The Verizon Foundation and the Children's Health Fund have launched an initiative to bring mobile clinics throughout the United States, beginning with a telehealth project involving the University of Miami.
Announced on July 25, the initiative involves a mobile medical clinic connected to Verizon's 4G Long Term Extension (LTE) network. Verizon will also provide enterprise-grade routers and small antennas. Previously, generators and metal skins blocked the wireless signals on mobile health vehicles, according to Anthony Llompart, director of health care programs for Verizon Foundation, a division of Verizon that aims to solve problems in education, health care and energy management using technology.
The project, which started in late 2012, provides a way for children who lack access to health care due to socioeconomic and geographic circumstances to connect with University of Miami doctors and clinicians over a 4G LTE broadband connection, according to Verizon.
In addition, 4G LTE will allow University of Miami doctors and clinicians to access EHRs in real time, Verizon said.
"For many families, a long trip to a doctor means a day without work for the parent and puts their paycheck, and potentially their employment, at risk," Dr. Lisa Gwynn, medical director of the pediatric mobile clinic and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Miller School, said in a statement. "As a result, medical conditions that could be prevented or cured are left untreated, and the only health care many of these children receive is at the emergency room."
In Miami the mobile medical clinic will use the University of Miami's telehealth program. The program will provide access to specialists on certain days, including dermatologists, cardiologists, endocrinologists and nutrition experts. Through secure live video conferencing, University of Miami physicians and staff will be able to monitor patients' vital signs, perform advanced screenings and observe patients virtually in real time, Llompart said.
"This telemedicine system is much more than a video chat," Daniel Armstrong, executive vice chair of the department of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said in a statement. "It allows our health care providers to not only see and interact with patients via live video, but also to monitor vital signs; perform advanced screenings and tests; and observe their outcomes—all in real time."
Founded in 1987 by singer/songwriter Paul Simon and pediatrician/advocate Irwin Redlener, the Children's Health Fund provides mobile-based health care to homeless and low-income children and their families.
Verizon and the Children's Health Fund plan to roll out additional health IT projects in Dallas, Detroit, Phoenix, New York and San Francisco.
"Children's Health Fund has been operating mobile medical clinics for 26 years, but these sophisticated technology upgrades from Verizon are helping us to create the next generation of mobile care, with real-time connectivity that enables doctors, patients and resources at our hospital affiliates like the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to communicate like never before," Jeb Weisman, CIO for the Children's Health Fund, said in a statement.
"Technology supporting telemedicine is not new, but this Verizon 4G LTE solution enables the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Children's Health Fund pediatric mobile clinic to deliver critical specialty care to needy children and their families—care they would normally find difficult to receive because of geographic or financial reasons," Verizon's Llompart said in a statement. "This levels health care access and quality for these families and makes the partnership ideal for Verizon's Innovative Healthcare Initiative."
Telehealth is a becoming more of an accepted alternative to in-person office visits. About 17 million U.S. broadband households, or 1 in 5, say they would participate in a live chat with health experts, according to a July 23 report by research firm Parks Associates. In addition, 74 percent of consumers are willing to participate in telehealth sessions, revealed a March 4 Cisco survey carried out by research firm InsightExpress.