Telemedicine center opens in California

August 1, 1997

Telemedicine center opens in CaliforniaHealthcare providers in rural and medically underserved areas of California are expected to gain better access to much-needed resources with the establishment of the California Telehealth/Telemedicine

Telemedicine center opens in California

Healthcare providers in rural and medically underserved areas of California are expected to gain better access to much-needed resources with the establishment of the California Telehealth/Telemedicine Center. Facilitated by a $725,000 grant from two state-based foundations that fund various health-related projects, the Sacramento-based center is designed to help hospitals, clinics, physicians, and other healthcare personnel improve their ability to obtain healthcare information and deliver services through the use of information technologies.

The center, which opened July 15, is the result of a report released in January by the California Telemedicine and Telehealth Coordinating Project, a statewide planning committee charged with developing an infrastructure for the adoption and implementation of telemedicine throughout California. Among other things, the committee's report recommended that a facility dedicated to the needs of rural and medically underserved areas be established.

"Using this new telemedical service, a country doctor gets to use the same tools available to any major medical center whenever he needs to make a difficult diagnosis," said Sharon Avery, executive director of the Rural Healthcare Center, a state agency that acts as advisor for the center. "This has the potential of saving lives at a fraction of the cost, since the equipment will be shared."

Many of the problems faced by rural healthcare providersæsuch as widely scattered populations, inconvenient and delayed access to healthcare services, and provider burnout and isolationæcan be addressed through telemedicine, she added. Thus the center's services will include technical assistance in planning and developing telehealth and telemedicine programs. The center will also work to improve communication and collaboration among healthcare providers interested in telehealth/telemedicine through seminars and a Web site. In addition, a pool of grant funds will be established to help develop and implement telemedicine programs. The center also plans to develop a telemedicine training program that will focus on how to use telemedicine to improve healthcare services in rural and medically underserved areas.

Ongoing funding for the center is expected from a variety of state and federal sources, according to Avery. For more information about the center, contact Avery at 916/552-7579.