Iowa Health System CEO Bill Leaver A large state network of hospitals and clinics announced the launch today of a 3,200 mile fiber-optic network that will link healthcare providers together across the state and beyond.

Iowa Health System C.E.O. Bill Leaver says the system is called "HealthNet Connect."

Leaver says HealthNet Connect will provide a resource to share healthcare information throughout Iowa, western Illinois and particularly, rural Iowa. He says it is one of the first networks to link up multiple states.

The network was developed under a pilot program of the Federal Communications Commission — with the F.C.C. chipping in $7.8 million, or 85% of the cost of the network.

The high speed network will allow hospitals and clinics to send patient records, x-rays and other data to the hospitals and clinics linked to the system. Khristine Jacobsen, the chief information officer at the Myrtue Medical Center in Harlan, says this system will help the western Iowa facility get more information from larger facilities.

Jacobsen says she represents all the rural health facilities in Iowa that’re striving to find a balance between technology and finances while still being able to deliver the best care to patients. Jacobsen says rural hospitals have invested a lot in upgrading to electronic records and now this network takes things a step further.

Khristine Jacobsen "To have a reliable, secure means of transmitting data is the first step in the future of healthcare," Jacobsen says. She says they want to be able to collaborate care with specialists from larger facilities while still maintaining their independence.

Leaver says the F.C.C. funds allow them to help the rural hospitals and others to connect to the system. They expect to have 28 hospitals hooked up in the next 90 days.

Leaver says the individual users will pay $120 a month to be connected to the system. He says as they develop the system, the members will make up a council that will determine the cost. The Iowa Hospital Association has developed a similar network. Leaver says the goal is to eventually share between systems.

 He says two things have to happen before they can do that, first he says they need to develop a single patient identifier system so they know for sure which patient they are talking about.

Secondly, Leaver says they need to create a "continuum of care document" that defines what information will be passed, so it can be confidential, patient privacy is protected and the information is relevant. This is the first multi-state network to be created under the F.C.C. program.  You can find more information on the Health Network here .