Oregon State Representative Greg Walden and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai made a special visit to Hermiston today. The two meet with several health care clinics within Oregon to talk about health care in rural areas.
A lot of the areas that surround us are rural areas, some of which lack accessible health care. Representative Walden, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the health care clinics in attendance today want to make health care through telecommunications accessible for those who need it.
"When you're in a rural community, we need to find different ways to reach our patients," CEO of Mirasol Health Clinic Diane Tschauner.
One way of reaching rural community patients is through virtual health care services, which would allow patients to access a doctor virtually; on their computer or an ipad.
During this meeting, Diane Tschauner plays out a simulation using her ipad to show Chairman Pai and Representative Walden how this might work.
"Would it be okay if I talk in Spanish and you translate just to show your service," said mock patient.
The mock patient is speaking on a platform called Linguava. Linguava provides heal-care interpretation in 23 different languages, including those who are deaf.
Currently, there are 2 clinics in Oregon that have launched this program and the hope is to provide this resource to everyone who can't leave their home.
There are a couple challenges at stake, however, when it comes to health care over the internet. To name a few: Technology complexity, money, consistency across state borders and not having enough broadband to reach smaller communities.
Nic Powers is the CEO of the Winding Water Clinic in Wallowa County, and he says the biggest challenge for those in his community is not having enough broadband to reach the 5,000 patients Nic's clinic serves.
"A basic mega bite connection costs us 500 dollars a month because we're so far out there," said Powers. "It would be difficult for these providers to build these systems to at least get 20 systems out to our clinics. In Joseph Oregon we can't even get that. There isn't a fiber optics line that goes to Joseph, Oregon."
While building a system for Joseph Oregon may be do-able, it's costly. This is why Representative Walden and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai are here today--- to find out the needs in these rural communities, listen to the projects like Linguava, and find out how projects like Linguava can be expanded.
The Mirasol Clinic in Hermiston has until Friday to place their bid. CEO of the Mirasol Clinic, Diane Tschauner says they're hoping to get about 1.2 million dollars. This money would help them continue expand the Lingual platform and other Telehealth resources.