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Optimum Lightpath Lands First Telemedicine Deal

Optimum Lightpath has struck a deal to supply an interactive healthcare product to a hospital in Bronx, N.Y., in what executives at the Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) subsidiary expect will be the first of several deals in the burgeoning telemedicine sector.

The commercial telecom provider said it will provide Children's Hospital at Montefiore with a system that will allow patients to interact with hospital staff, view educational and entertainment videos, and surf the Internet.

Optimum Lightpath signed a deal with Bethesda, Md.-based GetWellNetwork Inc. in May 2009 to sell the company's interactive patient care hardware and software products to hospitals within Lightpath's footprint in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Montiefiore, which has been a customer of Lightpath's telephone and high-speed data services since 2001, is the first healthcare customer that has signed with Lightpath for that particular product. (See Lightpath Turns On 'Interactive Patient Care'.)

Optimum Lightpath, a Cablevision unit focused on Ethernet services for enterprise-level businesses, said it already counts about 70 percent of hospitals within its footprint as commercial telecom customers, including North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, Holy Name Hospital, Saint Clare's Health System, and St. Barnabas Hospital.

The company is looking to add telemedicine services to the product mix that it supplies those customers, and is also hoping to use telemedicine products to attract new healthcare customers, says Optimum Lightpath SVP of marketing and development Julia McGrath.

"What we've wanted to do was take our services that we're providing to the hospital to the next level, and hopefully even attract new business too," McGrath says. "We're viewing that as an offensive and defensive play."

With the federal government setting aside $15 billion in stimulus funds to digitize medical records and for other hospital IT spending, Optimum Lightpath is one of several commercial telecom providers stepping up its focus on generating revenue from telemedicine.

"Healthcare should be the biggest vertical [sector] for all of us," Cox Business vice president Phil Meeks said in December at Light Reading's Future of Cable Business Services event in New York, noting that he expected revenue from healthcare providers to help Cox Communications Inc. 's business services unit reach $2 billion in annual revenue within six years. (See Cox Targets $2B in Biz Revenues.)

The "GetWell Town" interactive patient care product Optimum Lightpath is supplying to Montefiore consists of a headend server and set-tops that are connected to the existing televisions in patient rooms. It includes a pillow speaker that allows patients to contact nurses, and an application that tracks medications and other patient information.

The interactive healthcare service also allows patients to view both educational and entertainment videos. And it comes with a wireless keyboard that allows patients to surf the Internet.

"It takes the in-room television in the hospital and transforms it into something that will be a patient-engagement machine," McGrath says.

The product from GetWellNetwork that Optimum Lightpath is shopping to hospitals doesn't enable telemedicine applications such as those that would give doctors the ability to diagnose patients remotely. It only covers communications within a hospital.

But McGrath said Optimum Lightpath is looking at offering other telemedicine services, including remote video applications. The company also expects to strike other deals similar to its agreement with Montefiore.

"It's one of many to come," McGrath says.

— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

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