Broadband enthusiasts have long considered the medical community to be a potential benefactor of the technology. Now, a unique agreement forged by Hughes Network Systems Inc., the Advanced Technology Institute and the Columbia Eye Clinic promises to finally provide tangible evidence of broadband's advantages.
The three entities have launched a high-speed, satellite broadband service linking medical professionals at the Columbia Eye Clinic with patients at the Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Community Health Center in Ridgeland, South Carolina. The new service allows clinic experts to screen the eyes of patients more than 100 miles away for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of adult on-set blindness in the United States.
Under the supervision of retinopathy experts in Columbia, patients will be seated in Ridgeland, where their retinas will be scanned using a retinal camera. The scanned image will be sent via a Hughes Direcway broadband satellite connection to high-definition computer screens in Columbia, where specialists will determine whether diabetic retinopathy is present and recommend the treatment that may be needed.
The project was organized under the auspices of ATI and its Telehealth Deployment Research Testbed, a federally funded program to identify and communicate guidelines for effective use of telehealth technology.
"With this technology, we plan to screen patients in rural areas for diabetic retinopathy, initially in the Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton area, and then throughout the state. In the future, we hope to expand to screenings for glaucoma and other diseases," said the Columbia Eye Clinic's Dr. Lloyd Clark.
The Columbia Eye Clinic serves more than 50,000 patients and performs over 30,000 eye procedures annually.