Telehealth in Cambridge MN brings tech solutions to the neonatal ward

Isanti-Chisago Country Star reports…

Through a new virtual care partnership, physicians at Cambridge Medical Center now have enhanced 24/7 access to Children’s neonatal care specialists. Using audio/video technology, Cambridge Medical Center physicians can hold a virtual consultation with a neonatal clinician from Children’s Minnesota.

From there, clinicians from both systems collaborate on the care management of newborns requiring acute stabilization after birth and determine whether the baby needs to be transferred to another facility for further care.

When deemed appropriate, the Cambridge Medical Center physician places a call to Children’s Minnesota and requests a virtual consultation. Within minutes, a neonatal specialist from Children’s will connect via an audio/ video conference with the Cambridge Medical Center provider and care team. There is no extra cost to the patient’s family.

For Cambridge Medical Center physicians, the virtual care partnership is a way to better serve area families.

“This virtual care relationship between Children’s and Cambridge Medical Center provides an enhanced level of safety for newborn care at the hospital,” said Dawn Dingman, RN, manager of Cambridge Medical Center’s Family Birthing Center. “By allowing the Children’s neonatal specialists to actually see the baby, we’re confident that we’ll be able to keep and serve more families here, in their own community. We take excellent care of these babies and will send them to another facility for even more specialized care if necessary.”

Partnerships like these also support Children’s vision to be every family’s essential partner in raising healthier children.

It’s a great solution for areas with sufficient broadband to make it work.

Beyond telemedicine – there’s demand and some solutions for tele-caring

I just finished reading a report on how rural areas can be slower to adopt broadband because the population can be older, have less education and lower incomes. My grandpa used to say – first you gotta wanna – as in, you can learn anything but first you gotta wanna.

That framed my read of the next report by the Rural Health Information Hub on Informal Caregiving and Technology in Rural America. In short, the report talks about how using technology can make your life easier if you are a caregiver – especially if you are an unpaid caregiver with a full time job and maybe some kids. In other words, if you’re caring for a parent or other loved one.

They point out three ways that technology can help:

  • “An ‘Intelligent Family Care Assistant’ to help with day-to-day caregiving by helping to coordinate the family’s tasks in the context of the family’s other activities.”
  • “‘Wearable technologies’ — devices worn on or placed in the body, with sensors and/or human interfaces — to help monitor a person’s health and overall condition.”
  • “Technologies that provide better connections between family caregivers and health professionals, enabling them to work more effectively as a team in providing care.”

I suspect most readers will grasp the advantages of those tools without help. And if you want another great use of technology, you can look back on my article on Virtual Realty in Cannon Falls.)

There are several hiccups in the deployment. Lack of broadband is one – but imagine using these tele-caring applications to reach a demographic that was slow to get broadband before. We’re building demand.

Lack of skill is another. I’ve done digital literacy training for decades. Learning to use a computer for the first time when you’re older is hard. It’s an entirely next experience – it would be like me trying to use a sewing machine or oven! Also you don’t hear or see as well as certain ages and learning gets slower. BUT the incentive is high to stay in your own home to make life easier for you kids or other loved ones caring for you. We’re building demand and increasing local skills.

There are some policy constraints too. The report outlines the NACRHHS Recommendations on Supportive Services and Caregiving:

  1. “The Committee recommends the Secretary create a comprehensive resource on the aging and long-term services and supports available to older adults in rural areas.”
  2. “The Committee recommends the Secretary continue to expand flexibility in Medicare telehealth billing and provide a comprehensive resource of telehealth offerings in rural areas.”
  3. “The Committee recommends the Secretary ensure the promotion and encouragement of age-friendly concepts within rural health grant programs.”
  4. “The Committee recommends the Secretary explore the entry of Medicare Advantage Dual-Eligible Special Needs Plans into rural areas, identify potential barriers, and work with states to adopt policies that encourage or expand the reach of these plans to rural beneficiaries.”

There’s work to be done but tele-caring is a reward that most families would (or will eventually) appreciate. The report does a nice job with statistics and a few stories.


Broadband in Swift County means Rick Molenaar lives local yet works out of San Francisco

Thanks to Swift County RDA for sharing this story. I love sharing stories of great use of broadband – so if you have one too, please send it my way…

Rick Molenaar has the best of both worlds. He lives in a place he loves and has a job that he enjoys. That’s all been possible thanks to Swift County’s border to border broadband. Swift County’s partnership with Federated Telephone has provided nearly ubiquitous coverage with speeds of 99.6%, making it the third-fastest county for broadband speeds in the state.

“I work for a company based out of San Francisco, but because of broadband a lot of that work takes place at my kitchen table,” said Rick. His company, Trace Genomics, takes agricultural soil samples, extracting the DNA and mapping the soil’s biology for farmers. It’s cutting edge technology that can have huge benefits for crop output. They already have a few early adopters within Swift county, along with many clients throughout the Midwest.

For Rick, the ability to be close to farmers and to food sources was important for his career, but also for his family. “I like that my children can see how the food we eat is produced at the local level. This is something I value and it is rare. Knowing the story of where your food comes from and how it is produced is healthy for kids and teaches them values,” he said.

Still, if it weren’t for fast broadband speeds in Swift County, Rick wouldn’t have the opportunity to live so close to the farming community. “Broadband has widened my opportunities tremendously. It has enabled me to have the role that I have. Broadband came to Swift County, in part, due to the work of the RDA. I wanted young people in our county to know that they can work for virtually any company while still living in Swift County – thanks to broadband. That’s why I joined the Swift RDA board – to spread the message that you can live in Swift County and have a career you love,” he said.

