Baudette – medical expertise at their virtual fingertips

Baudette is located in Lake of the Woods at the top of Minnesota. The population is about 1,100. Baudette and the surrounding area is served by LakeWood Health Center. According to their website…

LakeWood Health Center consists of the following four divisions: LakeWood Care Center, LakeWood Clinic, LakeWood Health Center, and LakeWood Nursing Service. They service a population of 6,000 to 9,000 people, the number fluctuating with seasonal tourism activities. LakeWood is a federally designated Critical Access Hospital.

Baudette and the LakeWood Health Center were recently featured on MPR for their telemedicine services

Lakewood Health Center in Baudette is the city’s only access to emergency care. It’s small, with only two doctors and a nurse practitioner on staff. They and a team of on-call nurses respond to emergencies as they arise.

But for the past year, the Lakewood Health Center has had many more medical experts at its disposal. Nursing Director Patty Frohreich said when things get hectic in the emergency room, staff can tap the help of experienced doctors and nurses at a call center in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“All I have to do is push this button on the red emergency box,” Frohreich said.

The service called e-Emergency is part of a range of telemedicine services provided by the Sioux Falls-based Avera Health system. When the call is answered, a high-definition television screen pops on above one of the emergency bays. Registered Nurse Becky Vandekeift in Sioux Falls can remotely control a wall-mounted camera, capable of zooming in on patients, as well as IV pumps, cardiac machines and other monitoring equipment.

The program has provided life-saving care and it sounds like it has also allowed cost savings at the patient level that help support the ongoing costs…

Avera Health officials say their eEmergency Service costs subscribers between $40,000 and $80,000 annually, depending on volume. The service has been used by the hospital in Baudette only 14 times in the past year, but it has provided critical help in a few life-saving situations. Frohreich said on several occasions it has eliminated the need to transfer patients to larger hospitals hundreds of miles away.

“If we can keep a couple of patients at home per month and avoid an unnecessary transfer, that’s going to support the ongoing program,” Frohreich said. “It’s a service that we welcome in our emergency room.*”*

Avera’s e-Emergency Service is now in 62 hospitals across the upper Midwest. By next month there will be 16 Minnesota hospitals connected

It sounds as if they have a growing presence in Minnesota…

Avera’s telemedicine reach into Minnesota has grown since it began in 2007. In Minnesota alone, Avera now has nine ePharmacy sites. In addition to supporting emergency room service, there are three Minnesota health facilities that use Avera to support their intensive care units. The not-for-profit company will soon launch a similar service for long-term care facilities.

Dr. Donald Kosiak, who directs all of Avera’s telemedicine services, said increasing use of technology fits well with national health reform goals. For example, he says, data show that in just over three years, the e-Emergency service has saved nearly $4 million by reducing medical transfer costs.

What are a community’s options for better broadband?

We shared a press release from Cloquet Valley last week on the progress of their plans for broadband – especially a recently completed feasibility study. Minnesota Public Radio spoke with John Schultz at U-reka Broadband who did the study. He offered a succinct list of broadband options for the folks in Northeast Minnesota…

First, phone companies Frontier and CenturyLink have the potential to improve their DSL offerings. Both are taking federal money from the new Connect America Fund aimed at just such households, although only CenturyLink is using any of the money in Minnesota. If this happens, expect the phone companies to provide pretty basic broadband service, maybe download speeds of 4 to 6 megabits per second, Schultz said. That’s how the FCC defines the very low end of broadband speeds.

Second, AT&T and Verizon both are eligible for a different pot of federal money, the Mobility Fund, available for wireless providers expanding their 3G and 4G networks. If this happens in the Cloquet Valley, the speeds would be better than DSL, Schultz said, but those providers put caps on how much data a customer can download in a month. So, fans of streaming movies, ration your use.

Third, Cooperative Light & Power, the electricity provider in Two Harbors, has in the past expressed some interest in fixed wireless (as opposed to the mobile wireless services of the big phone providers.) Both phone and electrical cooperatives elsewhere in Minnesota have been key players in improving broadband access.

Finally, there’s a new generation of satellite service. Keough just signed up for the Exede service and sounded pleased. It can deliver 8 to 12 megabits per second download speeds, and even Skype conversations are possible, she said. The problem with satellite service has been the communication delay, making interactive use difficult or impossible. The new service isn’t perfect on that score, but it’s better, both Keough and Schultz said.

