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February 9, 2007

Regenstrief Center joins $1 million partnership to research benefits of telehealth networks

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -
Bart Collins
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A new $1 million partnership that includes Purdue's Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering will focus on how telehealth networks can meet the needs of rural and underserved residents in Indiana, Michigan and Kansas.

The partnership, known as the Midwest Alliance for Telehealth and Technology Resources, also will conduct telehealth research and coordinate evaluation activities with three other resource centers. In addition to Purdue, partnership members are Michigan State University, the University of Kansas and Marquette General Hospital in Marquette, Mich.

"The Regenstrief Center is committed to translating research into practical solutions," said Bart Collins, a Purdue communications professor who is leading Regenstrief's telemedicine efforts. "A key part of that mission is to support innovation in the areas of telemedicine, which has been proven to meet the health-care needs of those in rural and underserved areas of Indiana."

The national Office for the Advancement of Telehealth of the Health Resources and Services Administration awarded $1 million in federal funds for creating the research partnership.

The allied institutions offer a combination of individual expertise, and each will provide a distinct component of technical assistance, training and support to health-care providers. Michigan State will lead the partnership's evaluation arm.

Pam Whitten, a Regenstrief Center Faculty Scholar who now leads MSU's telemedicine initiatives, said the project's goal is to enable health organizations across the three states to implement communication technologies that increase access to care and improve its quality.

"After three years, we hope to have facilitated the creation of broad interweaving networks across the state and region that enable people to access all types of health-care services through communication technologies no matter where they live," said Whitten, an MSU professor of telecommunication, information studies and media.

Telehealth networks use technology such as videoconferencing, streaming media and wireless communications so specialists can share information and provide patient care over long distances. Marquette General Hospital, located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, has become a leader in telehealth through its commitment to meet the needs of rural and underserved residents.

Collins, who has been named Regenstrief's new director of health-care communications, said telemedicine can improve service by connecting health-care services and providers to patients who may be separated by geography.

"We will take a broad view of telemedicine and the role that information, communication and technology can play in using this delivery method to improve our health-care system and make it more efficient and effective," he said. "Regenstrief also will work to connect Purdue's resources and expertise with state and regional initiatives."

Each alliance partner has a defined role, with Marquette General Hospital taking the lead in grant administration, overall alliance coordination and technical assistance in program development. The group is leveraging the expertise of four telehealth and information technology providers:

*  A health-care engineering facility (Purdue's Regenstrief Center).

*  A rural regional telehealth hub (Marquette General Hospital).

*  An academic statewide telehealth hub (Kansas University, Center for TeleMedicine and TeleHealth).

*  A telehealth research facility (MSU).

In conjunction with this initiative, the Center for TeleMedicine and TeleHealth will expand its 15-year-old program in Kansas through a separate, $750,000 grant from the Advancement of Telehealth of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Over the next three years, this grant will help fund an expansion of the telehealth network to bring new services to 13 sites in 11 counties across Kansas. These counties have a population of 267,772 that includes a high proportion of elderly, children, Native Americans and Hispanics.

Whitten said health-care delivery issues in the three states include limited access to care for rural and underserved populations, lack of telehealth programming to address health-care access, and financial constraints of health care organizations that limit educational opportunities.

"These issues often result in delayed treatment or less than optimal health care for residents, unsuccessful and unsustainable deployment of telehealth programming, and lost research opportunities that could contribute to our overall understanding of the problem," Whitten said.

Whitten, a former Purdue communications professor, brought together current applications in Indiana that linked patients and health providers, such as telepsychiatry from St. Vincent's and Riley Hospitals and home-health services from the Veterans Administration in Indianapolis.

The Regenstrief Foundation in Indianapolis in 2005 provided $1 million annually for three years to launch the Regenstrief Center at Discovery Park, a $350 million interdisciplinary research hub on the Purdue campus.

Since its launch, the Regenstrief Center has generated more than $20 million in sponsored research on projects focused on improving the safety and efficiency of patient care; providing more efficient deployment of physicians, nurses and other health-care personnel; and better coordinating inpatient and outpatient treatment.

Construction will be completed this spring on the $12.4 million Gerald D. and Edna E. Mann Hall, which will be the Discovery Park home to the Regenstrief Center. About 25 percent of the floor space in the 50,000-square-foot Mann Hall will be devoted to the Regenstrief Center, with the rest utilized by the park's e-Enterprise Center, Center for Advanced Manufacturing and the Purdue Homeland Security Institute.

Purdue's center is named for Sam Regenstrief (pronounced REE-gen-streef), who emigrated from Vienna to Indianapolis as a child. He founded a company that manufactured and popularized the low-cost home dishwasher, at one time producing 37 percent of the world's dishwashers in Connersville, Ind. Sam Regenstrief died in 1988.

The Regenstrief Foundation carries out Sam and his wife Myrtie Regenstrief's philanthropic legacy of interweaving medicine, engineering and technology.

Writers: Phillip Fiorini, (765) 496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Russ White, Michigan State University Relations, (517) 432-0923, whiterus@msu.edu

Sources: Bart Collins, (765) 494-4417, bcollins@purdue.edu

Pam Whitten, (517) 432-1332, pwhitten@msu.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Journalists who need more information about this news release can contact Phillip Fiorini, Purdue News Service, at (765) 496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

 

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