California launches the country's largest telehealth network

by Olga Deshchenko, DOTmed News Reporter | August 20, 2010
CTN is the largest
telehealth network
in the nation
California launched the nation's largest telehealth network this week, with plans to connect more than 800 state health care facilities through a fast and secure broadband connection.

The California Telehealth Network (CTN) will enable physicians in rural facilities and clinics to connect with specialists and experts in prominent medical facilities across the state through various videoconferencing, telehealth medical devices and audio tools.

CTN is a result of a partnership between numerous private and government entities, which acquired a total of $30 million in funding for the project. The Federal Communications Commission provided a $22.1 million grant for the network as a part of the Rural Health Care Pilot Program, an FCC initiative that encourages the development and use of broadband networking services by health care providers serving rural communities nationwide.

"Through a simple broadband link, this state-of-the-art system will save lives by instantly connecting people from across the state, including underserved and rural areas, with the best and brightest doctors," said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at a press conference. "The California Telehealth Network marks the beginning of a new digital highway that will fundamentally change the future of how health care is provided."

Connections that built the CTN

When the UC Davis Medical Center decided to apply for FCC's funding, it started talking to other health care facilities across the state.

"We found out that there were a number of groups that were interested in applying for the money," David Harry, associate director of CTN, told DOTmed News. "Out of that, a consortium was formed and I think it is one of the dramatic reasons why we've been successful today. We have a very broad consortium that represents the California Telehealth Network."

When the coalition received the grant, the second largest amount allocated out of the program, the state's university system was placed at the forefront of the broadband effort.

"It was actually at the governor's directive that the University of California was identified as the managing partner. The managing group that would actually implement the network is the University of California Davis Health System centered here in Sacramento at UC Davis Medical Center," said Harry. "We are sort of 'the feet on the street' for the consortium."

Harry explained that California had a lot of "islands of excellence" or regional telehealth networks surrounded by areas with no access to reliable broadband service. CTN will help fill the gaps in areas that could not afford such connections.