Service providers answer the health care call

While my focus has always been on service provider technology trends, it's interesting to see how certain verticals, especially healthcare, are finding greater utility in telecom services.

Given the fact that medical institutions have to transmit large amounts of patient data, including everything from basic data records to radiology scans, I don't think it's all that surprising.

Take the story of Medical Arts Radiology, a Long Island-based radiology services company, which replaced its T1 lines with a converged optical-based Ethernet service from Optimum Lightpath.  

Dr. Pradeep Albert, CIO of Medical Arts Radiology, talked about how a minute could mean delay of care or even loss of life if a diagnosis gets held up with delays in getting paper and film images from one location to another physician to make a diagnosis.

Most recently, Albert saw such a story unfold with one of its patients. Because of a combination of Ethernet and fiber connectivity, radiology technicians were able to quickly diagnose a critically ill patient.

"Last week someone came in for a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the lungs that can be potentially fatal. The patient seemed fine but we were able to determine in minutes that the patient did in fact have PE," Dr. Albert said. "We immediately printed out the films and sent him to the hospital. Faster technology helps us make quicker decisions. In this case, it meant the difference between sending someone home to wait for a report, sending them to the ER to wait for hours as their condition worsens or diagnosing them immediately and getting them urgent care. It can mean saving lives."

Prior to getting the new Ethernet service, the company was at the mercy of time in that it had to had to wait for faxes or film in the mail, and slow data sent over a T1 line in order to proceed with case work. In the case of this particular patient, waiting could have had disastrous effects.

Regional players such as Optimum Lightpath aren't the only ones pursuing medical networking opportunities. Large service providers such as Orange Business Services, Qwest and Verizon are positioning their offerings to the health care industry.  

Reflecting the growing utility in Machine to Machine (M2M) applications, Orange Business Services in March struck a pact with Sorin Group, a manufacturer of cardiovascular disease devices, to provide a remote monitoring solution for patients that have a pacemaker implanted inside of them. Simply put, the solution will transmit data wirelessly from the pacemaker device to a device located by their bedside and then onto their respective doctor for analysis.

The application provides obvious benefits to the patient and the doctor. Stefano Di Lullo, president of the CRM business unit of Sorin Group, told me, "The system brings peace of mind to the patient." At the same time, attending doctors can easily see if a patient has a problem and can then make any necessary adjustments to treatment.  

More recently, Qwest recently won a contract to enhance patient care in rural areas to the Colorado Hospital Association and the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council. A key element of the Colorado health care networks is again to provide remote diagnostics for patients that live far from a medical facility.

Then, there's of course Verizon Business. The telco has upping the ante of its health care network offerings with its Verizon Connected Healthcare Solutions and new security capabilities via its Security Management Program-Health Care (SMP-H). These capabilities have enabled the telco to win contracts with benefits solution company Humana and Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

We all know doctors and hospitals certainly are not known for their speed, but it's clear that they need more than a pokey T1 line to respond to patient's complex needs. When I go to a doctor's office with the suspicion that's something is wrong, I want that information to be handed to me right away, not a couple hours or days later.   

- Sean