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| The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Institute for Digital Health & Innovation recently received a $15,000 Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) 2022 Telehealth Equity Catalyst Awards and Pilot Grant for its research program on nurse investigator sexual assault.
The grant supports TeleSANE, an Institute for Digital Health & Innovation program that provides a specialized, 24/7 digital health service for survivors of sexual assault. Launched in 2021, this unique healthcare platform will be part of the Sexual Assault Assessment Program at emergency departments and crisis centers across the state.
“We are delighted to receive this recognition from the AAMC,” said Joseph Sanford, MD, director of the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. “The TeleSANE program increases access to expert resources and enables us to provide victims of sexual abuse with the care and support they need.”
The program helps emergency departments in rural and underserved communities by providing sexual assault nurses (SANEs) through teleconferencing. These nurse examiners communicate with remote hospital staff through real-time video consultations and guide them through evidence gathering, medical forensics, recommending advice, and connecting patients with additional resources — all at no cost to the patient. Arkansas has only eight certified SANEs to assist adult survivors of sexual assault, and this program is helping to equalize access to care.
TeleSANE will use the grant to develop strategies to maintain and expand the federally funded program. This includes assessment processes and needs assessments that will help TeleSANE leaders better understand the needs of local and state law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and the state crime lab. Using these findings, the program can be tailored to maximize benefits for health care, law enforcement, and survivors across Arkansas.
“In 2021, the AAMC launched the first Telehealth Equity Catalyst Awards to identify and highlight academic health systems that directly address barriers to telehealth care and improve care through both clinical delivery and medical education, especially for underserved communities,” said Rosha McCoy. , MD, Acting Chief Health Care Officer for AAMC. “Over the past year we have worked closely with these health systems to understand the challenges, the solutions and how we can spread innovative programs. I am excited to see this community grow and look forward to continuing to work with our new cohort of recipients.”
The grant recognizes the efforts of member institutions advancing healthcare in new and effective ways through digital health and health technology. Award-winning programs are demonstrating a positive impact on digital health and health technology barriers through clinical delivery and medical education.
Through the Office for Victims of Crime, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded UAMS a three-year, $4 million grant in 2019 to establish TeleSANE, which was initially set to launch in 2020 but faced delays due to COVID-19. HRSA, the Health Resources and Services Administration office of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, awarded the program a three-year grant of $1.5 million in July 2022.
Several digital health programs from UAMS and locations nationwide have teamed up to implement the TeleSANE program, which will also include activities and outreach opportunities to educate their respective communities about sexual violence. To date, TeleSANE has launched 13 of the 73 planned sites in the state and received more than 110 consultation requests in the past year for assistance related to medical forensics. Once the program is fully implemented, every sexual assault survivor in Arkansas will be within an hour’s drive to a TeleSANE location.
TeleSANE uses UAMS e-Link, the state-wide digital health network, to ensure privacy and protection for the storage of images and information if a patient needs to be transferred to another facility.
The AAMC leads and serves the academic medicine community to improve the health of people around the world. Founded in 1876 and based in Washington, DC, the AAMC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming health through medical education, healthcare, medical research, and community collaboration.