By Anna Guido
Jill and Dr. Ward Blair of Springboro took turns the past three months spending the night with their 18-year-old daughter at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
One unexpected blessing was that they were able to stay in constant touch with friends, family and colleagues, thanks to new high-speed Internet connections in each of the hospital's 480 rooms.
Ward Blair of Springboro works on his computer in his daughter's room at Children's.
(Enquirer photo/ERNEST COLEMAN)
Abby Blair was critically injured in a car wreck Memorial Day in West Virginia and was initially in a coma. Now she can walk with assistance, but has yet to speak.
The Blairs took Abby home Thursday, their lives more intact than they could have expected.
The Internet made it possible for the Blairs to manage the rest of their family (Abby's five younger siblings) and Ward's family medical practice.
In addition, Jill was able to do Internet research on Abby's injuries and post-condition updates on CarePages, a hospital Web site that enables patients to create personal Web pages.
Ward Blair said the service maintained needed connections without constant phone calls to his daughter's room or the family's home.
"If we had everybody calling over and over again, that would be hard to manage," he said. "It was definitely helpful."
Children's is the first hospital in Greater Cincinnati to offer Internet connections in patient rooms, and is a pioneer nationally in bringing the technology to medical facilities.
Rob Howard, director of public affairs for Cincinnati's Time Warner Cable, provider of the hospital's broadband service, said the move also is a pioneering effort for the Road Runner Business Class division that it hopes to duplicate in hospitals nationwide.
The Internet connections were installed at Children's this year as part of the hospital's multimillion-dollar building expansion. Patients and families who don't have laptops to connect in the rooms can use one of several computers in a new common area called the Family Resource Center.
The only other hospital in Greater Cincinnati to provide similar services is St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Edgewood.
Cincinnati Bell installed high-speed Internet connections in common areas of the hospital in August, said Mike Vanderwoude, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications.
"We have 30 other hot spots (Internet hook-up sites) throughout the city - in coffee shops, at stores, in airport terminals," Vanderwoude said. "Hospitals are places where people have lots of down time and find value in being able to access the Internet."
Steve Evans, senior account executive with Road Runner Business Class, said he has no numbers yet on use of the in-room Internet service at Children's, but it's been busy.
Families had inquired about wireless connections at the hospital.
Broadband connections reached 51 percent of the American online population at home in July, compared to 38 percent in July 2003. Overall growth for broadband connections continues to rise annually, while narrowband connections are dropping. The broadband connection growth rate is expected to continue through next year, with the majority of Internet users accessing via a broadband connection. Broadband penetration rated highest among people 34 and younger.
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