Press-Republican

October 23, 2012

Regional fiber-optic telemedicine project nears completion

By DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Adirondack-Champlain Telemedicine Information Network, connecting eight hospitals and 40 primary-care facilities, is expected to be operational by late November.

The fiber-optic telemedicine network, in the works for several years, will cover Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Rensselaer, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Warren and Washington counties, as well as the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Health Services facility and Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.

Nearly $9 million in grant funds has paid for the project, CVPH Medical Center President and CEO Stephens Mundy said at a press conference Monday morning. The four-year contract with the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program is administered by the Research Foundation of the State University of New York.

The initiative worked with the Development Authority of the North Country and will use multiple service providers, including ION, Westelcom, PrimeLink, Tech Valley Communications and SLIC Network Solutions, to link the various partners.

Joel Benware, chief information officer at Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, said future generations will benefit from the high-speed connectivity the network will allow.

”This collaborative effort has been years in the making,” he said.

The fiber-optic network will make it quicker and easier to share medical data files, which are often extremely large. As a dedicated network, it will cut down on the need for extreme encryption measures needed to provide security.

Dan Davis of the Fletcher Allen Information Technology Department said the network allows for a 1,000-fold improvement in data transmission among all the medical facilities in the North Country. The ability to rapidly share records should reduce costs caused by the frequent duplication of testing.

COLLABORATIVE POWER

Massena Memorial Hospital Senior Director of Public Relations and Planning Tina Corcoran said the network allows for a greater continuity of health care throughout the North Country.

“Today, information technology is a great part of our strategic plan,” she said.

The network will extend as far south as Glens Falls Hospital. Peter Gilhooly, director of information-system infrastructure there, said the most impressive part of the network is the ability to connect with rural health clinics.

”Glens Falls Hospital is proud to be part of that collaboration,” he said.

Bob Hunt, regional telemedicine project manager for the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, said the network will also be connected to its network, which runs from Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse to Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown to Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg.

Several of the partners thanked Congressman Bill Owens, State Sen. Betty Little and State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey for their help in securing the grant funds.

Owens said two things stood out about the project: the cooperation among the partners and the benefit to patients.

”The real outcome is better patient care and better patient outcomes,” he said.

Little said the project is a true example of the power of collaboration. She said the only hospital in Washington County closed shortly after she was first elected, but the remaining health-care practices embraced telemedicine and have made that a success.

”I would guess in my lifetime nothing has changed more than health care,” she said.

Duprey said she is proud of North Country health-care professionals’ ability to work together to shift priorities from reactive treatment to preventive.

”This project was, without a doubt, the first heavy lift I had in the State Assembly,” she said. “I am so proud once again of the North Country and the ability to get it done.”

Email Dan Heath: dheath@pressrepublican.com