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Telemedicine network to connect hospitals in the north country

Eight hospitals in the Adirondack and Champlain regions announced this week that they're about to begin using a $9 million telemedicine network. 

The project includes 40 primary care facilitiesaffiliated with the hospitals in St. Lawrence, Franklin, Essex, and other counties, as well as Fletcher Allen in Vermont, and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Health Services facility.

Rosemary Miller is with the Information Technology department at the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) in Plattsburgh NY. She says they've connected via fiber optic lines that will allow them to share information 1,000 times faster than the internet.

“It really is bandwidth. The ability to move information around. The ability to do video conferencing, telemedicine. You could have meetings, education. If you’re lacking a specialist at a facility, a hospital could work with another facility that has that specialist. And through telemedicine, you have a camera pointed at patient and doctor can develop care in long distance manner.”

The hospitals developed the project with a grant from the Federal Communications Commission. Miller says it is expected to improve care, patient safety, and reduce costs.

“Because of the ability to share this information, it will reduce redundancy in testing. If I have it and I can get it to you there’s no need for you to do it over again at another facility. Some of that is lacking today. Because you either have to send by paper, by a disk or you fax it to someone. So this eliminates that and you can electronically send it from point A to point B.”

Miller says the project will be up and running in January. The project is using local internet providers, and some of the facilities are waiting for connectivity.

Reporting by Julie Grant for North Country Public Radio.