UAMS Medcheck: Telemedicine giving patients access to eye specialists

Telemedicine is allowing rural patients to get access to some of the state's best eye specialists. (KATV Photo)

The UAMS Jones Eye Institute provides state of the art treatment to patients from around the globe.

Now, it's reach is growing thanks to technology and a partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Telemedicine is allowing rural patients to get access to some of the state's best eye specialists.

Ryan Jones is a diabetic patient who lives in Jefferson County and is treated at the UAMS Family Medical Center in Pine Bluff.

"My last eye exam was quite some time ago," Jones said.

Retina issues often plague diabetics. Dr. Mark Jansen, the director of regional programs at UAMS, says those patients need more than just a simple eye exam.

"The problem is abnormal blood vessels will grow on the back of the eyeball and it prevents light from entering the eye and vision is compromised," Jansen said. "If you don't catch this in time, patients can go blind."

Because UAMS wants to make sure patients like Ryan don't delay important and extensive eye exams, they are now able to use a machine to save time and travel expenses.

"Not every patient has access to adequate eye care. What we wanted to do is try to screen as much patients as we can closest to where they live," said Dr. Sami Uwaydat with the UAMS Jones Eye Institute.

Ryan is having pictures taken at her primary doctor's office. Then, a specialist, like Dr. Sami Uwaydat at the Jones Eye Institute in Little Rock consults with her through a teleconference.

Ryan got a clear report from Dr. Uwaydat, but he will want to see her again in a year. Thanks to this technology, she can once again have her screening done in her hometown.

"I think it will help a lot of people, especially older people as well," Ryan said.

The teleritinal program can reach patients at clinics in Pine Bluff, Magnolia, Texarkana, Fort Smith and Fayetteville.

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