassion in rural Arkansas.
Digital health delivers health care through technology such as smart phones, interactive live video, wearable devices and personal computers. It reduces the cost of health care and improves access for patients, especially in a largely rural state like Arkansas.
UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, who has made digital health a key component of his tenure, made the announcement with Curtis Barnett, Arkansas Blue Cross president and CEO, and Curtis Lowery, M.D., director of the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation.
Lowery has nurtured digital health applications in Arkansas over the last 30 years, culminating in creation this year of the Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. The institute already connects many hospitals and clinics across the state through interactive video to provide care for high-risk pregnancy, stroke and other health needs.
The first phase of the plan will focus on urgent care. Patients will be able to consult with a medical professional by phone or live video on their phone to determine whether they need immediate care and how to obtain follow-up care. A digital provider will be able to treat significantly more patients and can treat patients throughout the state.
Phase Two will develop ways to provide primary care and certain specialized care, such as gynecology, ophthalmology, gastroenterology, oncology and orthopaedics.
The services should be available for the public in early 2021, allowing UAMS time to establish the technology infrastructure and training programs necessary for a full digital interprofessional education and health care delivery center.
None of that would be possible without the critically important $1 million investment from Arkansas Blue Cross, which has long supported UAMS programs.
Since the institute's inception in February, it has been distributing software and technology to patients so they can take part in live video consultations 24 hours a day, seven days a week with physicians and other health care professionals.
At least 6 percent of patients use a digital device to manage health, and 66 percent of millennials are interested in managing their health on mobile devices, according to 2017 surveys.
The institute can expand on existing relationships between UAMS and rural hospitals to provide access to medical specialties that aren't in those communities. Increased access to specialists can reduce health care costs by reducing the need to transfer patients from rural hospitals to larger medical centers such as UAMS where those specialists often are more commonly practicing.
These changes will help move toward compensating providers for positive health outcomes rather than the now predominant, fee-for-service model. This will result in fewer hospitalizations, shorter hospital stays and fewer Emergency Department visits. Cost savings are then shared with providers.
The Institute for Digital Health & Innovation also provides continuing medical and health education, public health education, and evaluation research through interactive video.