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Telehealth network expanded in California

A new pilot program will create 15 sites where physicians can treat underserved populations remotely.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Feb. 9, 2010

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As the government looks to telehealth as a way to cut health care costs, Silicon Valley communication networking giant Cisco is looking to become a leader in that market.

Cisco announced it is partnering with the Long Beach, Calif.-based health plan Molina Healthcare, two community health centers in San Diego and the state of California to create 15 telehealth sites across the state to address the health and wellness needs of those in underserved communities. As part of the program, Cisco will provide $10 million in products, including its HealthPresence system, services and support.

Cisco began piloting its HealthPresence technology in clinical settings two years ago. This project will expand on those efforts to create telehealth networks. It will also supplement efforts begun by the California Telehealth Network, a statewide coalition of health care organizations, technology companies and the government to create a telehealth presence in the state.

Through HealthPresence, physicians at Mountain Health and Community Services and La Maestra Community Health Centers can deliver primary and specialty care through video, audio and integrated diagnostic tools. The HealthPresence system also lets physicians in different locations meet in real time via the Web. The University of California, Davis, plans to join the network as well.

"California is already a world leader in technology, so it makes sense that we also lead the way in applying technology to health care," said California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a prepared statement. "What Cisco is doing here with the latest in high-tech approaches and communication is the future of medicine and we are very excited to see such innovative partners work to expand telemedicine connections and medical care in California."

With an increase in government funding for telemedicine programs in recent years, Cisco has been aggressive in its marketing of telehealth solutions. It rolled out an 18-wheel truck with a HealthPresence prototype onboard that has been making stops in large cities across the country since summer 2009.

Cisco joined forces with UnitedHealth Group last year on another telehealth project called Connected Care that kicked off in New Mexico. The two companies plan to expand the project nationally and expect it eventually to connect clinics, physician offices, workplace-based clinics, mobile clinics and even patients' homes. UnitedHealth Group plans to reimburse for the visits the same way it reimburses for face-to-face care.

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