Thursday, April 15, 2010

More fibre new builds across the US, especially for telehealth

Fierce Telecom report that a new carrier neutral, open access middle mile network for Maine has been given the green light.

The Maine Fiber Company's Three Ring Binder (named because it features three rings of fibre across western, northern and downeast Maine - network diagram here) will "enhance middle mile fiber access for carriers looking to provide quality broadband services to customers in many areas of Maine, including some of the most rural areas of the State" and will be available to all qualified users on an equal basis. What's particularly noteworthy is the signing of a bill into law (LD 1778) by the Maine government to establish a new public utility category - dark fibre provider - and to create a sustainability fund to build out broadband infrastructure to unserved areas.

Fierce Telecom also report some significant developments in relation to telehealth. AT&T have won a contract worth $27million to provide managed network service to the University of California's California Telehealth Network (CTN). Funded through the FCC's Rural Health Care Pilot Program, this will connect over 300 primarily rural California healthcare facilities to a statewide and nationwide broadband telehealth network. The California Telemedicine and eHealth Centre's website provides a useful overview of the potential of telemedicine:
"There are two basic approaches to providing telemedicine services. The first approach is live interactive where both the patient and provider site are available in real time and can communicate as though in the same room. Live interactive telemedicine is most like a regular on-site patient visit. Live interactive telemedicine is appropriate when the clinician needs to talk with the patient or when the clinician needs to observe motion or other characteristics of the patient. There are many telemedicine applications that can use live interactive telemedicine. In California, live interactive telemedicine has been used for over 50 specialty services. The most commonly provided specialties are dermatology, psychiatry, neurology, ENT, orthopedics, pain management, endocrinology, urology and rheumatology.
The second technology approach, store and forward, is used when a face to face visit is not necessary. Store and forward systems allow a provider or technician at the patient site to capture diagnostic information using clinical instruments and send the digital image of the information to a clinician at a remote site. The remote site clinician retrieves the digital images, reviews them and sends a report back to the patient site. It is commonly used for dermatology, diabetic retinopathy screenings, radiology, and pathology. Store and forward allows specialists to review patient findings at convenient times without depending on the presence of the patient. Since there is no requirement to meet face to face with the patient, store and forward maximizes the time a clinician spends reviewing and reporting on findings."
Telehealth (as opposed to telemedicine) "refers to a broader scope of services that includes telemedicine, but also includes other services that can be provided remotely using communication technologies. The federal Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, describes telehealth as including telemedicine and a variety of other services."

Again from Fierce Telecom, Qwest last August closed a deal to provide the Colorado Hospital Association and the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council with high speed network services, in support of the Colorado Telehealth Network:
"When the new Colorado Telehealth Network is completed 400 hospitals, clinics and other health care and behavioral health providers in Colorado will be able to get access to Qwest's optical and Etherent network capabilities. The network will provide rural area patients long distance medical care with speeds of up to 100 Mbps. In many cases, telemedicine can provide patients access to necessary medical care and consultation directly from their home. What's more, intensive care providers can leverage the network to monitor critically ill patients via video conferencing even if they are hundreds of miles away from a medical site."
...while Optimum Lightpath have won a contract to provide Interactive Patient Care (IPC) to the Children's Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM):
"CHAM will implement Interactive Patient Care in all 130 beds throughout the hospital at no cost to patients. The advanced patient care service, which will be deployed for the first time in the New York Metropolitan area, will empower the renowned children's hospital to improve entertainment, education, patient safety, clinical care outcomes, and bed turnover rates while creating new workflow efficiencies for hospital staff."
Clearly lots going on in this area in the US, with some interesting lessons for the UK, especially in relation to joining up existing infrastructures?

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