Telehealth Progress Requires Beefed Up Network Infrastructure

Rutrell Yasin | Federal Times | January 23, 2015

Federal agencies have applied telehealth technology in innovative ways to expand health care beyond the walls of veterans' hospitals and other care facilities. Current efforts allow caregivers to reach patients in their daily lives while clinicians and specialists can share and archive medical information.  However, going forward a much more robust, integrated architecture and networking infrastructure will be needed so information can be captured and shared securely and in real time, according to industry and government experts.

The Department of Veterans Affairs became a forerunner of telehealth with the June 2011 launch of Specialty Care Access Network-Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (SCAN-ECHO), designed to increase access to specialty care services for veterans in rural and medically underserved areas through the use of videoconferencing equipment. Eleven Veterans Health Administration facilities serve as SCAN-ECHO centers, helping providers improve care for patients with chronic pain, hepatitis C and heart failure.

"What is needed is more expansive, open Internet access in rural areas. That is the major limiting factor for a lot of telehealth and telemedicine [initiatives] in rural locations," said Tim Hays, senior director for customer health solutions with Creative Computing Solutions, Inc...