Technology for the American Outback:
H-M AHEC Connects School, EMS Squad and Others

Tim Christensen, MS,
Hudson-Mohawk AHEC Executive Director

In a region of New York State where black bears may outnumber humans and the rural landscape renders cell phones useless, 21st Century communications technology may seem light years away. Enter the Hudson-Mohawk Area Health Education Center. By brokering a creative partnership, H-M AHEC has coalesced parties who individually could not afford high speed Internet access, but through a coalition, are soon to enjoy this high-tech benefit.

The Big Dig - High tech can be dirty. Installation of a high-speed Internet connection begins with installing under-ground cabling. The H-M AHEC in partnership with several town agencies has brought high-speed Internet connectivity to the Indian Lake EMS squad, community health center and the local school.

The hamlet of Indian Lake (population just under 1,500) sits at the virtual epicenter of the six million acre Adirondack Park. Its rural setting presents significant travel difficulties for continuing education for healthcare professionals, EMS staff and others. The lack of a significant population meant even high-speed Internet access was at best, years away.

In July, H-M AHEC convened a meeting with Indian Lake Central School District, the local rescue squad, community health center, county public health, home health, mental health agencies, and several representatives from town and county governments. The agenda - can these groups form a coalition to bring high-speed Internet connectivity to Indian Lake in a cost effective manner?

Working in partnership with the Adirondack Area Network and Questar III BOCES, H-M AHEC brokered an agreement that brings a high-speed (T1) Internet line into the EMS squad and, in turn, the EMS squad "down streams" the signal to the school. The arrangement reduces the school's current 56k dial-up fees by more than 90%, while increasing their connection speed by a factor of 24. Once fully operational, the line will provide the Indian Lake EMS squad with two-way audio/video connectivity with Albany Medical College's EMS continuing education program. Other healthcare professionals can access the system as well.

Less than four months following that initial July meeting: fiber optic cable connects the school, museum, community health center, rescue squad, library and town hall; the T1 line is on order; and AHEC-provided video conference equipment is on-site at Indian Lake Central School by year end. The stage is set for the next act, the recruitment of trainees for the home health aide and basic EMT training programs.

The black bears have nothing to fear however.