Telehealth network to link hundreds of hospitals in Midwest

The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Rural Health Care Pilot Program (RHCPP) announced grants for five broadband telehealth networks - connecting hospitals in nine states on April 16. The program will also fund a sixth network in Alaska.

The states that will benefit from the project - funded by money from the federal Universal Service Fund - are Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The six projects funded are:

"Health Information Exchange of Montana ($13.6 million) - In an area with no connections to Internet2 or National Lambda Rail - nationwide dedicated Internet backbones - a new fiber network will connect health care providers in Montana to enable distance consultation, electronic record keeping and exchange, disaster readiness, clinical research, and distance education services.

Palmetto State Providers Network ($7.9 million) - This project will connect health care providers to a fiber optic backbone to enhance simulation training, remote intensive care unit monitoring, and medical education programs across South Carolina.

Iowa Health System ($7.8 million) - This project will use new network connections to link health care providers in Iowa to an existing statewide, dedicated, broadband healthcare network, Internet2, and National LambdaRail.

Heartland Unified Broadband Network ($4.7 million) - This project is expanding and enhancing an existing network to increase the use and quality of teleradiology and increase distance education activities throughout Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative ($1.6 million) - This project has augmented an existing shared electronic health records project that will provide health care providers in Wisconsin with access to redundant connectivity and data centers, as well as higher speeds that will range from 10 to 100 Mbps.

Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium($10.4 million)-The consortium's network, which will serve primarily rural health care practitioners, will unify and increase the capacity of disparate healthcare networks throughout Alaska, allowing them to connect with urban health centers and access services in the lower 48 states."

The RCPP was established "to increase patient access to care via telemedicine and support the transfer of electronic medical records, which will improve the quality of care for patients," according to an FCC press release.

As of this date, there are sixty-seven projects telemedicine projets that have been approved for funding under the FCC's Rural Health Care Pilot Program, which would reach 6,000 health care facilities.

Currently, 29 of those projects have proposal requests from vendors to build out the networks and the remaining projects are in the process of finishing their request for proposals.

FCC Update on Rural Healthcare Pilot Program Initiative (FCC News)