FCC Awards $9 Million To Expand Utah Telehealth Network

FCC Awards $9 Million To Expand Utah Telehealth Network

Jan 30, 2008 1:00 PM

The University of Utah has been awarded $9 million by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand the Utah Telehealth Network (UTN), a system that allows patients in rural areas to see medical specialists in Salt Lake City via video communication without leaving their hometowns.

With the ultimate goal of serving more areas with greater reliability and stronger security, the FCC funding will be used to upgrade and expand the system’s infrastructure and its IT backbone down the I-15 corridor. The UTN system, which will make the switch to Ethernet technology as part of the upgrade, has the potential to be at least 10 times faster than a normal internet connection. This is crucial for emergency assessment situations such as potential stroke, burn, or severe trauma.

“As our members have expanded their use of health information technology, they are exceeding current network capacity,” said Marta Petersen, M.D., medical director for the UTN and professor of dermatology for the University of Utah. “The FCC award will allow us to redesign the network to meet these growing needs, and with increased speed and capacity comes greater reliability.”

The University was one of 69 applicants to receive funding from the FCC. Much of the proposal’s success is credited to the large, diverse group of UTN partners. Currently, the network connects to over 30 sites, with approximately 15 of those at Intermountain Healthcare facilities. The expansion, however, will allow service at up to 80 sites around the state.

“Telemedicine is a valuable tool for clinics and hospitals located in the rural areas of Utah,” said Intermountain Healthcare Vice President Jon Hoopes. “For many years, it has allowed Intermountain Healthcare to provide advanced medical services and expertise into communities throughout the state for the benefit of its citizens. This award to expand the Utah Telehealth Network will allow Intermountain to continue to expand and extend these vital medical services.”

In addition to Intermountain Healthcare, who will share leadership of the expansion project, UTN partners include the Utah Hospitals and Health Systems Association, the State of Utah, the Association of Utah Community Health and the Utah Navajo Health System (UNHS).

“The Utah Telehealth Network has been instrumental in Utah Navajo Health System’s significant growth over the past several years,” said Donna Singer, UNHS chief executive officer. “UNHS provides health care services to some of the most indigent and medically underserved people in America. Providing life-saving services in frontier Utah areas, like San Juan County, would be extremely challenging if not for the partnership of UTN.”

The UTN has an 11-year history of connecting hospitals, clinics, health departments and health systems. The network is also used for transferring radiology images, continuing education for health care professionals, and training sessions hosted by the Department of Health.

To cover the entire cost of the expansion, the FCC award requires 15 percent matching funds to be obtained from UTN partners, participating sites, and other sources. The majority of the expansion project, termed Utah ARCHES (Advancing Rural Connections for Healthcare and E-health Services), is set to be complete in 2011.

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Media Contacts

Ryann Rasmussen
Public Relations Specialist , Public Affairs
Phone: (801) 581-7387
Email: ryann.rasmussen@hsc.utah.edu
Utah Telehealth Network

Phone: (801) 585-2426

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