Arkansas Business' 25 Health Care Advances (25th Anniversary)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

The staff and crew of Baptist MedFlight.

Since 1984, the lives of Arkansans have been improved by the introduction of new medical technology, procedures or services. Here are some of the key health care advances, listed in chronological order by year of introduction, that have shaped Arkansas' medical industry in the last 25 years.

1. MedFlight
In 1984, Baptist Medical Center agreed to a six-month trial program of air medical transportation. Since then, MedFlight has made more than 14,000 patient flights. The service covers the state, even areas without helicopter pads.

In 1985, Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock launched Angel One Transport, which can reach any part of Arkansas within an hour. It makes about 1,200 helicopter transports a year.

2. Arkansas Lions Eye Bank & Laboratory
In 1983, Dr. John Shock, chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, got the ball rolling on an eye bank laboratory that would meet the standards of the Eye Bank Association of America.

The Arkansas Lions Eye Bank & Laboratory opened at UAMS in 1986 to provide corneas for transplant candidates in the state. With support from Lions Clubs of Arkansas, the Arkansas eye bank has been recognized as one of the best in the country.

3. Stem-cell Transplant
UAMS conducted the first stem-cell transplant in Arkansas to treat myeloma. Stem cells are typically gathered from a patient at the beginning of treatment and then transfused back to help recovery of the bone marrow following chemotherapy. The procedure has led to higher survival and remission rates for those patients with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma. UAMS has since performed more than 7,000 stem-cell transplants.

4. Heart Transplant
Mary Wilson of Jacksonville received the first heart transplant in Arkansas at Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock. Dr. John Ransom performed the surgery and led the hospital's heart transplant program. In 2005, Baptist Health was certified to perform transplants on Medicare patients. The hospital performs an average of one transplant a month.

5. LDR Childbirth
White County Memorial Hospital at Searcy, now known as White County Medical Center, became the first hospital in Arkansas to offer the "labor, delivery and recovery" concept in one setting. The model is now common in hospitals.

6. Kidney-Pancreas Transplant
UAMS was the first hospital in Arkansas to provide kidney-pancreas transplants. It still is the only medical center in the state to perform the procedure on patients who have kidney failure from complications of type 1 diabetes.

7. Arkansas Heart Hospital
Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock was the second heart hospital in the nation. It has treated patients from all 75 Arkansas counties and conducted more than 7,500 open-heart surgeries.

For better or worse, AHH also ushered in the era of physician-owned specialty hospitals in Arkansas. HealthPark Hospital in Hot Springs opened in 2002, followed by the Surgical Hospital of Jonesboro in 2003 and Arkansas Surgical Hospital in North Little Rock in 2005.

Full-service hospitals complain that the physician-owned specialty hospitals treat the high-paying, well-insured surgical patients without having to take uninsured patients who then end up in the community hospitals' emergency rooms. Last month, however, a Pulaski County judge ruled that hospitals couldn't withdraw privileges from doctors who invest in competing specialty hospitals.



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