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UAMS, Baptist Health join forces

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Baptist Health will establish a medical oncology and infusion clinic on the campus of Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock and a medical oncology, infusion and radiation therapy clinic on the campus of Baptist Health Medical Center in Fort Smith.

As part of the endeavor of the Little Rock Project, UAMS and Baptist Health will form a limited liability company called BH-UAMS Oncology Services Little Rock, LLC. Each party will own 50% of the LLC.

UAMS will make a capital contribution of approximately $1,338,129, according to a written presentation from Donald Bobbitt, University of Arkansas System president.

Through service contracts with the “LLC, UAMS will provide management, IT consultation and physician services, all of which will be compensated based upon an independent third-party fair market valuation,” according to the written presentation provided to the board of trustees of the University of Arkansas. The board met at the University of Arkansas at Monticello on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This “seems like one of the wisest moves we’ve made in a long time,” said trustee Sheffield Nelson. “I think it’ll be a very smart investment.”

During the initial phase of their affiliation, Baptist Health and UAMS formed BH-UAMS Oncology Services, LLC to own and operate a radiation therapy clinic on the campus of Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock.

UAMS also opened a medical oncology and infusion clinic on the same campus so UAMS and Baptist Health could provide “comprehensive oncology care” for the North Little Rock community, according to the presentation.

The affiliation aims to maximize quality treatment options for residents and citizens of Arkansas, so they can remain in-state for oncology care, improve recruitment of experienced oncology providers to the state and support UAMS efforts to achieve National Cancer Institute designation — which would provide UAMS with the opportunity to receive additional federal and private grant funding for cancer research.

“I want to compliment UAMS on collaborating with other healthcare providers, [because] it’s smart, and I couldn’t endorse it more,” said board chairman C.C. “Cliff” Gibson III. “We help them, and they help us.”

It is “incumbent upon us to look for opportunities to collaborate,” said Dr. Cam Patterson, UAMS chancellor. “We’re open for business.”

The UA board approved the forming and investing in the new limited liability company Wednesday.

On Tuesday, UAMS officials updated trustees on its digital health initiative.

The UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation is unparalleled in terms of reaching and improving health outcomes for rural people, compared with distance health initiatives in any other state, “and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that statement,” Patterson told the board.

Digital health provides healthcare access so fewer people resort to using emergency rooms as “primary care,” said Patterson. Having individuals use the ER for primary care, rather than reserving it for those who truly need emergency care, is “less-than-ideal” for patients and providers.

Among the aims of the Institute for Digital Health & Innovation is eliminating health disparities in the state, particularly for rural Arkansans, said Dr. Joseph Sanford, director of the Institute for Digital Health & Innovation.

Established in early 2019, the Institute for Digital Health & Innovation connects all but a few hospitals and clinics across the state with telemedicine, continuing medical and health education, public health education and evaluation research through interactive video.

The Institute for Digital Health & Innovation’s Arkansas Stroke Program, which works with roughly 50 partnering sites throughout the state to provide 24/7 consult coverage and support for Arkansans experiencing strokes — including receiving life-saving medication that attenuates the impact of a stroke — has helped move the state from ranking dead last in the U.S. for stroke outcomes to 37th, said Sanford, also associate vice chancellor, chief clinical informatics officer and an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology and Department of Biomedical Informatics.

The Institute for Digital Health & Innovation is also home to the High-Risk Pregnancy Program, a support network for high-risk obstetric patients and providers in Arkansas that partners with the Arkansas Department of Human Services and is supported by the Arkansas Medical Society.

“When I hear about all these advances, I’m sure all of us in Arkansas can look forward to a better state of health,” said Col. Nate Todd, a member of the board of trustees. “I thank UAMS for its leadership in this area.”

Gibson was similarly impressed.

“This is stellar and stunning,” he said. “Wow.”

Patterson also updated trustees on several building projects.

A new $54 million electrical power plant on the east side of the Little Rock campus is 99% completed and started producing energy this year, he said. “Energy isn’t ‘sexy,’ but it’s important in many ways, and we’ve already netted $7.5 million in energy savings.”

The energy plan is key to UAMS accomplishing its goal of being “carbon-neutral” in 2030, Patterson said.

A 20,000-square-foot child development center — which will be at the intersection of 11th and Monroe streets, just south of the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and across Interstate 630 from the main UAMS campus in Little Rock — is scheduled for completion in January 2024, he said. It will serve 200 children of UAMS employees and students, and nearly all of the costs will be covered by grants and tax credits.

A 115,000-square-foot Northwest Arkansas orthopedic and sports medicine facility “is in the design phase,” he said. The $89 million facility would focus on aiding residents of Northwest Arkansas, including Arkansas Razorbacks athletes.

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