Arkansas is one state that frequently makes headlines in regards to telemedicine – typically for negative reasons. The state’s strict laws and regulations make telemedicine nearly impossible to practice for providers, and impractical to use for patients. However, they have recently been making the news for a positive reason - a statewide telemedicine program that focuses on stroke patients.
The new program, titled AR SAVES (Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support), was founded by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on November 1st, 2008 as a response to the demand for vascular neurologists in remote hospitals in Arkansas. They currently have 48 partnering sites throughout Arkansas, each equipped with telemedicine technology, training for personnel, and support for the tele-stroke coordinator. The vascular neurologists provide 24/7 consult coverage and have helped over 1,000 patients with atleplase. The AR SAVES program is designed for patients who enter the waiting room within the first four and a half hours after symptoms of stroke begin. Before the AR SAVES program steps in, local ER doctors use standard stroke assessment protocols and a CT scan to determine the origin. Then, Neurologists evaluate patients through high-speed video communication systems.
The program isn’t just about treatment, but also outreach and education. In 2015, the program reached 450,000 Arkansans and provided education around the symptoms of strokes and where people should go for treatment. They also host community based education nights throughout the state each year. The AR SAVES program highlight the numerous benefits telemedicine has to offer to the state government and will hopefully influence policy-makers to improve access to telemedicine for low-acuity ailments through the drafting of new legislation.