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Report: National telehealth network proposed


NEW YORK Health insurer UnitedHealth Group and information-networking vendor Cisco Systems are developing a national telehealth network to connect patients in underserved areas with physicians via telemedicine technology, according to reports.

The initiative, known as Connected Care, features small clinics in retail outlets, pharmacies, such retail clinics as RediMed and Minute Clinic, and workplaces. A trained medical attendant would operate the telemedicine equipment, present a patient to a remote physician, and operate such diagnostic equipment as a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, or an otoscope to look in the ear. The project also will use mobile clinics, with two vehicles now available and an undetermined number of others to be deployed, according to Health Data Management.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco brings to Connected Care the networking technology to enable the exchange of video, audio and data. Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth Group brings a commitment of “tens of millions” of dollars in funding and a network of 590,000 physicians and 4,900 hospitals from which to recruit participants.

Cisco recently piloted the program with San Jose employees over seven months. UnitedHealth Group will pilot, starting this fall, with its employees and local delivery system Park Nicollet Health Services.

Cisco and UnitedHealth Group also have partnered with Project HOPE to use a mobile clinic in New Mexico to provide remote consultations. Project HOPE will be one of the first implementations of Connected Care, with a goal of starting in the first quarter 2010.

The telemedicine technology is under Food and Drug Administration review to determine its medical device classification. The classification will determine whether the technology needs FDA pre-market approval, HDM said in its report.

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