By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – CharterCare Health Partners became the first hospital system in Rhode Island to connect to the Beacon 2.0 high-capacity network, a 385-mile broadband super highway throughout Rhode Island that will connect colleges, hospitals, state and local governments, schools and libraries.
As a result of the new connection, ChaterCare’s capability to transmit data increased by a factor of 10, enabling high-speed transmission of digital images, according to Tim Rue, chief technology officer at the Ocean State Higher Education Economic Development and Administrative Network.
Oshean’s Beacon 2.0 network is funded by a $21.7 million federal stimulus grant and $10.7 million in private investment. Cox Business is the Rhode Island vendor that is installing the 48-strand fiber, and it will help to maintain the network.
The new network is being hailed as the foundation of the health care system’s technological transformation. “The timing could not be better, as hospitals become more reliant on electronic medical records, digital images and other vital information that will depend on higher broadband capacity,” said Kenneth H. Belcher, president of CharterCare Health Partners. Belcher, whose financially struggling hospital system is currently seeking a partner, said he would not characterize the new link “a competitive advantage” for CharterCare as it pursues that partner. Rather, he said, it was the research potential of connected hospitals that will provide Rhode Island with a competitive advantage.
“With all of our hospitals connected, it allows us to better compete for research grants with the NIH and others that might want to look at what allows us to compete for federal research grant with the NIH and others,” Belcher said.
The entire Rhode Island congressional delegation – Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Reps. James R. Langevin and David N. Cicilline – touted the event as an important milestone in building Rhode Island’s future economic infrastructure.
“One of the key’s to rebuilding our state’s economy is infrastructure investments – that means not only roads, bridges and ports, it means information infrastructure, so we can move information and goods and services to compete in the 21st century economy,” Cicilline said. “Today’s celebration is about an investment in information infrastructure, which will improve patient care and will also accommodate better, faster, more comprehensive research capability.”