Thursday, October 29, 1998

New telehealth
network links isle
doctors to world

By Helen Altonn


While John Glenn was being launched into space this morning, Hawaii was being launched into the nation's forefront in telemedicine.

"The length and breadth and scope of what we do today is beyond our imagination," said the Rev. Kaleo Patterson of Kaumakapili Church in blessing the state of Hawaii Telehealth Access Network.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, unable to attend the event at the Manoa Innovation Center, said in prepared remarks that it's the largest telemedicine operation of its kind in the country.

"What was just a science fiction dream when I was a boy is now reality," Inouye said.

Eventually, the network is expected to link Hawaii with other Pacific, Asian, even worldwide regions, to provide medical expertise, education and training, said Gov. Ben Cayetano.

He said the network is a big step toward tapping an overseas market for health care. The network provides a base for exporting Hawaii's medical expertise and education and training, he said.

"Every year, thousands of foreigners flock to the United States for health care. We can do that in Hawaii."

Frank Fukunaga, executive director of High Technology Development Corp., along with Thomas Driskill Jr., president of Hawaii Health Systems Corp., and others credited Cayetano for for his vision.

Hailed as a "health care and technological breakthrough," the network is starting with the state's 12 hospitals -- most in rural neighbor island areas -- and the St. Francis Medical Center and Straub Clinic and Hospital on Oahu.

Officials participated in today's ceremony by video from Hilo Medical Center, Kauai Veteran's Memorial Hospital, the University of Hawaii's Social Science Research Institute and the Hawaii Health Systems Corp.

Patients in remote areas lacking specialists and transportation will be able to receive high quality care through video consultations and exchange of information via the network, officials said.

"It's a leveling of the playing field for rural communities," Driskill said. "This is for the people of Hawaii."

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