NOME (AP) -- General Communications Inc. has secured a $12 million contract to provide Norton Sound Health Corp. with telecommunications services so that village health aides can consult more effectively with doctors.
The five-year contract will improve health services in 15 communities in the Bering Strait region, David Morris, spokesman for GCI, said Monday.
The new equipment will provide ''real-time'' video so that doctors in Nome and Anchorage can consult with village health aides as emergencies or the need for procedures arise.
''People living in rural America should have the same access to quality health care and resources as those living in urban America,'' said Martin Cary, GCI vice president of broadband services. ''Tele-health services will raise the quality and speed of health care in remote areas, and reduce overall costs associated with Medivacs and delayed treatment.''
GCI already has similar contracts with various health corporations serving Kotzebue, Bethel, Bristol Bay, Aleutian and Ketchikan regions.
Phil Wheelehan, spokesman for Norton Sound Health Corp., said a situation arose recently in Elim where a 13-year-old boy arrived at the village health center with a large fish hook through his lip. He said that's the type of situation where real-time video can be used to walk a health aide through a procedure.
The new system is proving particularly valuable in treating ear infections in children because it can be used with an otoscope, Wheelehan said.
Previously, health aides would take photographs of the patient and send them using electronic mail to a doctor or specialist in another location, he said.
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