Two and a half years ago, Arkansas dedicated new revenue to create a much-needed Trauma System to save lives in our State. Before we changed the law, Arkansas was one of only three states without a trauma system and the only state in the nation without a designated trauma center. That has changed, and I am pleased to report that as we continue the work of establishing the system, we are already seeing positive results.
One of the new components, the Arkansas Trauma Call Center, has established itself as a trendsetter within the nation's trauma systems. Its operators - trained paramedics and nurses - begin the triage assessment process and direct emergency transporters to hospitals where the best care for the trauma victim can be given the most quickly. A "Trauma Dashboard" shows operators real-time availability of hospital rooms and medical specialty services at trauma centers throughout the system. They are then able to communicate the best information directly to ambulances through any one of 600 trauma radios distributed statewide.
Before we had a Trauma System, an ambulance took its patient to the nearest hospital, regardless of that facility's ability to care for a specific traumatic injury. All-too-often, a higher level of care was required, meaning that hospital staff had to make calls until they found another hospital that could and would receive the patient. This often cost critical treatment hours, and in many cases, resulted in death or permanent disability.
Since going live this January, the Arkansas Trauma Call Center has coordinated hospital destinations of more than 7,200 trauma patients. Reformed hospital policies now allow ER staff to accept trauma patients immediately. This combination of new resources and policies has drastically reduced the time a traumatically injured patient must wait, from several hours to an average of less than 7½ minutes.
Another part of the Trauma System already in use is the Trauma Image Repository. This is another information-sharing resource that allows hospitals to more quickly share radiological images with specialists in other medical facilities. This system has proven to speed up treatment and decrease the need for repeated tests.
We're also supplying hospitals and emergency medical service providers with funding to train new EMTs and paramedics. Current EMTs and paramedics are being educated in advanced trauma-related techniques. A newly-created trauma registry now tracks individual cases from inception through rehabilitation. The Arkansas Department of Health estimates that the Trauma System will save 168 lives a year and reduce our annual medical costs by $193 million.
But if you or a loved one is lying injured in the back of an ambulance after a serious accident, numbers won't matter as much the reassurance that you will get the best care available. It's beneficial to know that this system helps control costs, but it's even more important to know that Arkansans who are severely injured will go to the right place to receive the right treatment in the shortest possible time. We are still working hard to find new ways to protect our people, and our new Arkansas Trauma System will only continue to get better.