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Telehealth a hit in rural Ohio

December 1, 2009
at 8:18 pm PST

Here at the TANDBERG Public Sector blog, we’ve talked extensively about the different ways that video teleconferencing (VTC) is currently being implemented in the healthcare space. The fact is, as HD technologies and picture quality have improved and high-bandwidth broadband has become more readily available, the ability to provide medical care via video has increased exponentially.

Rural areas are one of the main beneficiaries of these technologies. Small, rural hospitals often struggle to afford and lure big city specialists to join their staff. When a specialist is needed, it’s often the patient that suffers as they either have to be transported to where a specialist is available, or wait for one to arrive. This can take time that the patient doesn’t have and can lead to additional, often life-altering complications and side-effects.

Pediatrics is a great example of this. For rural hospitals without pediatricians on staff, the treatment of children can be a tricky proposal. Adena Health System in Chillicothe, Ohio, is currently using telemedicine to collaborate with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus for just this purpose. Utilizing VTC, the staff at Adena Health System are able to easily consult with pediatricians at Nationwide to determine if a baby needs to be transferred to Columbus for care. This has reduced transfers by almost 40% and helps speed diagnosis.

Adena isn’t the only hospital and health group embracing telehealth in Ohio, but there are complications for many. Unfortunately, rural broadband adoption has been slow in some places and the available bandwidth can’t support VTC. Also, some small, rural hospitals are struggling to afford VTC equipment.

Luckily, the Obama administration has made rural broadband adoption one of the key areas he’s looking to address during his presidency. Although this has been slow to materialize, the promise and potential for increased broadband in rural America remains. Also, $34.9 million in grants was recently awarded by the Agriculture Department to expand access to health care services in rural areas, which will hopefully go a long way in making VTC solutions available to rural hospitals.

Diagnosis via video? That’s an exciting and new way of healing. Here at TANDBERG we’re excited to be on the forefront of a medical revolution.

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