Mind to Market

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Colorado is Flat

To many people the title of this blog doesn’t seem to make sense; isn’t Colorado the state with all the mountains that people travel to from all over the world to ski down? I don’t mean to imply that the state has been leveled by some huge earthmoving machines, rather, I mean flat as in The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.

In his book, Friedman makes the case that technological advances have brought the inhabitants of the planet closer together and have leveled the playing field between the developed and the developing nations. The three technological events that made this happen are:

  1. Personal computer
  2. Emergence of the Internet
  3. Interoperable software

Now, a decade after the flattening of the world, healthcare information in Colorado is due to be flattened. The Colorado Telehealth Network will begin rolling out this month and be complete within a year. The CTN is a statewide fiber-optic network that will connect nearly 400 hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers with the high bandwidth needed for telehealth and telemedicine. The network has been funded by grants from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and participating health care providers.

Telehealth and telemedicine involve the delivery of healthcare services via telecommunications technologies, including video conferencing which has very high bandwidth requirements. The use of these technologies will allow for clinicians and other healthcare professionals to provide more services remotely. Many areas of the rural west suffer from poor access to healthcare services forcing patients to travel long distances and incur large expense to receive adequate care.

With the completion of the CTN, Colorado will have one of the largest healthcare information networks in the country, improving access to healthcare across the state. But the CTN isn’t just about real time videoconferencing; the network also hopes to facilitate the exchange of healthcare information allowing medical records to be exchanged between hospitals across the state. But will they?

Fiber lines have existed between major healthcare providers for years and there still isn’t a standard method for exchanging medical records; bandwidth is not the issue preventing the exchange of medical records. Standard, semantically interoperable medical records are the issue that has yet to be addressed. Although lighting up fiber lines to rural communities is a step in the right direction we have yet to achieve Friedman’s third bullet point in flattening healthcare information in Colorado.

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