Sunday, January 3, 2010

Broadband Telehealth Network Launched

The Oregon Health Network (OHN) a non-profit membership organization is proud of their new Network Operations Center (NOC) operated by Easystreet Online Services®. OHN along with healthcare, technology and telecommunications experts have worked hard to create the first broadband telehealth network in Oregon. This means that now the NOC is able to troubleshoot and monitor the quality of service requirements for Oregon’s first broadband telehealth network.

Current network members include Wallowa Memorial, Blue Mountain Community College, and the Oregon Coast Community College System. The new connection through OHN at Wallowa Memorial will run seven times as fast as before and will only cost the hospital $150 per month. The true cost of the OHN broadband service will be approximately $2,000 per month for Wallowa Memorial with OHN establishing the fiber optic and Ethernet Infrastructure free with the FCC absorbing 85 percent of the ongoing cost for the next five years.

As part of the long range plan, OHN is looking into ways to cover some of the costs beyond the initial five years, along with other long term plans to extend the service to nursing homes, businesses, and other for profit organizations.

Today, if a hospital in Wallowa is having a video consultation with a doctor at the Oregon Health Science University in Portland and is faced with connection problems, all it takes is one easy call to take care of the problem. The OHN NOC will work with service providers on both ends of the connection to get the problems resolved. The system is operated in conjunction with a 24/7 call center to assist the IT staff of OHN members and their service providers with troubleshooting and incident management.

This broadband telehealth network was made possible in large part by the FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program. OHN received the fifth largest award under this program for a $20.2 million RHCPP subsidy and now the Oregon broadband infrastructure investment will be able to connect non-profit healthcare and healthcare education facilities across the state.

However, the cardiac monitoring equipment on the Wallowa County end will be paid for by a separate funding source. Fortunately hospital administrators were awarded nearly $400,000 USDA distance learning grant to purchase equipment.

So far about 70 percent of Oregon non-federal clinicians work in practices where EHRs are present. The remaining 30 percent of Oregon’s providers have made little or no progress toward implementing an EHR system. In addition, some of the state’s clinicians that have adopted EHRs still face significant steps needed to achieve the federal definition of meaningful use.

The high EHR adoption numbers in the state mask the low adoption of EHRs by healthcare providers in rural and in small practice settings. These practices worry about funding issues, workflow changes, the inability to identify qualified information systems personnel, and the fear that productivity will be reduced.

The State if funded will work with stakeholders to develop a Health IT Regional Extension Center with two lead partners. OCHIN, the lead applicant and the Oregon Health & Science University will work with several independent provider associations, rural research networks, academic institutions, and technical partners. The goal is to assist more than 3,000 providers to comply with the federal definition of “meaningful use” of health IT.