by Tyler Hale
Effective today (Oct. 8), the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is organizing all of its clinical operations throughout Arkansas under the UAMS Health Umbrella.
UAMS Health will consist of all of the organization’s clinical locations, from the UAMS Medical Center in Little Rock to its regional sites to digital health clinics. Across Arkansas, UAMS operates eight regional centers, as well as Neighborhood Clinics, women’s clinics, orthopedic clinics and more.
According to UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., the new UAMS Health organization demonstrates that UAMS is not simply a hospital or a university but a fully-fledged health system serving the entirety of Arkansas. However, he is quick to note that there is little that is changing from what they are already doing – but they are changing how they are operating.
“The primary goals of implementing UAMS Health are to improve our clinical efficiency and fulfilling our mission to providing access to health care for all Arkansans,” Patterson says. “The difference between what we were doing yesterday and what we are doing today isn’t all that different, but how we go about doing our clinical business going forward will change a lot.”
Moving all clinical operations under UAMS Health has been in the works for some time, according to Dr. Stephanie Gardner, UAMS chief strategy officer and provost, but it was unveiled earlier this summer in the UAMS “Vision 2029” strategic plan.
“We’ve been moving in this direction for at least a year, but it was announced broadly in July,” Gardner says.
One of the strategic objectives listed in the plan is the creation of a University of Arkansas Health System. According to the strategic plan, UAMS is planning to shift from an “institution bound” model to a “system model” of providing care. The projected measures that UAMS will be taking to achieve this objective include partnering with community hospitals and establishing primary care clinics in communities with need.
At the heart of the shift is improving health care access and efficiency throughout the health system. By integrating the disparate UAMS clinical operations, Patterson and Gardner say that patients will ultimately see better health care access and outcomes.
Previously, the UAMS’ different regional clinical operations did not operate under the same electronic health records platform as the UAMS Medical Center in Little Rock. Under UAMS Health, all of the clinical operations will be brought under the same platform. “It’s the first step in our move to a more integrated way of providing health care,” Gardner says.
One of the major components of UAMS Health will be its focus on digital health. Using programs designed by the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation, patients will be able to access health care remotely, erasing the need for traveling to see specialists and allowing them to communicate without leaving home.
“Digital health, especially for a sparsely populated, rural state like Arkansas, will ensure that we can provide access to health care for every Arkansans, no matter where they live,” Patterson says. “Not to put too fine a point on it, but your zip code should not determine your access to health care.”
Gardner says that this announcement is only the starting point for UAMS, with a long list of strategic goals that are still on the horizon. However, Patterson says the move will lay a “strong foundation” for UAMS.
“UAMS is looking forward to continuing to push the envelope in providing health care throughout the state, both through its current operations and our future endeavors,” Patterson says.