California debuts telehealth network that will link 850 facilities by 2012

Telehealth, which can shrink the distance between patients and specialists and cut costs while improving patient outcomes, got a big boost when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger launched what will become the largest telehealth system in the country Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The California Telehealth Network is a peer-to-peer network that allows providers to share X-rays and other diagnostic test results instantaneously, and view treatments and procedures from remote emergency rooms or surgical centers in real time, according to InformationWeek. The network consists of a broadband stream that will be dedicated to healthcare information only and kept separate from the mainstream information highway, the Times reports.

"The California Telehealth Network marks the beginning of a new digital highway that will fundamentally change the future of how healthcare is provided," California Gov. Schwarzenegger said, according to InformationWeek.

Two remote sites were launched Tuesday at Oroville Hospital north of Sacramento and CommuniCare Health Center in West Sacramento. Another 50 sites will be added in the first month. The network will link nearly 900 facilities in California by the end of 2011, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Sixty percent of the network's 850 healthcare providers will be rural, Eric Brown, the project's executive director, told the Times. But the network also could help cut down wait times for urban patients who need to see specialists.

The University of California, on behalf of the governor's office, is managing and leading the network, with guidance from an advisory board consisting of experts from state government, rural healthcare, telemedicine, and technology, according to InformationWeek. The CTN is jointly funded with $30 million from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the University of California, and other private and public entities.

The network is supported by AT&T, which is providing network infrastructure and network services as part of a three-year, $27 million contract announced in April.

To learn more:
- read this Los Angeles Times blog post
- check out this InformationWeek article
- here's the Sacramento Bee story

Related Articles:
Telehealth takes off as evidence grows that it can improve care, save money
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Intel: Nine in 10 say telehealth will transform care in next decade

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