State's Telehealth Network Improves Access to Health Care Services by Providing Affordable, High-Speed BroadbandDate: May 9th, 2012Category: CORHIO e-NewsletterTopics: Health IT
Statewide Private Broadband Network Enables Physicians and Specialists to Expand Their Reach Into Rural and Underserved Areas
From lowering health care costs to expanding the reach of physicians and specialists into underserved areas, telehealth’s robust infrastructure has numerous benefits for both health care professionals and patients. The Colorado Telehealth Network (CTN) features a high-speed medical grade broadband connection designed to transmit patient information securely in a moment’s notice.
Currently, there are more than 200 health care organizations connected to CTN, including hospitals, mental health centers and other health clinics. CTN provides these organizations broadband capacity that, for some health care providers, is foundational to participation in the CORHIO health information exchange network.
In 2008, CTN formed as a result of two Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grants totaling $9.5 million that were awarded to help create a statewide broadband telehealth network. The initiative is managed by the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) and is a collaborative venture between CHA and the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council (CBHC).
Connecting the Best Medical Experts to Clinics in the Most Remote Areas in the State
By delivering care over great distances, the telehealth network enables a focus on patient-centered care. Through video, voice and electronic transfer of data along the fiber lines, CTN supports wellness and helps to integrate health information through data transfer.
“CTN allows health care organizations to collaborate and integrate in ways not possible without a high-capacity, connected network,” says CTN Program Director Debby Farreau. “By providing high-speed broadband at an affordable rate, we can connect the best medical experts to clinics in the most remote areas of the state.”
With access to a broadband connection, rural health care organizations now have the opportunity to utilize cloud-based electronic health record (EHR) systems, which allow users to pay monthly subscription fees rather than purchase traditional on-site EHRs requiring expensive hardware and software. “Additionally, using the encrypted CTN network for health information exchange (HIE) provides another layer of protection for patient health information.”
Telehealth also helps improve the quality of care through expanded access to specialists, such as mental health professionals, while reducing costs incurred when specialists must travel long distances to geographically isolated areas of Colorado. “Ultimately, CTN will help rural communities provide the same level of specialty care typically only available in urban, well-populated areas,” said CTN Strategic Consultant Toria Thompson.
CTN Provides Extra Data Security For Mental Health Centers
Since initial deployment in 2010, all of Colorado’s mental health centers have connected to CTN. Since only health care entities are connected to the state-of-the-art network, the data traveling through CTN is more protected than a traditional phone or Internet connection. This is especially important for behavioral health information, which is sensitive in nature.
In areas where mental health providers are in short supply and cannot keep up with patient demands, CTN broadband enables telemedicine programs, which allow patients and physicians to connect through video. Additionally, the telehealth network enables facilities like the Mental Health Center of Denver to provide mental health services to Coloradans that are deaf and hard of hearing.
“There are very few mental health professionals that know sign language, but through telehealth we can provide the appropriate care for deaf and hard-of-hearing patients across the state, including rural communities,” said Tom Base, business development director at the Mental Health Center of Denver.
Adds Base, “The Colorado Telehealth Network not only links physicians with patients, it also provides a connection to a network of colleagues. I’ve been able to create numerous valuable relationships with health care leaders across that state that I would not have had the opportunity to meet prior to connecting to CTN.”
CTN is currently working on lowering its costs in order to expand its services in the upcoming year to include physician practices and other smaller health care organizations. Funding for CTN’s $34 million network has been provided by CHA, CBHC, CTN members, the FCC and the Colorado Health Foundation.
For more information on CTN, contact Debby Farreau at 720-330-6052 or Debby.Farreau@cha.com.
Health care organization wishing to connect to CORHIO’s HIE network can do so via the CTN broadband network. For more information about HIE please contact CORHIO.