JoAnne Johnson, who is also with U-reka Broadband and working on the project, offers slight update on the plans. Apparently only Tmobile has an ETC [eligible telecommunications carrier] designation in MN which is necessary to bid in the mobility auction. Verizon believes it does but the department disagrees, saying that the certificate is only for the acquired areas of the former Midwest Wireless. So unfortunately that option is somewhat curbed.

While it’s interesting to know what’s happening in other areas, I include this mostly because I think it helps all communities consider their options for better broadband.

Involta Grand Opening

In May we wrote a bit about Involta and the potential economic impact it might have on Duluth. Well, Involta is planning the grand opening of their Duluth location next month.

Please join us in celebrating the grand opening of Involta’s world-class data center. This $11.5 million, 26,000 square foot, environmentally-friendly, fully-secure, fully-redundant world-class data center houses critical computer systems for businesses and public institutions creating quality jobs and driving new investments in Duluth and surrounding regions.

Come for the ribbon cutting and stay for the facility tours. Refreshments will be provided.

Ribbon Cutting and Facility Tours
September 26 3:00 p.m. 3401 technology drive
RSVP 319.261.3008
refreshments will be provided

Deer River Schools Get a National Nod for E-Learning Efforts

I love to see Minnesota called out for any example of broadband adoption efforts and improvements in the quality of life – especially in education. So I was delighted to see Deer River School District mentioned on the MSNBC website.

MSNBC did a nice piece the impact technology is having on education from K12 to higher ed. Deer River is recognized for their telepresence setup…

In northern Minnesota, new technology will help level the playing field for schools in remote areas, said Matt Grose, chair of the Itasca Area Schools Collaborative and superintendent for the Deer River School District in Deer River, Minn.

The collaborative, which includes 20 schools and 6,000 students, is relying on new video technology to link classrooms with others throughout the region, he said. A $1 million federal grant helped pay for the distance-learning initiative, he said. The telepresence classrooms will be used for foreign language classes and field trips.

“Our kids are going to have opportunities to take higher level courses that we can’t offer here, or at least that we don’t have the enrollment to justify a teacher for,” he said.

He said the collaborative wants to expand the telepresence to the community, offering college courses for adults during the evenings.

The article and the accompanying video are worth a glimpse. Watch the video for a very cool college lab set up from Stanford University.

Recently I posted about some articles that had less than stellar things to say about online education – but I think this article gives hope that we’re heading in the right direction – partially because I think there’s still an element of face-to-face teaching in most of the examples that they give – which I think helps both students and teachers transition to what education will become in the future. As the article points out, the field of e-learning is still very new…

“It’s a significant change,” Karen Cator, the director of educational technology for the U.S. Education Department in Washington, D.C., told NBC News. “While we might feel like the Internet has been for around for a long time, which it has been, we just have to remember that it’s fairly new to us — and the opportunity to learn has exponentially grown.”

Reducing Digital Divide in Minneapolis

Insight News ran two articles this week that serve as updates to the ARRA-funded broadband adoption program in the Twin Cities – Broadband Access Project (BAP), an outreach program developed through the University of Minnesota’s Urban Outreach and Engagement Center (UROC). One article looks specifically at addressing the needs of Latino population; the other focused on digital media classes taught at the Asian Community Technology Center.

Closing Digital Divide for Latino Population

The BAP updated and established 12 public computer centers aimed at increasing broadband access, awareness, and use in four federally designated poverty zones throughout the Twin Cities metro area. The project is open to all people but since this lab is housed in Centro, it caters mostly to Latinos. Each of the computer labs is outfitted with various numbers of up-to-date units and high-speed Internet capabilities, such as Microsoft office. The project is funded through a federal grant from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, as well as matching gifts from the University of Minnesota. In its final year of a three-year timeline, the project is looking to find funding in order to continue its services.

The article features BAP apprentice Salvador Patino, who works at Centro, one of the public compter centers located in South Minneapolis. He works in the lab helping users improve their use of cmputers. The article notes that having these on-site apprentices is what has set the computer centers apart from other options in the Cities. Patino make an astute observation…

“Unfortunately, I would say that the Latinos are the ones that are more behind in computers than other groups, so I’m trying to make them understand how important it is,” he explains.

The latest Census stats do indicate that while 76.7 percent of all households surveyed had a computer at home, only 66.6 percent of Hispanic-led households reported having a computer. Hopefully programs such as this will help close the gap. I think part of the solution is not only introducing new computers users to the computer, but finding a way in which the computer can immediately help fill a need. At Centro that may be their “odd English classes” …

Patino is particularly happy about a particular program that is used at the lab to teach Spanish speakers English. Many of his users are unable to speak English, and this causes them immense difficulties when looking for jobs and other similar pursuits. “We have a kind of odd English class, which uses YouTube videos, watching songs that have the lyrics in English and Spanish. That’s a major success. People love it and they come very often to do it,“ he describes. As it is not a structured class, it fits well into users’ busy lives, giving them access that they may otherwise not have time for. There is no time limit on BAP computers, which along with the emphasis on individual help, sets them apart from many other public computer labs.

