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New Telemedicine Program Offers Improved Outcomes for Patients with Severe Hand Injuries

New Telemedicine Program Offers Improved Outcomes for Patients with Severe Hand Injuries

Arkansas patients with hand injuries now have access to the nation’s first hand trauma telemedicine program. This new method of dealing with hand injuries was developed by the Arkansas Trauma Communications Center (ATCC) and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). The Hand Telemedicine Program, launched January 2014, will offer better health outcomes for patients with severe hand injuries in Arkansas.

 

The Hand Telemedicine Program’s goal is to provide patients with hand injuries accurate assessments and treatment recommendations, which will result in expedited care for emergency cases. In addition, this new program will help prevent unnecessary patient transfers while allowing more efficient use of air and ground emergency medical services resources.

 

The Hand Telemedicine Program’s goal is to provide patients with hand injuries accurate assessments and treatment recommendations, which will result in expedited care for emergency cases. In addition, this new program will help prevent unnecessary patient transfers while allowing more efficient use of air and ground emergency medical services resources.

 

The Program will use iPads to connect hand surgeons with hand injury patients through secure, encrypted video. The ATCC has partnered with Ortho Arkansas, Ozark Orthopedics and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to provide seven hand surgeons who will be available for virtual consult in the event of a severe hand injury. These surgeons will evaluate the patient’s hand injury to make treatment recommendations based on the severity of the injury.

 

“Prior to this Program, patients with severe hand injuries in Arkansas often had difficulty getting the most appropriate care for their injury,” Jeff Tabor, Arkansas Trauma Communications Center program director said. “In the past, some patients who left the state for care could’ve been treated in-state had they been evaluated by a hand surgeon in the emergency room.”

 

“Now patients with hand injuries can be quickly evaluated by hand experts, regardless of the location or staffing of the hospital emergency room,” Tabor added.

 

In 2013, the ATCC coordinated 316 hand trauma patients. Nearly 14 percent of those injuries were emergency cases that required re-attachment or surgery on the veins and capillaries in the hand. In addition, 68 of the 316 hand injury patients had to leave the state for treatment.

 

Injuries to the hand or fingers are a major cause of disability and loss of productivity. Two-thirds of upper extremity injuries occur to individuals in their working years and one out of six disabling work injuries involve the fingers. In addition, children under the age of six are at the greatest risk for crushing or burning injuries of the hand.

 

“With the collaboration of private practice and academic physicians, we are able to provide immediate evaluations and identify the actual injury and proper treatment needed for optimal recovery and the chance for a return of normal hand functions,” Dr. Rick Wirges, surgeon at Ortho Arkansas said.

 

The Hand Telemedicine Program is a component of the Arkansas Trauma System, which was established in 2009 with the passage of Act 393. The Arkansas Trauma System consists of designated hospital trauma centers and emergency medical services to ensure Arkansans with life-threatening injuries get the most appropriate care specific to their injury as soon as possible.

 

For more information on the Arkansas Trauma System, visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov.