California starts statewide telehealth network

Broadband network said to be largest statewide telehealth program

The California Telehealth Network, described as the largest statewide network of its kind, will link 800 public and private health care facilities in a partnership to offer patients medical care and emergency services.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra joined with health care leaders in Sacramento, Calif., to announce the $30 million program on Aug. 17.

The network uses a secure broadband connection to allow medical professionals and patients to communicate verbally and share information in real time using digital tools such as video and diagnostic tools such as X-rays.

Related story:

VA sets the telehealth table

The network is being funded by a $22 million grant from the Federal Communications Commission with additional support from a statewide consortium of industry and philanthropic groups. The network is working with AT&T to connect the first 50 sites on the network over the next two months, according to a statement on the University of California’s Web site. The initial 50 sites will include urban and rural locations.

"California is always leading the way with the most innovative and new technology that is changing the future," Schwarzenegger said. "And what we are launching today is a new era for health care."

As part of the economic stimulus law of 2009, the Obama administration and Congress approved $7 billion for expanding broadband services in rural and underserved areas for the purpose of facilitating telehealth and other services. In addition, the FCC named the expansion of telehealth services as one of the goals in its National Broadband Plan.

Currently, the largest federal telehealth provider is the Veterans Affairs Department, which has a program that allows more than 35,000 veterans to monitor their chronic conditions and interact with a remote care coordinator from the comfort of their homes.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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