Asian Media Technology Training Graduates 15 New Content Creators

I think that one of the strongest use of technology from a cultural perspective is the ability to give voice to traditionally unheard voices. So I was excited to learn about the program at Asian Community Technology Center …

Recently I was invited to speak at the graduation ceremony for the very first Asian Media Technology Training. That night the Asian community was overflowing with gratitude as supportive families of the graduates filled the audience of over 100 people. The 15 graduating students were honored and proud to be the first group to take part in this media training provided by the Asian Community Technology Center, with assistance from the University of Minnesota’s Broadband Access Project.

The training lasted six months and concentrated on teaching students the five most common ways to use media in today’s world. Topics of study covered how to put together a newspaper, how to craft interviews for radio broadcast, how to construct a website or a blog, how to develop social media strategy and how to create videos that can be used to transmit messages.

Cities Need to Put Best Digital Foot Forward

At the 2010, Fall broadband conference, we heard from Minnesota college students about how they use community and city websites to help choose places to locate after graduation. A town with a dud of a website can get crossed off the list quickly. Fast forward a couple of years and we’ve also heard that communities that attended the conference got the message – the website has to be good. They have developed sites to attract new residents and better serve the current residents – such as MIRC communities of Windom and Winona.

According to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the students were onto something that extends beyond attracting new residents. Metro-based community, they report, are also needing some attention, especially in terms of usability….

Navigability — the ease with which a newcomer can find important information — is a big reason there’s a growing movement across the metro to overhaul the way cities present themselves to the public.

“It’s extremely difficult right now to get to any actual document or data on our site,” said Brad Tabke, the mayor of Shakopee, which is about to narrow a large field of Web design applicants to a workable number and then set them loose on a re-think. “It must be 20 clicks just to pull up a council agenda.”

Many communities are looking to upgrade their websites with the intention of improving usability, attracting new residents and streamlining office procedures…

Online billing is not only a convenience for residents, said Amy Barnett, Savage’s communications director, but “is expected to increase efficiencies for city staff by decreasing the amount of transactions staff handles by phone.”

Cities hope to find savings from better use of the Web, because glitzy makeovers can be costly.

It’s another example of how well planned investment in technology is an investment that pays off.

Tell a friend viral tactics breach privacy guidelines for kids

The Minneapolis St Paul Business Journal reports that Minnesota’s own General Mills is one of several companies in trouble for not protecting privacy of children who visit their sites…

Online marketing efforts by General Mills Inc. and other companies are coming under fire by a coalition of advocacy, health and public interest groups who say websites, like the company’s, are violating federal privacy laws for children.

AdWeek details the problem…

On the sites, the companies ask children who are participating in brand-related games or activities to share their experience with friends by providing their email addresses. Those friends are then sent a personalized online appeal. McDonald’s website for Happy Meals goes a step further, inviting children to make a music video by uploading their pictures and encouraging them to share the video with up to four friends, who then receive an email from McDonald’s: “You’ve been tagged for fun by a friend! Check it out! It’s a Star in Video at the McDonald’s Happy Meal Website.”

The practice turns the children, arguably less savvy about viral marketing than teens and adults, into mini-ad messengers for the brand.

Here’s a very abridged version of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)…

It is unlawful for an operator of a website or online service directed to children, or any operator that has actual knowledge that it is collecting personal information from a child, to collect personal information from a child in a manner that violates the regulations prescribed under subsection (b) …

regulations that— require the operator of any website or online service directed to children that collects personal information from children or the operator of a website or online service that has actual knowledge that it is collecting personal information from a child …

to obtain verifiable parental consent for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from children;

The concern here is that the companies in question have apparently not required parental consent.

I think it’s good that there are folks out there who are looking at what people are doing online. I have three kids age 13 and under. I am amazed how rarely I am asked for parent consent from them – which I suspect means they ignore any request. I think this is also an example of why digital literacy and information literacy programs are so important for kids. They need to understand their privacy rights and responsibilities; they need to understand what they give up when they share information well enough to be able to make an informed decision about sharing – because some sites aren’t following the rules and even for the sites that are, the rules are not high barriers for motivated kids.