LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — When most of us go to work, we are typically there to see new things but that's not the case for everyone. For some people, including Dr. Susan Emmett, she goes to work to hear new things.
"We know that hearing loss can have a lifelong impact," Dr. Emmett, director of the UAMS Center for Hearing Health Equity, said. "We asked the question, does telehealth overcome these barriers, and the answer is a resounding yes."
More specifically, the work that they have done has focused on how kids hear. But it isn't based here in Arkansas – but rather in Alaska.
"What's really important to remember is that the work we're doing is applicable not just to hearing, but to all preventable health conditions," Dr. Emmett said.
For a state like Arkansas, where huge parts of the state are rural, that has proven to be very important.
Dr. Emmett's study in Alaska focused on two groups – kids who had access to telemedicine, and those that didn't. On average, those that had access to telemedicine were scheduled for a second doctors visit 68.5% more often, and were seen 17.6x faster than those kids without access to telemedicine.
Dr. Sanford is the Chief Clinical Informatics Officer for UAMS, and he has been heavily involved in telemedicine.
"If we can offer a way to shortcut that travel time while still providing the same quality of care, we see that as a net benefit for all involved," said Sanford.
He mentioned that Dr. Emmett's study is not only great for Alaska, but that it's equally great for Arkansas.
"Arkansas is a very geographically diverse space," he said. "And so we often have patients traveling three and a half hours one way to see a doctor for 45, 50 minutes."
While Dr. Emmett's study focused on hearing loss in rural children, she mentioned that it could be applied anywhere for all sorts of medical problems.
"We're building on what we've learned about telehealth to develop a new model of care that could be rolled out in Arkansas and across all of rural America," said Emmett.
The main goal is to continue to expand on this and be able to give everyone more access to medical care, no matter how far away they are.