Town Hall Highlights Campus Safety, Digital Health, Workday Transition

By Chris Carmody

Watch video of the June 16 Town Hall meeting.

Robert Barrentine, chief of the UAMS Police Department, spoke first about ways that employees can protect themselves in the event of a shooting on campus.

“With all the active-shooter events going on around the country, we’re aware that this is an important topic,” he said.

Robert Barrentine, chief of the UAMS Police Department, gives a presentation on campus safety.

Robert Barrentine, chief of the UAMS Police Department, gives a presentation on campus safety.Evan Lewis

Barrentine said UAMS employees can ask the police for a workspace assessment, during which an officer will point out the safest locations and help them set a plan to protect themselves in the event of an active-shooting situation. In response to a question later in the meeting, Barrentine noted that officers can also conduct assessments for the university’s Regional Programs.

The police chief said that if a shooting event were to occur, then employees should adopt a strategy to “avoid, deny, defend.” Avoiding means paying attention to surroundings and moving away from the source of a threat. Denying involves creating barriers to slow a gunman, as well as turning off lights and staying out of sight. And if those measures don’t prevent an encounter with an assailant, then people should be ready to defend themselves.

Barrentine urged employees to be proactive, describing them as “the first line of defense.” He said anyone who sees a potential threat should call the police immediately.

Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, praised the police department for its efforts to prevent threats on campus. “Our police officers do an incredible job of keeping us safe,” he said.

Joseph Sanford, M.D., director of the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation, followed Barrentine with an update about the university’s UAMS HealthNow program. HealthNow offers virtual care for common illnesses, stomach or skin problems, or minor injuries. It also provides HIV prevention and COVID-19 services.

HealthNow virtual care has recorded 1,298 visits through the Epic system since March 2020, including 392 in the past six months, Sanford said.

Sanford reported 3,400 patient contacts for COVID-19 services since March 2020. HealthNow on June 10 began offering remote therapy with Paxlovid, an antiviral drug for those with mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms. Sanford said 26 prescriptions for Paxlovid have been written through HealthNow.

Sanford also noted the success of UAMS’ virtual hernia clinic. The virtual clinic, launched in April, conducts preoperative assessments remotely, with a patient’s only in-person visit occurring on the day of the surgery. The clinic has seen 39 patients so far, and 14 have been sent to the surgical team. The others are in the optimization program to prepare them for their procedures.

The HealthNow team also provides screening services for AR ConnectNow, a virtual program that offers behavioral health treatment for a variety of mental health issues. AR ConnectNow, which is led by the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute, has recorded 2,923 patient contacts since May 2020, Sanford said.

In the coming year, HealthNow aims to expand direct services by increasing its number of digital clinical partnerships, and it plans to engage colleges in the state to use the program for the benefit of students and employees.

“I’m very proud of the organization for establishing this new modality of health care,” Sanford said.

Asked about UAMS’ vision for the future of digital health services, Patterson noted their scalability, which “means we can grow more quickly in the digital health space than we can in clinical health programs, and we’re committed to seeing that happen.”

Patterson said UAMS will continue to look for new ways to provide these services. “I think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg right now,” he said.

The Town Hall meeting also highlighted UAMS’ upcoming transition to the Workday management system. Workday, which will replace the SAP and My Compass systems, goes live July 5.

“It’s been a long time, and we’re finally here,” said Nathan Nolen of the UA System, who gave a presentation on Workday’s implementation. Nolen pointed out the benefits of Workday, including its mobile accessibility, easy-to-use interface and real-time data.

When Workday goes live, employees will be sent a Day One checklist. Some of the items will require employees to take action, such as requesting future time off or adding beneficiaries. Other items will require them to review data.

Training for Workday has been assigned on My Compass, and Nolen said the employee completion rate was at 82%. All UAMS employees hired before April 1 also have access to a training tenant that allows them to log in to a Workday replication and practice making transactions.

UAMS plans to hold a series of town hall sessions in late June to teach employees how to log in to Workday and to provide information about where they can receive support after the program goes live. Separate sessions on June 28 will offer help for ICE employees and colleges, and a general-audience session will be held June 29. Employees can also attend the sessions in person at the Fred Smith Auditorium in the Spine Institute.

When asked at the end of the meeting about the current state of COVID-19 in Arkansas, Patterson said, “What we know about the future is that the future is difficult to predict.” He said the virus is unlikely to go away, but its severity is on the decline as people gain immunity through infection or vaccines and as they gain access to effective therapies.

Patterson noted that medical experts still don’t have a full understanding of long COVID, and doctors are likely to see an increase in the number of patients with long-term complications.

Amid a rise in COVID numbers in Arkansas, Steppe Mette, M.D., UAMS Medical Center CEO and senior vice chancellor for UAMS Health, said the campus will not change its policy that requires masking in areas where people will interact with patients.

“Once you enter the hospital building or any clinical space, we’re still asking all patients, families and employees to mask,” he said.