A FCC report released on August 13th provides details on the benefits as well as the lessons learned from the Commission’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program. So far, the program supports 50 active projects in 38 states and the territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The five largest statewide networks are located in California, Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, and West Virginia and on target to connect over 800 healthcare providers.
Key facts about the Pilot Program:
- As of January 2012, 2,107 healthcare providers were to receive $217 million in universal service support
- Projects range in size from fewer than ten to over 150 healthcare provider sites
- Forty-four of the 50 projects receiving support include urban healthcare providers
- Leaders of pilot projects often come from large medical institutions and universities which frequently are located in urban areas
- Pilot project participants purchase higher bandwidth connections than do participants in the FCC’s existing program
A wide range of pilot projects involving telehealth and telemedicine applications have been deployed over broadband networks. Using these networks, healthcare providers are able to exchange EHRs and send X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans along with other medical images over the networks.
However, since many of the pilot projects are not yet fully implemented, and because not all pilot projects describe their telemedicine and telehealth activities in their quarterly reports, the figures in the report show a small percentage of projects that have implemented utilizing specific telehealth applications to date. When all the pilot projects are fully implemented, there is likely to be an even wider adoption of telehealth and telemedicine applications over the networks.
The most commonly reported telemedicine applications include telepsychiatry, telepsychology, teleradiology, tele-echocardiology and telestroke but the most commonly reported telehealth applications include medical training, using EHRs, and telepharmacy.
Some specific examples of telehealth and telemedicine applications include:
- Palmetto State Providers Network (PSPN) has performed 6,600 telepsychiatry consults over the network and conducts 100 tele-OB/GYN maternal and fetal care visits per week
- Geisinger Health System uses its network for numerous telemedicine applications such as teletrauma, telestroke, tele-echocardiology, tele-electroencephalograms, tele-ICU, telepsychology, teleradiology, telematernal fetal monitoring, and telepathology
- Heartland Unified Broadband Network (HUBNet) installed the HUBNet connection so that Horizon Health Care is able to serve a consortium of rural clinics in South Dakota
Go to http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2012/db0813/DA-12-1332A1.pdf to view the report “Wireline Competition Bureau Evaluation of Rural Health Care Pilot Program”—Staff report.