PEORIA — With their rapidly expanding telehealth program, OSF HealthCare is in full support of Gov. JB Pritzker’s ambitious plans for statewide broadband internet service. Telehealth depends on great internet service, and some rural communities are sorely lacking.
Pritzker and OSF HealthCare held a press conference on the issue Tuesday morning at Jump Simulation Center.
“I want to personally thank you, Governor, for your work on Connect Illinois and the recent release of the first round of matching funds to a total of $50 million,” said OSF HealthCare CEO Robert Sehring before introducing Pritzker. “Your expansion of broadband internet access for education, business development and telehealth will have a profound impact throughout the state.”
In early February Gov. Pritzker announced the release of $50 million, the first round of matching grants for Connect Illinois, a four-year, $420 million statewide broadband expansion.
“It’s as essential for our economic development as roads and bridges and universities and all the buildings we are putting up as a result of Rebuild Illinois,” Pritzker said to a room full of OSF HealthCare executives and members of the press. “If we are gonna prepare ourselves for the next 50 years, we’ve got to do it by making sure everybody is connected. Anybody who has read the history books, or perhaps you have been alive long enough to remember rural electrification, when there wasn’t electricity in many rural areas, well guess what? We now need to make sure we are connecting everyone in the state to high speed internet.”
Connect Illinois is the most comprehensive broadband program in the nation, said Pritzker. It’s being funded with matching funds from the federal government, local governments, and private partners.
“In an increasingly competitive global economy, we simply cannot afford to leave any Illinoisan behind when it comes to high speed connectivity. This is about the right of all of our communities to access healthcare and education and economic opportunity,” said Pritzker. “Today if you are not connected, you are not able to access all those services, many of which are fundamental, in my view.”
Since launching Oct. 1, OSF’s HealthCare’s telehealth program has already provided over 70,000 virtual clinical interactions, said Pritzker. Telehealth is providing rural patients with specialized care formerly available only in larger communities. By using special carts equipped with a camera, doctors in Peoria can see patients anywhere. Telehealth is particularly important in emergency situations, like stroke or a complicated birth.
“Telehealth has become a huge frontier in neonatology,” said Dr. M. Jawas Javed, head of the neonatal intensive care unit at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois, while demonstrating a cart equipped with a camera tuned into the emergency room at Saint James – John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac. “Children’s Hospital is one of the largest neonatal centers in downstate Illinois, so a lot of referrals come from rural hospitals who require us to help them provide high quality care.”
While about 90 percent of births go well, about 10 percent present difficulties doctors practicing at a smaller hospital may have had little experience managing, said Javed.
“So in all our regional centers we have a telehealth setup, and we’re able to connect each of our hospitals to a board certified neonatologist 24/7,” said Javed. “By getting connected with a neonatologist who can help them through the delivery process, through the resuscitation, we can bring high quality care to all those rural facilities, and they can get the same type of care as if they were receiving it here.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.
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February 25, 2020 at 04:05PM