February 9, 2010

UAMS Expands Access to Cervical Cancer Testing in Arkansas

Chuck Hitt, M.D., (left) and Gordon Low, an advanced practice nurse, are leading a telecolposcopy program to help rural Arkansas women.
Chuck Hitt, M.D., (left) and Gordon Low, an advanced practice nurse, are leading a telecolposcopy program to help rural Arkansas women.

Feb. 9, 2010| – More low-income Arkansas women now have access to needed cervical cancer tests thanks to an innovative research project and communications technology that links doctors at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) to state health clinics at Clarksville, Hope and Wynne.

The cervical colposcopies and biopsies became available in January and will help an estimated 4,500 women over three years who would have had difficulty – due to travel distance and cost – accessing this potentially life-saving medical service.

The telemedicine program works through the use of two-way, high-definition interactive video, which enables an obstetrician/gynecologist at UAMS in Little Rock to oversee the exams and biopsies administered by an advanced practice nurse at the remote clinics.

The $735,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration and its Office for the Advancement of Telehealth allows UAMS to expand its research into the use of telemedicine for colposcopies and biopsies. UAMS began its research with a smaller pilot study at the clinic in Hope.

Called Arkansas START (System To Access Rural Telecolposcopy), the program is funded through the UAMS ANGELS (Antenatal and Neonatal Guidelines, Education and Learning System) program. Chuck Hitt, M.D., chief of the UAMS Division of General Obstetrics and Gynecology, is the lead researcher on the grant, overseeing the study of telemedicine’s value in the early diagnosis of cervical cancer.

“We can now cover two-thirds of the outlying quadrants of the state,” said Gordon Low, an advanced practice nurse and program manager for the three-year grant. “It’s cost-effective and efficient with people’s time.”

The women targeted by the program are eligible for state Medicaid-funded Pap smears and treatment of cervical cancer, but do not qualify under Medicaid for the important steps in between: colposcopies and biopsies, which determine if an abnormal Pap smear is cancer. A colposcopy is performed with magnifying glasses (colposcope), and a biopsy (taking tissue samples), may follow.

“These women are really in a Catch-22 right now, but thanks to this grant we can provide more Arkansas women the bridge they need to get from Pap smear to cancer treatment,” Low said.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a 540,000-square-foot hospital; six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,775 students and 748 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 the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 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. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com.