Minneapolis-based UnitedHealthcare in July announced it would develop a national telehealth network, called Connected Care, with networking vendor Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif.

The program envisions placing telemedicine equipment in physician practices and retail clinics, retail outlets, pharmacies, and workplaces. A trained medical attendant would operate the equipment. The attendant would present a patient to a remote physician, operating diagnostic equipment such as a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, or an otoscope to look in the ear. The project also will use mobile clinics.

In Colorado, 12-hospital Centura Health will built Connected Care sites in several rural facilities as well as federally qualified community health centers to link rural providers and patients to specialists in urban facilities.

The program initially will target underserved specialties in rural areas. Likely candidates, proponents say, include cardiology, dermatology, pulmonology, diabetes management and ear/nose/throat, among others.

UnitedHealthcare and Centura Health are working with the Colorado Rural Health Center and the Colorado Community Health Network to identify communities and sites for pilot testing of the telehealth clinics. Implement is scheduled to start in selected sites during the first quarter of 2010.

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