Four regional telehealth networks that will leverage the speed and connections of OSCnet are among 69 projects nationwide receiving $417 million in federal funding to “significantly increase access to acute, primary and preventive health care in rural America.”
These four projects will receive more than $35.4 million over three years, representing the largest state share of funding among the 42 states and three U.S. territories garnering awards through the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program. According to proposals, these projects will provide high-speed connections to facilities in nearly half of Ohio’s 88 counties.
“Regional telehealth networks will help make Ohio healthier by propelling the adoption of new technology and ways to exchange health information,” said Ohio Governor Ted Strickland.
“My Broadband Ohio plan aims to create sufficient broadband capacity throughout Ohio to ensure that all communities and all Ohioans can benefit from initiatives such as this. I am proud of the work that the Ohio Supercomputer Center is doing to make this all a reality.”
These four regional telehealth networks will connect to Broadband Ohio’s backbone to transport data traffic between regions in Ohio, as well as to use OSCnet to access Internet2, the primary national research and education network in the country. This fulfills a key requirement of the grant – that the healthcare traffic be able to flow across the country from Ohio.
“As a direct result of the prior investments in OSCnet to establish a statewide backbone, nearly all the monies from these grants can be used to provide last-mile connectivity for hospitals, clinics, centers, etc.,” said Stanley Ahalt, executive director of the Ohio Supercomputer Center.
“If we can work closely with the grantees in the deployment of last-mile connections, the state should be able to leverage the Ohio connections for productive purposes beyond healthcare. The FCC grant specifically allows for these additional uses so that the regional telehealth networks become self-sufficient and sustainable. This could significantly expedite Governor Strickland’s Broadband Ohio plan to deploy high-speed connections to every county.”
The four projects involving OSCnet consist of:
- The Southern Ohio Healthcare Network, which will receive $13.9 million to provide connectivity to about 60 facilities by building or purchasing fiber-optic rings, as well as to provide connectivity to facilities outside the reach of the rings.
This regional network will impact 15 Ohio counties: Adams, Athens, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Hocking, Jackson, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Washington.
- The Northeast Ohio Regional Health Information Organization, which will receive $11.3 million to expand and upgrade an existing network to connect approximately 19 medical facilities.
This regional network will impact 22 Ohio counties: Ashland, Ashtabula, Carrolton, Columbiana, Coshocton, Cuyahoga, Erie, Geauga, Holmes, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Sandusky, Seneca, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Wayne.
- A consortium of eight healthcare facilities in southeastern Ohio, Holzer Consolidated Health Systems, which will receive $1.8 million to upgrade its existing network to a broadband fiber-optic network. This regional network will initially impact Ohio’s Gallia and Jackson Counties.
Eventually, through a collaborative relationship with the Appalachian Regional Informatics Consortium – Electronic Data Interchange project, the Holzer network plans to expand to facilities in West Virginia’s Wood County and eight additional Ohio counties: Athens, Fairfield, Guernsey, Hocking, Muskingum, Ross, Scioto and Washington.
- The statewide West Virginia Telehealth Alliance, which will receive $8.4 million to connect approximately 450 West Virginia healthcare facilities, reaching Internet2 through OSCnet connections to Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.
“I don’t think that there is any way to overstate how important this is for our rural communities,” said Mark Ansboury, acting chief technology officer for the Northeast Ohio Regional Health Information Organization. “These projects will literally transform the level of patient care and breadth of diagnostic services available, providing patient’s access to the same quality of health services readily available in our major cities.”
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the Ohio Supercomputer Center to build a health care network that will open the world of high-tech medical innovation to all of southern Ohio,” said Tom Reid, project director for the Southern Ohio Health Care Network. “The collaborative spirit and technical excellence available to us through our association with OSCnet will provide fundamental support to our efforts, as well as connectivity to the globe.”
Governor Strickland issued an executive order in July that paired OSCnet – the nation’s leading high-speed, statewide network dedicated to education, research and economic competitiveness – with the NextGen Network, a new state and local government system being developed by acquiring available bandwidth from OSCnet.
The order also created the Ohio Broadband Council to serve as the coordinating body for Broadband Ohio and to provide oversight of the initiative from a policy, procedure, process and development standpoint. Ohio’s Office of Information Technology manages the NextGen Network, while the Ohio Supercomputer Center continues to manage OSCnet.
The Federal Communication Commission’s pilot program will support the connection of more than 6,000 public and non-profit health care providers nationwide to broadband telehealth networks. The participating health care facilities include: hospitals, clinics, universities and research centers, behavioral health sites, correctional facility clinics, and community health centers.
Ohio Supercomputer Center: Celebrating 20 years of service, the Ohio Supercomputer provides reliable high performance computing and high performance networking infrastructure for a diverse state and regional community including education, academic research, industry, and government. OSC promotes and stimulates computational research and education to enable the state to achieve its aspirations in information systems and advanced technology and industries. For additional information, visit www.osc.edu.