For most rural medical facilities, telemedicine – video plus broadband data links to large medical facilities in cities – is a literal lifesaver. From rapidly moving large images such as X-rays and CT scans to video conferencing between patients and remote specialists, broadband connections help to bring the latest medical information and techniques to small clinics and regional hospitals.
Broadband connections have been deemed so useful for regional medical centers that in 2006, an FCC initiative set aside substantial funding to establish broadband links from rural facilities to large medical centers. $417 million was committed for improvements at up to 69 regional centers. Ultimately, about 50 of the centers took advantage of this funding; a large number of these facilities installed massive fiber optic data transportation systems.
Of course, there are considerably more than 50 rural medical centers in the country, so this initiative barely scratched the surface for setting up telemedicine and data links. However, telecommunications companies have installed fiber optic networks in many rural areas and even a single dark fiber running to a regional hospital can be invaluable.
That dark fiber becomes even more useful when its massive bandwidth is split up through multiplexing. A single fiber carries many times the data capacity of standard broadband services such as cable or DSL, and the high speed for both uploading and downloading data easily accommodates the huge files that may be required to be sent both to and from remote medical facilities. In fact, many huge files may be simultaneously handled through multiplexing on a single fiber.
With multiplexers such as the FiberPlex WDM16 installed both at the rural medical center and its partner facility in a large city, doctors can conduct confidential video conferences with patients at the same time multiple CT scan files are being transmitted to the radiology department for analysis.