Aug. 18, 2010 | The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has received more than $102 million in stimulus money to establish or upgrade broadband connections at 474 health care and education sites across Arkansas.
The $102,131,393 federal grant – one of the largest ever received by an Arkansas institution – was announced today at UAMS by Rick Wade, senior advisor and deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Commerce. In addition to the $102 million grant, UAMS and its partners are providing a 20.6 percent match of $26,450,427.
The new connectivity will enable medical specialists to provide care to rural areas using two-way interactive video (telemedicine).
Also participating in the announcement were U.S. Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor; U.S. Reps. Vic Snyder and Mike Ross; Gov. Mike Beebe’s Chief of Staff Morril Harriman; UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D.; and Curtis Lowery, M.D., chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the UAMS College of Medicine. Lowery is the grant’s principal investigator and has led UAMS’ nationally recognized innovations in telemedicine.
The broadband funding is the second-largest federal grant for an infrastructure project. Only West Virginia, with a $126 million grant, has received a larger federal grant for broadband infrastructure.
“Arkansas is about to have one of the most connected health care systems in the nation,” Wade said. “This grant represents an investment that will pay dividends for generations, but there’s no dollar figure for the lives saved, the new educational opportunities and the overall quality-of-life benefits this will bring to the people of Arkansas.”
Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant was approved by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
“This Recovery Act investment is a game-changer for our state that will expand broadband Internet access in all of Arkansas’s 75 counties,” Lincoln said. “Broadband access is critically important to Arkansas, providing greater access to telemedicine resources, expanding educational opportunities, and helping rural businesses grow. It has become essential for economic development and I am committed to doing everything I can to secure funding that enables Arkansans to be competitive in today's global economy.”
Arkansas ranks 50th in the percentage of households with a computer, 50th in percentage of households with Internet access and 46th in percentage of households with broadband access. The state’s lack of sufficient broadband resources at community anchor institutions only further limits residents’ abilities to benefit from broadband.
Arkansas also ranks third worst in the country for early deaths. Its public safety and emergency transportation system lacks interagency communication and the resources to enable a regional system of emergency care.
The grant will enable fiber connections and/or bandwidth upgrades in all 75 counties and in 135 Arkansas communities, including 81 Arkansas hospitals, all two-year colleges (four-year colleges are already connected), eight public libraries, all state human development centers, the state’s trauma network, community health centers, mental health clinics and home health agencies..
“Having this increased bandwidth and equipment means that every resident in Arkansas will be served through the proposed connections,” Rahn said. “The project will benefit residents in their daily lives – from their local hospital, public library, two-year college, ambulance service, community health clinic, mental health clinic and other institutions within the network.”
The completed network has the potential for expansion to 3,926 additional community institutions. Those include 1,072 K-12 public schools, 29 charter schools, 305 private schools, 412 long-term care facilities, 758 provider clinics, 231 public libraries, 203 licensed ambulance services, 264 police departments, 575 fire departments and 77 offices of emergency management.
The vast majority of connections will be made by leasing more than 3,700 miles of existing broadband lines, while another 379 miles are slated for fiber network construction. Counting existing fiber lines, the broadband network totals more than 5,600 miles.
The new broadband capabilities will also provide new research opportunities for UAMS’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) of the National Institutes of Health. The CTSA grant enables institutions to translate basic science discoveries into speedier treatments and cures for patients.
Lowery said that with connections among virtually all of the state’s health care institutions, Arkansas can become a leader in health care reform.
“This gives Arkansas the unique ability to use specialists to improve efficiency and improve medical outcomes for patients,” Lowery said.
Spending from the grant will include:
• $28 million to construct fiber optic network routes to serve community colleges
• $22 million for telemedicine equipment for hospitals, clinics and home health sites
• $5 million for network equipment for community colleges
• $24 million for connectivity lease charges for participating sites
• $23 million for network infrastructure
To manage fiber construction and connectivity at the two-year colleges, UAMS will grant a subaward to the Arkansas Research & Education Optical Network (AREON), the state’s only publicly owned fiber optic network currently serving four-year universities.
Based on existing enrollment figures, the connections among the two-year colleges will benefit about 58,000 students and 50,000 work force trainees.
Key partners include the Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network, Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Baptist Health, Arkansas Hospital Association, Arkansas State Library and Community Health Centers of Arkansas.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a 540,000-square-foot hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and six institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. UAMS has 2,775 students and 748 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com.