California Launches Statewide Telehealth Network

Partners in the healthcare delivery system include the FCC, AT&T, the University of California, and more than 800 medical facilities.

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By using broadband to connect healthcare providers, the CTN will join 68 other networks in the nation and serve as a backbone in establishing telemedicine and eHealthcare.

"With the launch of the California Telehealth Network, we are finally seeing telemedicine start to find viable business models," said Irene Berlinsky, IDC's senior research analyst for multiplay services. "The partnership of government and industry is not only effective, but necessary when the goal is to expand and improve telehealth across an entire state -- let alone one as large as California. Neither industry nor government would be likely to undertake such a project alone."

Berlinsky also observed that by providing the bulk of the investment in CTN, the FCC is showing that it is willing to act on two of its stated goals -- increasing broadband and healthcare access in rural and underserved areas.

"We will increasingly see such public/private partnerships in the future, with medical or government agencies tackling the healthcare logistics, telecommunications providers building out the network that connects facilities, and technology vendors providing the technology piece," Berlinsky said.

Sandra Shewry, president and CEO at the Center for Connected Health Policy, said in a statement that the CTN is a peer-to-peer network which enables providers to share X-rays and other diagnostic tests instantaneously, and view treatments and procedures from distant emergency rooms or surgical centers as they happen

"The CTN also enables the sharing of information for continuing education/distance learning, disaster preparedness, and access to new technologies -- all essential elements for the California healthcare system's growth," Shewry said.

The CTN is being managed and led by the University of California on behalf of the governor's office, with guidance from an advisory board consisting of experts from state government, rural healthcare, telemedicine, and technology. A statewide consortium was initially brought together by the governor's office to develop the CTN project and proposal to the FCC.

"We are eager to see the positive effects over the next few months as we activate the first 50 sites and roll out our eHealth applications that will help transform healthcare delivery in California," Eric Brown, executive director of CTN, said in a statement. "Working with our statewide eHealth partners such as Cal eConnect, CalHIPSO, and HITECH-LA, our vision is to create healthcare delivery infrastructure so that geographic barriers to care are eliminated."