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Hospital linked with statewide trauma system

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Seconds count when it comes to any type of medical emergency, especially in rural Arkansas where hospitals and patients aren't always easy to get to. A few seconds could mean the difference between life and death and between a good recovery and physical impairment. Those few seconds is why Arkansas implemented a computer database that provides accurate and up-to-date information on hospitals in Arkansas, which is called a "dashboard."

The system was funded by a $200,000 grant from Gov. Mike Beebe's Emergency Fund earlier in the year. The development of the software and the constant system operation of the dashboard were paid for with the grant.

The dashboard is a link between 83 participating acute care hospitals in the state. The database can guide emergency personnel to a compatible hospital that suits the needs of a severely injured person. The database can also tell emergency personnel which hospital in the system has specialists like neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons and general surgeons on duty.

This database is the first component of a potential trauma system for the state. According to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), "Arkansas is one of only three states in the nation without a trauma system and the only state without a designated trauma center."

"Any successful trauma system is built on a strong foundation of communication," Gov. Beebe said. "The statewide coordination of response and resources will help save lives in Arkansas and the 'dashboard' will be a primary component of that system."

For those who live in rural areas, on dirt or gravel roads, time is crucial in the event of an emergency and it is often difficult to get to a hospital that is close enough. There is also no guarantee that the hospital will offer the most appropriate care.

"Physicians talk about the 'golden hour' of care with regard to severe injury. The 'golden hour' is the magic window of opportunity during which appropriate treatment by appropriately trained healthcare professionals can make the difference in life, death or disability in the future. In Arkansas, because of the lack of a trauma system, hundreds of victims are dying because they can't get to the right place at the right time," Paul Halverson, director and state health officer, said.

"It's easy to see how important the 'dashboard' and a possible trauma system are to our state," Halverson said. "Every year, several thousand Arkansans die or are seriously incapacitated as the result of traumatic injuries from accidents. In fact, injury has been and remains the number one killer of Arkansans from ages 1 through 44. The sad fact is that many injuries and subsequent deaths are preventable. A comprehensive trauma system will help us dramatically reduce those numbers."

The Fulton County Hospital implemented the system Nov. 10. According to the hospital's Chief Operation Officer, Tammy Friel, FCH is now able to transfer critical patients to larger hospitals faster and more efficiently. "We used to have to call around to hospitals and it took up time," Friel said. She said now, hospital personnel can see what hospitals have to offer and if there are any beds available.

"If a patient is in critical condition (the dashboard) speeds up time to get (to a hospital)," Friel said.



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