At a recent Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission MO Broadband Now meeting, health care was the topic of discussion. Toniann Richards, executive director of Health Care Collaborative of Rural Missouri, and Ila Irwin, director of special projects for Missouri Health Connection, gave presentations about what their organizations do for Missouri health care, and discussed what similar organizations need from Missouri for providing optimal health care services.
In 2012, PTRPC conducted a regional survey of individuals and businesses, according to PTRPC community development planner Ron Seyl, for technology planning. It was done to assess the broadband needs in PTRPC's four-county region of Lafayette, Saline, Pettis and Johnson. By far, the greatest need was in health care. Health care needs are expanding to tele-medicine and video conferencing, and both need at least 10 megabits per second (Mbps), but much higher speeds are preferred to be an effective part of Missouri health care. The higher speeds are also needed for quick transference of electronic medical records or prescription orders. The start of phase II of PTRPC's connection with the MO Broadband Now initiative began in 2013.
"That's what we're doing now," said Seyl. "I've put together a survey ... [that] concentrates on ... state-wide health care, and then we've chosen another two specific economic sector areas that we focus on, [one of] which is agricultural."
According to Seyl, PTRPC is working to build the infrastructure for tele-medicine and distance medicine. Another focus is trying to keep costs affordable for health care providers.
"We don't have enough bandwidth in place, and it's needed in quite a few places in our four-county area," said Seyl.
He added major clinics and hospitals require 100 Mbps upwards of 1 gigabyte per second (Gbps). Seyl also brought up the option that area communities work together as a consortium when seeking a broadband Internet provider to lessen costs for health care providers.
"This is something we want to look at, perhaps in our implementation plan, is perhaps grouping together different communities, different entities within communities, to kind of bundle the need for broadband services in that specific area to perhaps make it more feasible for providers to bring broadband services into that area," he said.
Seyl is working with many health care organizations for end user, final mile connections for health care providers. HCC is a network of providers whose focus is to develop and implement programs to respond to the health needs of county networks within the network. HCC is in the process of signing up uninsured Missourians on the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace. Its goals for the coming year are access to tele-medicine and tele-psychiatry, provider education via tele-health and Medicaid expansion among others. HCC has a health clinic in Waverly known as the Live Well Health and Wellness Community.
MHC is a nonprofit organization that works to improve patient care and public health, reduce costs and give consumers more power over care. It does this through a secure, electronic network that allows doctors, hospitals, labs and other health care groups to share patient records quickly. MHC doesn't store electronic medical records; they are just a pathway to sending or accessing the records.
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