Chambers Memorial Hospital Joins UAMS-Led Program to Provide Emergency Stroke Care

By Ben Boulden

Called AR SAVES (Arkansas Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support), the program uses a high-speed video communications system to help provide immediate, life-saving treatments to stroke patients 24 hours a day. The real-time video communication enables a stroke neurologist to evaluate whether emergency room physicians should use a powerful blood-clot dissolving agent within the critical three-hour period following the first signs of stroke. 

The AR SAVES program is a partnership between the UAMS Center for Distance Health, the state Department of Human Services, Sparks Regional Health System in Fort Smith, Chambers Memorial Hospital and 42 other Arkansas hospitals.

“This partnership gives us an opportunity to enhance our quality of care level for the residents in our area,” said Scott Peek, CEO at Chambers Memorial Hospital.  “We’re committed to helping reduce the number of deaths and disabilities in Arkansas caused by stroke each year, and we are excited to be a part of this important initiative.”

“This is an important part of UAMS’ mission — reaching out to other areas of the state and helping local physicians identify patients with stroke and improve the patients’ outcomes,” said Michael Manley, outreach director for the UAMS Center for Distance Health and director of AR SAVES. 

Arkansas, which ranks first in the nation in stroke death rates, had 1,560 stroke-related deaths in 2011, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The nationwide direct and indirect cost of medical and institutional care of permanently disabled stroke victims was $73.7 billion in 2010, according to the American Heart Association’s 2012 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics.

“The AR SAVES program will save lives and money because if stroke patients get the treatment they need within three hours, they have a much greater chance of living without a major, costly disability,” said Nicolas Bianchi, M.D., AR SAVES medical director.

Bianchi said it’s important the public be aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke, such as facial drooping or an uneven smile, arm numbness or weakness, and slurred speech or difficulty speaking or understanding speech. To remember them and the importance of getting to a hospital immediately, think FAST — Face, Arm, Speech and Time.

Stroke patients are at high risk of death or permanent disability, but certain patients can be helped with the blood-clot dissolving agent tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) if given within three hours of the stroke.

Since the program began Nov. 1, 2008, more than 2,038 patients have received stroke consults through AR SAVES and 575 patients have received t-PA.

Forty-two other Arkansas hospitals are participating in the AR SAVES program: Baptist Health Medical Center – Arkadelphia, White River Medical Center in Batesville, Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home, Booneville Community Hospital, DeWitt Hospital, Johnson Regional Medical Center in Clarksville, McGehee-Desha County Hospital, Mena Regional Health System, Helena Regional Medical Center, White County Medical Center in Searcy, Ashley County Medical Center in Crossett, Arkansas Methodist Medical Center in Paragould, Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Ozark Health Medical Center in Clinton, Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton, Howard Memorial Hospital in Nashville, Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center – Russellville, Northwest Medical Center – Bentonville, Great River Medical Center – Blytheville, Baptist Health Medical Center – Heber Springs, Chicot Memorial Medical Center in Lake Village, Ouachita County Medical Center in Camden, Five Rivers Medical Center in Pocahontas, Harris Hospital in Newport, Magnolia Regional Medical Center, Dallas County Medical Center in Fordyce, Community Medical Center of Izard County in Calico Rock, North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in Harrison, Delta Memorial Hospital in Dumas, National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs, CrossRidge Community Hospital in Wynne, Baptist Health Medical Center in Stuttgart, Piggott Community Hospital in Piggott, Drew Memorial Hospital in Monticello, Bradley County Medical Center in Warren, Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Walnut Ridge, Conway Regional Health System in Conway, South Mississippi County Regional Hospital in Osceola, Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, Stone County Medical Center,  Medical Center of South Arkansas in El Dorado, Northwest Medical Center-Springdale and Baptist Health Medical Center-Hot Spring County in Malvern.

The AR SAVES program will continue adding hospitals across Arkansas in the coming months, said Curtis Lowery, M.D., director of the UAMS Center for Distance Health.  

In addition to Bianchi, the team of stroke neurologists includes: Archana Hinduja, M.D., and Vladimir Karpitskiy, M.D., Ph.D., adjunct faculty in the UAMS College of Medicine; and Margaret Tremwel, M.D., at Sparks Regional Health System in Fort Smith.