Faster, Cheaper Broadband Internet Coming to Michigan Health Care Providers

The new network infrastructure will connect existing state health networks to each other and Internet2 at speeds ranging from 1.5 Mbps to 100 Mbps.

by / November 23, 2007

Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm and members of the Michigan congressional delegation announced that Michigan will receive $20.9 million over the next three years from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to extend high-speed broadband internet to 390 public hospitals, primary care clinics, and other health care providers that serve critical populations in rural and tribal areas. This program will dramatically expand the use of telemedicine throughout the state, which will allow Michiganians in rural areas to stay closer to home when in need of medical treatment.

Michigan was awarded the fourth largest amount of funding nationwide by the FCC as a part of its Rural Health Care Pilot Project. The Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI) and the Michigan Departments of Community Health and Information Technology submitted Michigan's proposal to the FCC earlier this year.

"This initiative will improve the quality of care in rural areas while saving rural residents substantial travel costs when smaller hospitals and clinics are unable to perform necessary medical services," said Granholm. "This is another step we are taking to ensure that our health-care industry uses technology to vastly improve the system, reduce costs and protect our privacy."

This award will allow Michigan to offer competitive bids to the private sector to extend high-speed broadband Internet to health-care providers in underserved areas of the state. The new network infrastructure will connect existing state health networks to each other and Internet2 at speeds ranging from 1.5 Mbps to 100 Mbps.

Funding will first be allocated to increase broadband availability and affordability in rural clinics and small hospitals. Then funding will increase the amount of bandwidth to regional and referral hospitals so they can handle the increase in telehealth traffic. For example, a single MRI can require many megabytes of bandwidth, which is currently not available at these facilities.

Also as a part of this award, rural health care providers will see their rates for access to high-speed broadband Internet reduced to be competitive with the cost in urban areas. The cost for high-speed Internet in rural areas is typically more expensive than in urban areas.
 
Granholm thanked members of the Michigan congressional delegation for their support. "This award is the result of a bipartisan effort, and I applaud the members of the Michigan congressional delegation for their work to make this happen," said Granholm. "Without the support of Senators Stabenow and Levin, and Representatives Stupak, Dingell, Upton, Miller, Ehlers, Walberg, Kildee, Camp and Hoekstra, this would not be possible."

Michigan was one of the first states in the nation to develop a blueprint outlining a plan that will improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care delivery by accelerating the adoption and use of health information technology and health information exchange (HIE). Michigan has been recognized as a national leader in health information technology, and our efforts were highlighted at the National Governors Association meeting in Traverse City earlier this year. A report and more information about MiHIN can be found online.

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