Fiber optic line connects 21 rural clinics

The shortage of wireless connectivity that's powerful enough to handle large amounts of patient data has always been a challenge for hospitals in remote and rural areas. One community hopes the solution lies in a new fiber optic line that will connect 21 rural clinics, according to an announcement.

About 185 miles of fiber optic network has been completed along railroad tracks in the mountains of Montana, and there are two more routes in the works. 

The project was led by Health Information Exchange of Montana and funded with a $13.6 million award from the Federal Communications Commission's Rural Health Care Pilot Program, as well as another $2.4 million from the network partners.

The FCC has said its $418 million pilot to improve broadband access to rural healthcare providers has improved quality, reduced costs and boosted revenue via telemedicine and health information exchanges, for example.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also helps fund telemedicine projects in rural America, with the latest round of grants announced in June.

But, as FierceHealthIT has reported, rural practitioners still complain that slow expansion of broadband networks leave their hospitals and clinics unconnected.

To learn more:
- see the announcement
- check out the local news coverage

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