As a family, the Molenaars have all benefited from Rick’s ability to work remotely from Swift County. Joquel Molenaar grew up in the county, is a local school counselor and the volleyball coach. As a couple, they decided to raise their four boys in Swift County – close to her parents and to the activities they love. They are ten minutes from their lake cabin, with summer and winter activities right out their front door. Within their neighborhood, they have an added advantage of fifteen kids under ten living within a mile of the house – perfect playmates for their boys. “We get to have a lot of fun as a family. Living in Swift County has been ideal for us,” he said.

When asked why other families and young professionals should consider living in Swift County, Rick said, “Living in a small community and getting to know your neighbors is very unique. We know everyone and have built a lot of trust and our kids are able to be involved in every activity they are interested in. It’s also nice to have no traffic and be close to the fun activities we love to do.”

Live in Swift County, Work Anywhere

With border to border broadband and lightning-fast upload and download speeds, Swift County is the ideal place for telecommuters to live. A telecommuter can easily attend video conference calls, upload and email large files, work on video and graphic files, etc. Anyone who wants to live where they play, be able to purchase their dream home at an affordable price and live in a community where neighbors know each other’s names can do so while still working for employers locating somewhere else.

We invite you to consider the many benefits of living and working in Swift County by exploring our website and looking at available properties. Swift County’s broadband provides opportunities – you get to define them!

WellnessVR Holiday delivery to Cannon Falls

I’m super excited to share this story about Chuck Olsen and Visual bringing virtual reality to Cannon Falls memory care facilities…

More on the video from Visual

The city of Cannon Falls, Minnesota ordered #WellnessVR headsets for their Memory Care units in hope they’d arrive in time for the holidays. We got them setup and took a little road trip to give this story a happy ending. 🙂 Spending time on a Maui beach or feeding cows on a farm is just the thing to chase away the winter sads. They’re already using the headsets with family members and all are loving it. Thanks to the Blandin Foundation for providing the technology grant, and to Ann Treacy for inviting us to speak at the Blandin Broadband conference every year to connect with rural communities who can fund and benefit from innovative digital health technology like virtual reality.

VR is amazing to me and it seems like a fix for lots of mental health issues for people of all ages.

The 2020 Assistive Tech Challenge – deadline Feb 10

I love this idea – a competition to innovate solutions that improve the lives of people with disabilities. They report on the Destination Medical Center website

The Assistive Tech Challenge is a pitch competition presented by Destination Medical Center to facilitate greater independence for individuals with disabilities and the daily challenges they face. The Challenge is also intended to strengthen their ability to live more independently and help reduce the direct support workforce crisis confronting communities in the region and across the United States.

Participants in the Assistive Tech Challenge should develop a product or service related to:

  • Independent living

  • Access to employment

  • Support for care providers

  • Social skill development

  • Improved public infrastructure

And some of the details…

  • First Place in each category will receive $5,000. Second Place in each category will receive $2,500.
  • All first and second place teams will be eligible to participate in the Walleye Tank pitch competition in Minneapolis in May 2020.
  • Online Application Form will be available on January 6, 2020. Deadline for application is February 10, 2020.

New Next Century Cities Toolkit Supports Census 2020 Outreach

From Next Century Cities…

Local Kiosk Programs Help Ensure That Every Resident Is Counted
Washington, DC (December 18, 2019) — Next Century Cities has released a new resource to support municipalities’ outreach efforts around the 2020 census. ​The 2020 Census Kiosk Toolkit​ is a guide and resource bank to help communities easily implement census kiosk programs to encourage online census responses and ensure that all residents are counted.
An accurate census count is vitally important. Census data is used to make decisions about social services like schools and public transportation, to ensure fair Congressional representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, to direct billions of dollars in federal and state funding, and more. As the 2020 census is the first to be conducted primarily online, this toolkit specifically addresses the challenges of reaching populations that may not have reliable access to the internet or internet connected devices.
The 2020 Census Kiosk Toolkit includes a detailed guide to setting up a kiosk program based on efforts in the City and County of Los Angeles and Santa Clara County, California. A kiosk can be any public device dedicated to providing a means for individuals to complete the census online and made available in an accessible space, often through partnerships with community organizations. These devices, paired with active outreach and community engagement, are key to making sure no one is excluded from the U.S. Census Bureau’s first primarily online data collection.
“Those who do not have reliable internet access are often the same members of our communities who have been historically underrepresented in other ways, and an online census creates the risk of compounding these inequities among our most vulnerable populations,” said Cat Blake, Next Century Cities’ Senior Program Manager. “Local governments are leading the way toward ensuring all are counted.”
Find the ​2020 Census Kiosk Toolkit​ here:

Hibbing opens first co-working space – so maybe you can extend your next trip?

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation’s newsletter, The Ranger reports…

Entrepreneur Karine Woodman established TechTank, Hibbing’s first co-working space that is shared by several workers from different organizations and companies. The arrangement enables cost savings for the member occupants through common infrastructure related to utilities, broadband and office equipment.

Woodman purchased a 3,500-square-foot building near the city’s downtown business corridor to launch TechTank. She completely renovated the interior and exterior and utilized a Business Energy Retrofit (BER) grant to help pay for upgrades to the HVAC systems.

TechTank members have access to contemporary work spaces, fiber optic internet, printing services, private rooms, conference rooms with meeting tools such as TVs, teleconference equipment and whiteboard walls. There is free parking, indoor and outdoor collaboration space and educational events. Monthly, daily and yearly memberships are available, and members have round-the-clock access to the secure work space. Two conference rooms are also available for half and full-day rental with seating to accommodate up to 16 people.

According to Small Business Trends, experts estimated that 1,000 new co-working spaces opened in the United States during 2018, and almost 700 are expected to open by the end of this year.