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 Friday (Aug. 9) 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 two groups said.
“This initiative represents the next step for digital health in Arkansas,” said UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson. “With the strong relationship UAMS has with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we can be true innovators for digital health in this state. By improving access for patients, especially those in rural and underserved areas in Arkansas, we can provide care to people wherever they live, whenever possible.”
Digital health delivers health care through technology such as smart phones, interactive live video, wearable devices and personal computers. Advocates say it reduces the cost of health care and improves access for patients, especially in a largely rural state like Arkansas.
“Health care in Arkansas, and throughout the United States and beyond, is experiencing amazing advances in technology and innovation, but we also see huge disparity as to who can access and afford health care, especially in rural areas,” said Curtis Barnett, Arkansas Blue Cross president and CEO. “Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield believes care innovations, including digital health, can help all Arkansans live healthier lives.
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.
UAMS says at least 64% of all patients use a digital device to manage health, and 66% of millennials are interested in managing their health on mobile devices, according to 2017 surveys.