Communication Leaders Work Together to Bring High-Speed Internet to Children at Doernbecher

06/04/01    Portland, Ore.

Qwest and Verizon collaborate in volunteer effort

Sixteen-year-old Mason Tichinin of Dallas, Ore., spent two weeks isolated in a hospital room at Oregon Health & Science University's Doernbecher Children's Hospital this last March while he received a lifesaving stem-cell transplant to cure his Hodgkin's disease. During that time he communicated with friends, researched his homework and talked to a cousin in New Jersey using an Internet-connected bedside personal computer in his hospital room. Now a new T-1 connection at Doernbecher donated by major telecommunications companies Qwest and Verizon will take patients, like Mason, a step further by allowing them to participate in classroom activities as if they were sitting right there in the school room. This new line is one of the fastest Internet connections available and offers Doernbecher patients suffering from cancer the opportunity to connect with the outside world in real time.

Each patient room in Doernbecher's Kenneth Ford Childhood Cancer Center has a personal computer next to the bed connected to the Internet, courtesy of the Grove Foundation and Intel volunteers. The Internet connection for those computers previously had a bandwidth of 384 kilobytes per second (kbps). This new T1 connection will provide them with a bandwidth of 1,500 kbps. Qwest and Verizon are competitors that have put aside their rivalry to help kids at Doernbecher. The two companies worked together to provide the T1 line from Doernbecher in Portland, for which the local service provider is Qwest, to Intel Corporation's Internet Service Provider Lab located in Hillsboro, where Verizon is its local service provider.

"The significantly faster Internet connection expands how well this system can be used to help patients and their families keep connected to their lives outside of the hospital," said Gary Jones, M.D., oncologist at Doernbecher and associate professor of pediatrics in OHSU's School of Medicine. "The impact this can have on their overall health and well-being is as potent as any medicine."

The Grove Foundation graciously donated 20 bedside personal computers last year to Doernbecher's cancer unit. This system was so popular that Internet access in each of the networked inpatient rooms often was very slow. This new connection eliminates that problem. The patients often communicate with their family and friends using Intel's PC camera and video conferencing software, built-in speakers on the monitor, and a microphone in their room to see and hear family and classmates. This new connection allows patients to access resources on the Web much faster. For example, kids love to play computer games on the Internet. Not only do these games offer kids a distraction from their hospital stay, but they are often educational as well. Now the patients will be able to download and access even the largest computer game graphic files quickly. In addition, patients can hear and see stream video, watch movies and play games with people from around the world from their bedside computers.

"We're thrilled to be involved in a partnership that is benefiting so many patients and their families," said Judy Peppler, Qwest Oregon vice president. "Technology is truly to thank for contributing to the recovery process and helping Doernbecher patients stay plugged in to their everyday lives."

"When Verizon was asked if it could help make this project a reality, the answer was simple," said Jennifer Lackey, Verizon national account manager in Beaverton. "It's all about the kids at Doernbecher and the ability to provide those who are receiving medical treatment a chance to experience the everyday life they deserve. Using the faster Internet connection, the young patients can chat with friends and participate in school, while still receiving the best medical assistance possible."

A partnership with the Portland Public School District has allowed pediatric patients at Doernbecher to keep up on their schoolwork while being hospitalized. The district's two on-site schoolteachers work with the patients and often use the personal computers to access educational resources on the Internet.

"We have found that the video capabilities provide an amazing opportunity for students to stay connected to their schools and the important people in their lives. These connections are a great way of keeping the channels of communication open, which makes the students transition back to the classroom, at the conclusion of their treatment, smoother. The new T1 line makes video connections clearer to the student as well as the their classmates on the other end of the line," said Debbie Howell, Portland Public Schools hospital teacher.

"It's wonderful to see these communication leaders come together to make technology work more smoothly for children already experiencing a traumatic time in their young lives," said Christopher Leland, Doernbecher project coordinator.

The Doernbecher team that worked with the Grove Foundation and Intel to develop the computer network recently received national recognition from the Computerworld Honors Program. Computerworld honors more than 300 organizations around the world every year for their ingenuity in developing information technology that benefits society.

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