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Angels in the Outskirts: Telemedicine in Action

Known as the Antenatal and Neonatal Guidelines, Education, and Learning System (ANGELS), the program employs conferencing technology to virtually transport a medical specialist to wherever the mother and child live and allow the doctor to perform many of the same examinations they would in person.

Training Days

In another dimension of ANGELS, UAMS recently opened the two-story I. Dodd Wilson Education Building, which required extensive AV in two near-identical auditoriums, six classrooms, and two "double" classrooms, each with a divider. "We're a very image-oriented industry and campus," says Ernie Bailey, UAMS's director of audiovisual services, a department staffed with eight full-time professionals.

Sharp LCD projectors typically light the larger rooms–some auditoriums hold up to 330 people–while Panasonic DLP models tend to go where the material requires accurate motion. Bailey likes to err on the side of brightness when choosing projector lamps, and has been buying nothing but HD models since last year. Most of the large spaces have videoconferencing units and AMX control equipment.

AMX systems distribute videoconferencing signals from the various rooms over a fiber-optic backbone to a central control room for further distribution throughout campus and to remote sites. Coaxial cabling, not Cat-5, handles video distribution because at the time the building was laid out, Bailey wasn't convinced Cat-5 was ready.

"Our program really focuses on the education of providers," says Tina Benton, program director for ANGELS. With the ISI carts and other equipment, students can see live data of pregnant mothers and their fetuses, as well as newborns. "We can actually do teaching conferences and fetal monitoring with students, nurses, and faculty," Benton says. "We can look at fetal monitors for signs of distress."

A project manager in the UAMS Center for Distance Health trains students on using videoconferencing equipment.

A project manager in the UAMS Center for Distance Health trains students on using videoconferencing equipment.

Credit: Courtesy UAMS

McKenney says telemedicine has reduced instructor travel costs. "Our professors can be at any university in the state and talk to any other part of the state," he says.

In late spring, ISI was working to upgrade a conference room that ANGELS founder Dr. Curtis Lowery will use for conferences. The room has two 42-inch LG flat-panel displays up front, another in the rear, a ceiling-mounted Sanyo projector, two video cameras, a document camera, and a wall-mounted 12-inch AMX Modero touch panel. A Tandberg 6000 MXP codec handles videoconferencing, while a ClearOne ConvergePro 840T provides sound reinforcement for both the remote conferees and the people trying to hear each other in the room. Local participants use Revolabs Solo wireless and tabletop boundary mics.

"The hardest part, from an AV point of view, is it's an odd room," Sanders says. The placement of bookcases and windows made it tricky to locate cables and equipment. "We had to accommodate a large group of people in a small area, which is almost more difficult than a larger room with fewer people." (ISI technicians brought in actual people to simulate room scenarios and get the settings right.)

ISI is also planning to outfit an interactive consultation room that will allow doctors to pull VGA feeds from three separate ultrasound machines. A doctor will be able to view all three rooms and a videoconference on a single, 40-inch AMX TPI-Pro touch screen.

In the end, Lowery's conference room will be the icing on a cake that will admittedly evolve with new technology. For his part, Sanders appreciates working with a client like UAMS on projects such as ANGELS. He shares the vision of Lowery and other telemedicine proponents: "One day location will have no effect on a patient's ability to receive the care they need."

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