The telehealth offerings at National Park Medical Center now include the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or TeleSANE, program, which was brought online in August to assist victims of sexual assault.
Partnering with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Institute for Digital Health and Innovation, the cart is available 24/7, but may only be used by one victim at a time.
"Digital health is delivering health care through technology such as smartphones and computers which improves access for patients, especially in a rural environment like the state of Arkansas, and reduces the cost of health care," said Krista Creel, market director at NPMC.
"TeleSANE provides our local emergency clinicians with ongoing, real-time access to the knowledge and support they need to care for those patients who have experienced a sexual assault through the use of innovative video conferencing."
According to a news release from NPMC, nearly half of all women and a quarter of men in the United States experience sexual assault. The release said Arkansas has the second-highest rate of rape, with 77.2 cases reported out of 100 thousand people, although rape is thought to be widely underreported across the board.
"We have seen a significant uptick in the availability and utilization of telehealth services over the past few years and the benefits are vast," Creel said. "Specifically, telehealth enables our clinical teams to begin delivering specialized and potentially lifesaving care close to home, in the moment a patient needs it."
The program uses a telecart equipped with a two-way video screen and a SANE tool kit to aid in the collection of evidence while a SANE nurse helps with photography and provides additional resources to aid in recovery.
Other telehealth services provided by the hospital include telePsychiatry, teleNeurology, teleStroke, and virtual nursing programs.
"So, one of the goals of the program is to make our patients feel safe and comfortable reporting to the emergency department for treatment after an assault," said Creel. "Our expectation is that when the community learns more about the program, we will see higher utilization."
She says that through telemedicine, the hospital has the ability to access "hundreds of specialists and connect our physicians to patients in a real-time manner."
"This provides pivotal support to on-site staff during off-hours, peak periods or with unique cases through a digital connection," she said.
Although the cart can only be used by one patient at a time, Creel says the emergency department staff are able to provide care while waiting. After an initial consultation with emergency department staff, and with a patient's permission, the TeleSANE cart is brought into the room by the on-site care provider. The remote provider will assist in as much or as little treatment as needed.
Since rolling out the cart earlier this month, several patients have already been assisted by the program.
"TeleSANE aims to breakdown communication barriers for traumatized patients," Creel said. "Because the nurses have extensive training and experience with these cases, they know how to speak empathetically, using language designed to minimize any additional trauma and reduce triggers."