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UAMS announces new telehealth training centers in Arkansas, Tennessee

A map displays the locations of five new satellite telehealth training centers in Arkansas and west Tennessee.
South Central Telehealth Resource Center
A map displays the locations of five new satellite telehealth training centers in Arkansas and west Tennessee.

Healthcare providers in Arkansas and west Tennessee now have a new resource to learn best practices for offering care through telemedicine.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences announced on Tuesday it is opening five satellite telehealth training centers, four of which are in Arkansas. Centers will be located in Fayetteville, Pine Bluff, Lake Village and Helena-West Helena, with another in Memphis, Tenn.

Dr. Hari Eswaran, director of the UAMS South Central Telehealth Resource Center, says the training resources are needed to help cope with an increase in requests for telemedicine visits.

“Arkansas is a rural state, so we have a lot of population out there who we need to take care of. Telehealth is a good mechanism to do that,” Eswaran said.

This expansion is being funded by two grants, one two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a one-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, totalling more than $1.8 million.

“[The training is] not only for healthcare professionals. The centers are open for high school students or people who want to kind of begin a career in healthcare or healthcare IT, which we are short on workers,” Eswaran said.

The training centers are equipped with technology like remote patient monitoring devices and digital health tools and resources.

Trainees will receive instruction on specific equipment used in telehealth, as well as proper etiquette, cybersecurity, privacy issues, and insurance billing practices. The training will be available through in-person classes at the five satellite centers, or they can also receive virtual training from instructors based in Little Rock.

Due to the pandemic, previous restrictions on telehealth were lifted. For the future, Eswaran said, “What I personally anticipate is that there will be a hybrid model, because, I mean, you still have to see the doctor. Everything cannot be solved by telehealth.”

According to Eswaran, the use of telehealth services is higher than it was before the pandemic, but has plateaued and is not used as much as during the peak COVID period.

Eswaran said he predicted the impact of this possible hybrid model as improving medical visits as patients may not have to travel to every appointment. He says it could also cater to the increased need for mental health services since they could be provided from the comfort of a patient’s home.

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.
Remington Miller was an intern at KUAR News as part of the George C. Douthit Endowed Scholarship program. She later worked as a reporter and editor for the station.