Sunday, August 22, 2010

Telehealth Network Launched

To help provide telemedicine in the state, the California Telehealth Network (CTN) shows what broadband technology can do for healthcare services. The plan is for CTN to connect to over 800 California healthcare providers in underserved areas and then eventually to a state and nation-wide broadband network.

The $30 million project is being funded with $22.1 million from the FCC with another $3.6 million available from matching funds from the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF). UnitedHealth/PacifiCare, UC Davis HealthSystem, California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), California Teleconnect Fund, California’s Telemedicine & eHealth Center’s regional eHealth networks, plus other public and private entities are also providing substantial funding and/or support.

According to Eric Brown, Executive Director for CTN, the network will ensure that clinics in rural and medically underserved communities will have access to the dedicated medical grade network and will support telemedicine applications like high definition televideo consultations and enable the exchange of medical records, x-rays, and other information.

Governor Schwarzenegger explained how San Diego has two health centers serving the Native American population with one center in North County and the other in South County located in very remote areas and up to now unable to provide specialty care. In addition to these health centers, there are 12 family health centers, and seven Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo in remote Imperial County that do not yet provide immediate access to specialty care. Now, with the launching of CTN, instantaneously all of these health facilities will have access to physicians and to new physicians being trained via the network.

One of the first services to operate across the CTN is the “Specialty Care Safety Net Initiative” (SCSNI) funded by CHCF and carried out by the Center for Connected Health Policy. The SCSNI will use the CTN to connect providers via video, via data, and provide image transfers. This will enable providers to collaborate and improve care in low income populations, both in rural and remote urban populations. Consultations will be provided in eight specialties from dermatology and ophthalmology to neurology and psychiatry.

Because of the SCSNI, Dr. Alino in Oroville is now successfully able to use telemedicine to consult with UC Irvine and UC Davis. He reported how successful telemedicine can be. For example, Anthony is a four year old child who is hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive. At two years old, Anthony was of danger to himself and other children, and as a result, his mother brought the child to see Dr. Alino.

Because Anthony was just four years old but also had has problems with prematurity at 27 weeks old and developmental delays, Dr. Alino did not feel completely comfortable taking care of the child. So Dr. Alino contacted Dr. Fernandez from UC Irvine a psychiatrist to help diagnose and manage Anthony.

Dr Fernandez was able within one week to diagnose the problem and reach Dr. Chitnis, a neurologist from UC Davis to help manage the child. The consultations were accomplished and the doctors were able to help the child and mother using telemedicine to communicate with major centers.