Satellite-based Broadband Internet Helps Rural Physician Practice
A high-speed, satellite-based Internet connection is allowing physicians at Patrick County Family Practice in rural southwest Virginia to access patient records online, email prescriptions and perform research on the Web, bringing a rural area to "the cutting edge of technology." The Roanoke Times and World News reports that a wireless network developed by ICP Systems of Woolwine, Va., connects the practice's 21 desktop computers, three handheld computers, and laptop to a single satellite dish that provides a two-way connection to the Internet, allowing broadband access from any one of the practice's 18 examining rooms. The combination of satellite-based Internet access and the wireless network will also allow the practice to provide telemedicine services to its rural patients for the first time. Within the next few weeks, practice physicians expect to be able to videoconference with patients too sick or too remote to visit the office by sending nurses with laptops and Webcams to the patients' homes. In addition, physicians hope to streamline their filing system by using the network to implement an electronic medical records system.
According to ICP Systems President Timothy Collins, satellite-based Internet connections like the one used by PCFP are catching on in rural areas because wire-based high-speed connections, such as cable and DSL service, are often either unavailable or slower than those in urban areas. Cost can also be a factor, as the satellite-based system does not require the expense of running cable or telephone lines. The PCFP network cost approximately $3,000, including installation and the rooftop satellite dish, and monthly Internet access fees are $69, compared to $100 for a somewhat slower DSL connection, Collins said (Loyal, Roanoke Times & World News, 6/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.