BERLIN – Atlantic General Hospital has received a $193,050 reimbursement through a program that helps not-for-profit hospitals serving rural areas with broadband costs.
Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) secured a $193,050 reimbursement from a Federal Communications Commission fund via the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). The funding is made possible by telecommunication service providers — like those who are members of the Maryland Broadband Cooperative — that pay into the fund to support rural healthcare facilities through increased connectivity.
“This has been a relationship that really crystallizes why our organization exists,” said Drew Van Dopp, president and CEO of Maryland Broadband Cooperative.
Maryland Broadband Cooperative provides both lit (in use) services as well as dark fiber (infrastructure not yet in use) to Atlantic General, which allows for the expansion of existing services and telehealth opportunities. Van Dopp said expanding rural access to broadband was the reason Maryland Broadband Cooperative was created by a coalition of Tri-County Councils years ago.
“Everyone has known the rural parts of Maryland have needed world class broadband telecommunications services, not only so our people can compete with the more technologically developed parts of our state but to have a comparable and similar quality of life,” Van Dopp said.
The cooperative began constructing fiberoptic backbones in 2007 through the support of the Tri-County Council of the Lower Eastern Shore and the Mid-Shore Regional Council. For the last 10 years, the hospital has worked in partnership with Maryland Broadband. Installing fiber in Worcester County allowed AGH to implement its first electronic medical records system and make subsequent upgrades connecting all facilities, which requires the secure exchange of data at high speeds.
“We cannot stress enough the incredible impact the efforts of the Tri-County Councils and the Maryland Broadband Cooperative have had on clinical practice and patient care,” said Jonathan Bauer, vice president of information services at AGH. “This reimbursement from USAC helps make broadband internet service more affordable for our organization, thereby reducing the cost of patient care.”
Donald Owrey, AGH’s president and CEO, said the hospital appreciated all of the partners who made progress possible. He said broadband played a vital role at the hospital.
“When you think about technology, it permeates all aspects of our lives,” he said. “Health care is no different.”
Commissioner Chip Bertino praised both the hospital’s evolution and the success of the broadband partnership.
“Yet again this is a demonstration of the power of cooperation and the unrivaled passion of this institution to continually evolve to ensure its patients are cared for as they deserve,” Bertino said.
According to AGH, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 led to creation of the USAC, an independent not-for-profit corporation designated as administrator of the Universal Service Fund. Telecom service providers pay into the fund and participate in four programs, one of which is to support rural health care facilities through increased connectivity. Facilities like AGH that classify as not-for-profit and serve rural areas can receive a 65% discount on broadband services. The reimbursement funding received this week will be reinvested in AGH’s information technology department.