N.C. Telehealth Network Successfully Connects First Non-profit Hospital

Broadband expansion on NCREN enables Vidant Medical Center to better serve Eastern North Carolina

GREENVILLE, N.C., Feb. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The North Carolina Telehealth Network (NCTN) in cooperation with the N.C. Office of Information Technology Services, Cabarrus Health Alliance and MCNC, today announced that Vidant Medical Center in Greenville is the first not-for-profit hospital to be connected to the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN). The connection was made possible by broadband fiber constructed during the first phase of the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative.

Vidant Medical Center (formerly Pitt County Memorial Hospital) is now part of Vidant Health, a 10-hospital not-for-profit organization that collectively serves Eastern North Carolina. Vidant Health previously operated as University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina. With this enhanced connection, Vidant Medical Center is using a combination of its fiber and MCNC-provided fiber for a fully-dedicated 1 gigabit per second connection to the NCTN. The NCTN, operated by MCNC for the Cabarrus Health Alliance, is an infrastructure dedicated to health care providers and public health facilities that uses a portion of the bandwidth and facilities available on NCREN.

Vidant Medical Center is the first of 24 non-profit hospitals that will be connected to the NCTN over the next three months. Several other non-profit hospitals are discussing NCTN connections. Vidant Health has plans to supplement the initial NCTN connection in Greenville with a second 1000 mbps, completely diverse connection to increase resiliency and to serve their backup data center expected to be operational this spring.

Andy Anderson, administrator of IT operations for Vidant Health, said this connection is estimated to save $44,000 annually in addition to supplying the hospital system with a significant increase in Internet bandwidth capacity. "Vidant Health has been a long-standing customer of MCNC for Internet services, and this connection increases our bandwidth by tenfold with lower costs, more capabilities, and better overall patient services," he said. "This high-speed connectivity provides instantaneous care and support for patients in areas where they live and work."

Named as one of the nation's Most Wired Health Systems in Hospitals & Health Networks Magazine, Vidant Health currently serves 29 counties in Eastern North Carolina with 11,000 employees and hundreds of primary care and specialty providers, working together as one to create a truly interconnected system of care.

The NCTN is subsidized through the FCC's Rural Health Care Pilot Program, which  provides funding to eligible health care providers for telecommunications services, including broadband, that are necessary for the provision of health care. The goal of the FCC's program is to improve the quality of health care available to patients in rural communities by ensuring eligible health care providers have access to affordable telecommunications services.

"With this first connection and several others soon to follow, the NCTN is enabling a modern, cost-efficient network to serve the needs of health practitioners and researchers throughout North Carolina to find the next great cures," said Dave Kirby of Kirby Information Management Consulting, LLC and the NCTN Project Manager.

Through a three-year $7.2 million contract with MCNC and the N.C. Office of Information Technology Services (ITS), the NCTN provides broadband services that link health programs and sites across the state. The NCTN is directed by the Cabarrus Health Alliance and is a dedicated network for health care organizations that uses both the NCREN and ITS network infrastructures to provide highly reliable, cost-efficient services at optimal levels. The sites include clinics, community health centers, public health agencies, and non-profit hospitals that require connectivity and a unique network infrastructure to utilize a diverse set of telehealth and health care information applications.

About MCNC & NCREN Community
MCNC is an independent, non-profit corporation. MCNC's main focus is to operate the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN). For a more than a quarter century, NCREN continues to provide advanced Intranet and Internet connectivity to a constantly expanding number of Community Anchor Institutions throughout North Carolina. Today's users of NCREN include all 17 institutions of the University of North Carolina System, all 58 North Carolina Community Colleges, all 115 K-12 public school districts as well as a growing number of K-12 charter and private schools, the majority of the state's private colleges and universities, several non-profit and public health care facilities, and a number of the state's premier research institutions. NCREN also serves as the Internet gateway network for all state employees. MCNC currently is working on a $144 million expansion of NCREN scheduled to be completed by summer 2013. This initiative has been labeled the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative. Visit www.mcnc.org.

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