Qwest’s Connections Power Colorado Telehealth

DENVER – From the Rockies to the plains, close to 400 healthcare providers in Colorado will be linked through a new communications platform in what’s being billed as one of the largest healthcare information networks in the nation.

Qwest Communications is providing high-speed broadband services to the Colorado Telehealth Network, a consortium of 370 healthcare providers overseen by the Colorado Hospital Association and the Colorado Behavioral Health Council. The network is being funded by two grants from the Federal Communications Commission, totaling $9.8 million, as well as a 15 percent match from participating health centers.

Sharon Montgomery, vice president of Qwest’s government and education solutions division, said the development of new Ethernet and data networking technology helps healthcare providers share data that would, in the past, have been mailed or sent by courier. She said hospitals and health clinics in all parts of the state need secure, real-time access around the clock.

“We’re not talking about pushing data between midnight and 6 a.m.,” she said. “In healthcare you need a reliable partner to get the information there when it’s needed.”

According to Steven Summer, president and CEO of the Colorado Hospital Association, Qwest’s fiber-optic network will connect close to 400 healthcare providers in a state that’s 75 percent rural and 11 percent frontier.

“They’ll be able to get on the highway and go anywhere,” he said.

“The Colorado Telehealth Network will promote better health in many ways, while greatly reducing the need for rural residents to travel long distances to receive quality care,” added George DelGrosso, executive director of the CBHC. “This innovative system will save lives and scarce healthcare resources.”

Summer said the network will be agnostic – “Everyone has to be at the table or nobody’s going to be at the table” – so it’s important that health plans are included in the mix. In addition, he said, physicians have to be comfortable with telehealth.

“The ability of Colorado’s healthcare providers to accurately exchange information with each other in a timely fashion is a critical component of the state’s efforts to make healthcare more affordable, and to improve coverage and access,” said Gov. Bill Ritter.

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