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People who live in rural or remote areas usually lack access to nearby quality healthcare facilities, often facing long travel times to reach one. Take, for example, the northern New England region of the U.S., where tens of thousands live in rural and mountainous regions, including numerous islands that dot the coastline. Until recently, they—along with thousands of migrant workers who seasonally harvest blueberries, apples, and Christmas trees—had no choice but to travel many miles by land and sometimes sea to reach healthcare.
Enter the New England Telehealth Consortium (NETC), a federally funded consortium serving more than 400 sites, including fixed and mobile health facilities throughout the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. NETC’s mandate is to create a shared network among rural and urban health- care facilities, medical specialists, and academic institutions to improve patient care across the region. And although mobile health clinics would seem to be the solution, NETC quickly discovered that terrestrial broadband service is not necessarily available in these areas, yet high-speed connectivity is essential to transmit electronic medical information or conduct online consultations.
Faced with the challenge of bringing broadband connectivity to all mobile clinics—even where no terrestrial service is available—NETC turned to Hughes for its advanced satellite telehealth solution. Offering a wide range of applications to assist in patient diagnosis and treatment, such as videoconferencing, transfer of electronic health records, viewing of digital images, digital messaging, and pre- scription dispensing, this novel solution incorporates high-performance Hughes satellite router technology integrated with AvL Technologies’ auto-deploy antenna. Setting up rapidly, the powerful transportable solution automatically establishes connectivity with the Hughes SPACEWAY® 3 broadband satellite—the world’s first with onboard switching and routing—covering the entire NETC service area.
ProInfoNet, an independent telecommu- nications and computer consulting firm, was selected by NETC to manage the program’s implementation, and is working together with Hughes and AvL to deliver the telehealth network.
“We are excited that NETC’s mobile clinics will have access to telemedicine and electronic health records through the Hughes SPACEWAY 3 satellite system,” said Jim Rogers, president of ProInfoNet. “Patients can now receive excellent remote medical care whether a mobile clinic is parked in rural Maine or docked at an offshore island. This satellite technology allows medical providers at NETC-connected hospitals to provide telemedicine services to NETC mobile clinics across the region.”
“Leveraging satellite broadband is a game changer for telehealth, especially for patients in rural areas who will now be able to receive top-quality care through enhanced telemedicine and information sharing,” said Brian Thibeau, president of NETC. “It is exciting to make a difference in the healthcare of New Englanders by bringing them innovative technology solutions like this.”
“The challenge of getting connectivity to remote and rural areas is not unique to New England,” added Tony Bardo, assistant vice president for Govern- ment Solutions at Hughes. “According to recent Federal Communications Commission data, 10 to 15 million U.S. households are unserved or underserved by terrestrial broadband. The answer is today’s high-speed satellite broadband technology, which is available virtually everywhere and can eliminate the geo- graphical barriers to good healthcare.”
Now, thanks to the power of satellite, no matter how remotely people may live, work, or play in rural New England, they’ll have access to the healthcare they need.
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