UAMS Hosts United States Telecommunication Training Institute (USTTI) for Digital Health Training Program

By Benjamin Waldrum

Thirteen international health and technology professionals converged on the UAMS Little Rock campus to learn more about applying digital health practices in their countries.

USTTI visitors with virtual otoscope display

Several visitors look at a live, virtual display from an otoscope.Benjamin Waldrum

“It has been a privilege for the USTTI to partner with UAMS to provide world class training for 13 international officials,” said James O’Connor, USTTI chairman and CEO. “The participants from Costa Rica, Ghana, Hungary, Namibia, Nepal, Paraguay, Rwanda, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam are leading digital health initiatives in their countries. The information they gained this week along with the technologies and techniques they have been exposed to will be incorporated into their work and used to save lives when they return home.”

The course, entitled “Developing a Multiple Site Digital Health Network,” is a collaboration of USTTI and UAMS. The course provides a comprehensive overview for designing, developing and delivering education and clinical services using digital health technology. This includes training from UAMS faculty and staff on technologies and their operation, educational programming and marketing, as well as visits to UAMS digital health network sites.

Digital health is delivering health care through technology such as smart phones, interactive live video, wearable devices and personal computers. It reduces the cost of health care and improves access for patients, especially in a rural environment like Arkansas. The institute’s digital health network connects more than 500 Arkansas hospitals and clinics with digital health, continuing medical and public health education, and research through interactive video.

“It was a pleasure to meet with colleagues from around the world who are passionate about developing digital health solutions,” said Joseph Sanford, M.D., director for IDHI. “I hope that their experience was worthwhile and look forward to continued partnership with USTTI.”

Over three days, attendees got a crash course in digital health, including an overview of the institute and its programs, as well as discussions on business plans and economic development. Lessons included how digital health networks are built and maintained, using the UAMS e-Link network as an example.

USTTI Visitor listening to heartbeat

A visitor listens to a heartbeat in real time, transmitted from a specially equipped stethoscope.Benjamin Waldrum

Attendees later broke into groups to tour the institute’s call center and telehealth training center, as well as the UAMS neonatal intensive care unit and its telenursery program, a part of the institute’s High-Risk Pregnancy Program. The tours were interactive, allowing particpants to learn about digital health directly, such as devices that can transmit live data or video of heartbeats, EKGs and NICU training simulators.

“Sharing with others what we do, what we have accomplished, along with our future projects is a great privilege,” said Wanda Standridge, RN, BSN, the call center’s director. “I hope that our experience and growth can provide inspiration, answers and lay the groundwork to assist in launching the same types of programs, wherever they are needed.”

“We love helping people from all over the world with telemedicine,” said neonatologist Whit Hall, M.D. “Telemedicine has been a huge benefit for us [in the NICU], ranging from 24/7 consultations with neonatologists and obstetrictians, census rounds, nursing consults and back transports.”

“It was such an honor to meet with health care leaders from around the world, who shared the current state of health care challenges in their countries,” said Becky Sartini, DNP, assistant director of nursing for women and infants services. “As we shared the amazing state of the work we do here at UAMS with our creative solutions and technology, realizing how it all is translatable to so many other areas and countries just validates the potential impact we have on not just Arkansas, but health care worldwide.”

Other presentations included the High-Risk Pregnancy Program and UAMS HealthNow, a virtual urgent care service that connects patients with providers. The service was a critical connector during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 100,000 visits.

Whit Hall with visitors in NICU

Whit Hall, M.D. (at left) speaks to visitors about the technologies used in the UAMS NICU.Benjamin Waldrum

White River Medical Center in Batesville hosted the second day’s events, focused on trauma digital health and IDHI programs assisting with stroke services and sexual assault nurse examiners, as well as a tour of the emergency department.

Attendees returned to Little Rock for the third and final day. Before returning home, they toured the UAMS Simulation Center and saw a demonstration of the 4K-resolution virtual dissection SECTRA Table. The event closed with an overview of BioVentures LLC, the technology licensing office and business incubator based at UAMS.

“We are honored that USTTI and this diverse group of international visitors chose to travel from so far away to see how UAMS has implemented telemedicine and digital health to help rural communities in Arkansas,” said Wendy Ross, IDHI director of programs and co-director for the South Central Telehealth Resource Center. “The learning has gone both ways, of course, and we are inspired by our visitors’ passion to improve health outcomes in their own countries.”

The United States Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI) is a nonprofit, government-industry joint venture designed to meet the IT, telecommunications, cybersecurity and satellite training needs of the women and men who design, regulate and oversee the communications infrastructures of the developing world. Since 1982, the USTTI has graduated over 10,000 communications officials, regulators and entrepreneurs from 177 developing countries.

USTTI offers tuition-free courses in person, and through webinars, in the areas of regulatory policy, 5G, spectrum management, wireless technologies, cybersecurity, emergency communications, internet, broadcasting, telehealth, rural connectivity, subsea cables, internet governance and satellite applications. Through its diverse curriculum, USTTI continues to showcase innovative technologies and services pioneered in the United States.