Just three years after initiating our statewide trauma system, Arkansas's trauma-care infrastructure is now the envy of other states for the communication and cooperation of our medical professionals when someone is severely injured. I personally saw the system in action recently at the Arkansas Trauma Call Center, which links hospitals, doctors and ambulances to one another through our trauma "dashboard."
Headquartered at a few unassuming stations inside the MEMS dispatch room in Little Rock, the dashboard tracks the availability of doctors and services at participating hospitals in our trauma system. It matches injured victims with the nearest hospital having the needed medical staff and equipment. This allows patients to be routed quickly and confidently to the right location to receive critical care when minutes matter.
During my visit, a call came in from Southwest Arkansas, concerning an elderly man who had fallen while working around his house. He was taken to his local hospital, where X-rays showed that he had broken his hip. It was quickly determined that he should be transferred to the Medical Center of South Arkansas in El Dorado to receive more specialized care. The hip specialist on-call there was paged, and he responded. The Call Center connected him to the physician at the originating hospital, so the two could discuss the case. The Center also facilitated the transfer of imaging files, so the specialist could review the patient's X-rays before the transporting ambulance arrived in El Dorado. I watched all of this happen in barely more than 5 minutes.
The trauma Call Center also utilizes our AWIN system. This dedicated wireless system allows law-enforcement and other emergency personnel to communicate throughout the State. Ambulances all over Arkansas, even in its most rural stretches, can directly reach the Call Center by radio and give dispatchers real-time updates on patients and locations. The Center has handled 13,000 calls since it opened last year.
Currently, 55 trauma-level hospitals with varying care capabilities have become part of the statewide system. Another 21 hospitals are expected to join this group next year, improving response and transport time even further. Any system like this is only as good as its participating members, and work continues to make sure that each provider in the system has the tools and training they need to ensure that trauma response runs effectively and responsibly.
The efficiency of our dashboard has drawn attention nationally, and response times have plummeted from multiple hours to an average of less than eight minutes. As the trauma system nears full implementation, we can expect to see additional benefits, including a projected decrease in state health-care costs. In particular, we anticipate savings in long-term rehabilitation, since patients will increasingly be receiving proper trauma care in a timelier manner. For any injured individual, the concern is getting the best care as quickly as possible. And, as a State, we all benefit when improvements in that care are shown to dramatically reduce death and disability from traumatic injuries in Arkansas.