Satellite to deliver tele-health services to rural Alaskans in arctic region

Nome 02 October 2000General Communication Inc. (GCI) has signed an agreement with Norton Sound Health Corporation to provide tele-health services between 15 communities in the Bering Strait region and health care providers located in Nome and Anchorage, Alaska. The five-year, $12 million contract will offer state-of-the-art broadband services delivered via satellite and represents a significant advancement in the quality of rural health care.

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"People living in rural America, and specifically in Alaska, should have the same access to quality health care and resources as those living in urban America", explained Martin Cary, GCI vice president of broadband services. "Tele-health services will raise the level of quality and speed of health care in remote areas, and reduce overall costs associated with Medivacs and delayed treatments."

According to Mr. Martin Cary, GCI's tele-health services provide more than just bandwidth capacity. GCI's approach offers full network management, application development, as well as consulting and training delivered by a team exclusively focused on tele-health services in remote areas. Overall, this partnership approach offers the best support and long-term viability for a rural health programme.

Village health aides will be able to send detailed diagnostic information to major hospitals located in Nome and Anchorage, Alaska, as well as other participating specialists. A typical village clinic will have at its disposal an electrocardiogram, an otoscope for ear, nose and throat (ENT) analysis, a dermascope for skin analysis, a videoscope for overall assessment and real time support during an emergency.

"This new agreement demonstrates the growing demand for managed broadband services in rural Alaska", said Ron Duncan, GCI president and CEO. "Broadband services, data and private line revenues are a rapidly increasing proportion of GCI's total revenues."

At present, GCI has secured similar tele-health contracts with a series of other native health corporations serving the Kotzebue, Bethel, Bristol Bay, Aleutian as well as Ketchikan regions. GCI is an Alaska-based integrated communications provider delivering voice, video and data services through its fiber optic, satellite, hybrid fiber coax and metropolitan area network facilities.


Leslie Versweyveld

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