Riding the microwave over Monarch
by Mark Reaman
Gunnison Valley Health has started work to figure out broadband redundancy for the hospital and its associated services. While nothing is yet set in stone, efforts are being made to have broadband backup as early as this fall.
A contract has been signed with a company that specializes in providing such service to rural hospitals. An outage a year ago left the valley without cell phone and broadband service. While an inconvenience for most residents, an outage could be a serious matter for an institution like the hospital.
So GVH has started the process of pursuing redundancy via a microwave connection through a tower at the top of Monarch Pass. According to GVH marketing director Tyler Hansen, the company, Affiniti, has worked with more than 50 rural hospitals and healthcare facilities in situations similar to that of GVH.
GVH medical information systems director Trevor Smith said regular meetings are currently being held to follow the progress of the redundancy project, with hope that it will be completed before the snow flies.
“We are getting government funding for 65 percent of the cost. Hardware is around $35,000, with monthly fees around $1,700,” Smith explained.
According to Hansen and Smith, the need for broadband backup at the hospital is varied. They explained that all radiology reads use broadband. The GVH radiology analysis is provided by Radiology Imaging Associates, a group of 90 radiology specialists based out of Denver. That association with GVH started just this summer. Broadband is important for connectivity to other GVH sites such as the Senior Care Center, Home Medical Services, the Primary Care Clinic next to the hospital, Mountain Clinic, Campus Clinic and Crested Butte Physical Therapy.
According to Smith, “We also rely on a consistent connection to after-hours pharmacists, offsite transcriptionist, and offsite coders. It also provides access to our collection agency and other third-party vendors such as Insights, the hospital’s budgeting and financial software package provider.”
When the broadband dropped out last summer, Smith said, “GVH clinics had to close and we had to either divert trauma patients or have a radiologist on site. We had no connectivity to a remote pharmacy, so staff had to stay in-house during the outage. We had no phones, no internet, no email, no method to communicate with the public or others in the medical community. It was not a good situation.”
The primary broadband service comes from the Colorado Telehealth Network service provided by Centurylink. “With a redundancy system in place, we won’t have to limit services to our community during outages,” said Smith. “We can provide the same level of service if or when Centurylink or the CTN goes down so it’s certainly something we’re working hard to accomplish.”