February 26, 2008
Contact: Luke Frank, Media Relations Manager, 505/272-3679; 505/907-9525

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

ALBUQUERQUE , NM – The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center’s (HSC) Center for Telehealth and Cybermedicine Research (CfTH) has been authorized to receive $15.5 million from the Federal Communications Commission for the design, construction, operation and evaluation of a Southwest Telehealth Access Grid (SW TAG). The SW TAG will be developed as part of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Rural Health Care Pilot Program (RHCPP), a three-year, $417 million nationwide project to design, engineer and construct the infrastructure for a network of 69 statewide or regional broadband telehealth sites, to include three U.S. Territories. The RHCPP will use Internet2 and National Lambda Rail broadband capabilities for sharing, distributing and coordinating telemedicine clinical services across sites, as well as providing educational and training programs for rural health care professionals.

More than 500 health-related facilities in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas and Utah, including Indian Health Services, ultimately will be served by SW TAG. Health care facilities participating in the RHCPP include hospitals, clinics, universities and research centers, behavioral health sites correctional facility clinics and community health centers. The HSC’s CfTH will administer the contract. “This FCC contract will provide up to 85 percent of the costs for the design, development, implementation and evaluation of a telemedicine access grid to enhance the expansion of the rural telemedicine network,” remarks SW TAG Principal Investigator Dale Alverson, M.D. “The remaining dollars will be provided by SW TAG members.” Telehealth and telemedicine services can provide patients in rural areas access to medical specialties in areas like oncology, cardiology, pediatrics and radiology – in some instances without leaving their homes or communities. “In addition to progressive medical practices, this system will enable patients to heal and recover in a more familiar, nurturing environment with their families in their communities,” Alverson adds. “This is a significant first step in providing valuable expertise and training to physicians in our more rural areas who might not have access to medical specialists or continuing education in their communities,” adds Paul Roth, M.D., Executive Vice President for Health Sciences at UNM. “Moreover, the system can quickly be transitioned for emergency use in the event of a natural or other disaster.”

SW TAG also will support the UNM Clinical and Translational Science Center’s community based research, providing insight to New Mexican’s health challenges and advancing medical discoveries from bench to bedside in the state’s underserved areas. SW TAG is a partnership between the University of New Mexico, the Arizona Telemedicine Program and the Southwest Indian Health Service Telehealth Consortium and associated tribes. The consortium of 12 stakeholders includes the Center for High Performance Computing, Electrical & Computer Engineering, NM Institute of Mining & Technology, NM State University, NM Department of Health, Southwest Indian Health Service – including Albuquerque Area IHS, Navajo Area IHS, Phoenix Area IHS, Tucson Area HIS – Arizona Telemedicine Program, Holy Cross Hospital, Presbyterian Medical Services and Sangre de Cristo Community Health Partnership. For updates and further information on this project and other CfTH activities, visit the web site at http://hsc.unm.edu/som/telehealth/. For more information, call the UNM Center for Telehealth and Cybermedicine Research at 505/272-8633.