May 15, 2008

UAMS Neonatologists Now on Call for Regional Hospitals

LITTLE ROCK – Four regional Arkansas hospitals have joined a new round-the-clock telemedicine program that links their doctors with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) neonatologists anytime a newborn requires special medical attention. A neonatologist specializes in the care of newborns up to two months old.


The neonatal telemedicine program links UAMS neonatologists on staff at UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) with the Medical Center of South Arkansas in El Dorado, St. Edwards Mercy Medical Center in Fort Smith, Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville and Willow Creek Women’s Hospital in Johnson.


This latest telemedicine program serves Arkansas women and their babies who live in outlying areas. The program will assist local physicians with low-birth-weight newborns and those with other medical emergencies.


UAMS expects to add another eight hospitals to the program by the end of the calendar year, said UAMS’ Whit Hall, M.D., a neonatologist who is leading the regionalization effort.


 “UAMS has provided high-risk obstetrics consults, but this is the first time we’ve been able to go into the nurseries of Arkansas’ regional hospitals to consult with their neonatologists or pediatricians,” said Curtis Lowery, M.D., chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the UAMS College of Medicine, and co-director of UAMS’ Center for Distance Health.


ACH’s Angel One helicopter will be used to transport mothers and their sick newborns to the most suitable hospital in the program. The patients’ medical needs and available bed space among the participating hospitals will determine the most suitable placement for each newborn.


Low birth weight is a leading cause of infant death and disability and an economic burden for private and public health insurance programs. Hospitals with specialized perinatal care can improve birth outcomes and even reduce medical costs, Hall said.


The program for newborns builds on UAMS’ innovative, nationally recognized ANGELS program for high-risk pregnancy cases, said Lowery, M.D. Lowery created the

program that makes UAMS’ board-certified maternal-fetal specialists available to hospitals statewide using telemedicine technology. ANGELS stands for Antenatal and Neonatal Guidelines, Education and Learning System.


“ANGELS has improved the transportation and referrals of these high-risk mothers and we hope that providing in-nursery telemedicine support will further decrease the mortality rates of low-birth-weight infants,” Lowery said.


The program for newborns is funded by UAMS’ Center for Translational Neuroscience (CTN) and its Community Based Research and Education (COBRE) Core Facility.  Funding for this program originated at the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources.


“The CTN is pleased to provide funds to implement this neonatal telemedicine program, which is one of several programs the CTN has funded that help improve medical treatment for infants,” said Edgar Garcia-Rill, Ph.D., director of the CTN and professor of neurobiology and developmental sciences.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,538 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,600 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. Visit