Significant advancements in video conferencing technology have allowed for greater accessibility and interoperability. As a result, video is becoming more integrated into consumers’ professional and personal lives. This opens significant opportunity in business-to-consumer video which can have a dramatic impact on the way we view and receive healthcare.

Picture yourself sitting in a waiting room with several other patients who all seem to be spreading their contagious ailments through coughing and sneezing. It’s not very appealing, so perhaps you decide to “wait out” your symptoms or Google them for a self-diagnosis. Unfortunately, the internet can easily turn a simple upset stomach into appendicitis and send you rushing to the emergency room in a panic.

Now picture yourself sitting on the couch or even at your desk between meetings and connecting to a doctor, nurse or other medical professional via video. You can list your symptoms, ask questions and receive medical advice without driving to the doctor’s office. The medical professional can then let you know if you most likely have an upset stomach (take some Pepto and if you don’t feel better in a couple of days make an appointment) or appendicitis (go to the emergency room right away).

Advancements in video technology are making this possible; which is not only great for patients but for medical facilities as well. Waiting rooms will be less crowded because patients will only go to the office when a physical visit is required. Post-operational follow ups or other routine visits can also be conducted over video at a central location while rural hospitals can have access to medical specialists creating numerous efficiencies and revolutionizing the healthcare industry!

Check out this quick video from American Telemedicine Association (ATA) that demonstrates the future of telehealth.

 

Video conferencing on mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, is no longer a new concept. Neither are telepresence robots which allows remote participants to not only see, hear and talk; but also move around. However, the latest version of the VGO Telepresence Robot is now equipped with Verizon LTE giving the solution an even wider range.

Previous models could only connect via WiFi and, unfortunately, a WiFi connection isn’t always available. The value of robotic telepresence is the ability to move around and converse with classmates or colleagues freely; not trying to stay within reach of WiFi signal. With Verizon LTE built into the device, VGo users no longer have to worry whether or not they can access the internet.Remote manager can easily check in with teams or troubleshoot issues on the manufacturing line and healthcare organizations can monitor patients and increase expert availability.

Not to mention students, like Lyndon Baty, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend school because of medical conditions now have the opportunity to interact with classmates. The Verizon Foundation supports projects that apply technology to improve education and is delivering VGos to 15 institutions nationwide.

 

Telemedicine continues to be one of the most exciting advancements in the delivery of healthcare today. The benefits are significant and legislation throughout the United States is being passed to provide parity between a telemedicine visit and a live, in-person doctor visit. At a high level, telemedicine is about extending the reach of healthcare and providing care to those who may not have access to specialists and other needed experts.

Within telemedicine there are a number of very specific applications that are finding their place in hospitals throughout the country and the world. Telestroke is the application of telemedicine technology for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke victims.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 795,000 people in the United States have strokes and 130,000 of those stroke victims lose their lives. One of the greatest allies to a stroke victim is time. The sooner a patient is able to be seen and diagnosed by a doctor, the higher likelihood of a positive outcome. Many of the treatment options available today are highly effective but require a rapid diagnosis.

Of the many treatments out there, two are particularly time sensitive. Thrombolytic drugs dissolve the clots that block the flow of blood to the brain. These drugs need to be given as quickly as possible. Another option is tPA which is an enzyme that can help dissolve blot clots as well. It is found naturally in the body and if given within three hours of stroke symptom onset, it has a high success rate ofpreventing the stroke from occurring. This, however, is highly dependent upon the recognition of early stroke signs and symptoms.

The application of telemedicine to stroke, or telestroke, is usually deployed in a hub and spoke model. Hospitals with stroke/neurology services serve as the hub and allow connections from outlying or rural hospitals, known as spokes. Many of these rural hospitals simply do not have access to neurology and stroke specialists so these hubs can assist with timely diagnosis and treatment.

The technology of telemedicine allows neurologists to remotely examine patients when they are admitted to an emergency room or the hospitals. These doctors can review CT scans and other diagnostic tests quickly and make real-time decisions on initial treatment.

Beyond the obvious benefits to the patient, there are several other key advantages to telestroke including:

  • Reduced Costs: For hospitals who have established a comprehensive stroke care center, the investment is significant. This prevents smaller hospitals from implementing these critical programs. With a telestroke program in place, patient care is not sacrificed when budgets are not available.
  • Fewer Transfers: When facilities are lacking the specialists needed to care for strokes, it can become necessary to transfer those patients to larger, more distant facilities who offer a stroke center. The cost of these transfers is incredibly high, both for the patient and the medical facility. With remote specialists on hand, patients can stay in one facility, get the care they need, reduce the risk of their condition worsening, and ultimately save the system money.
  • Training: When local doctors get exposed to stroke specialists they are able to get real-world training on key stroke indicators and how to rapidly respond to them. This type of training can make the difference between a full recovery and a life of stroke complications.

The application of video conferencing and telemedicine technology to healthcare is truly exciting. As facilities continue to bring this technology on board, patients will be the ultimate beneficiaries. The highest level of healthcare diagnosis and treatment should not be reserved for those who live in proximity to major medical centers. Telemedicine technology has the potential to reduce or eliminate both geographic and financial barriers that can prevent access to high quality healthcare for everyone.

Football reigns supreme in our nation; whether it’s the NFL, NCAA, High School or even little league. In many towns, Friday night games are the center of a town’s social activity; and anyone involved with the winning touchdown is considered a hero. It’s no wonder kids are gearing up to play almost as soon as they can walk.  In fact, my nephew has been playing since he was four years old!

Unfortunately, repeated hits to the head from high contact sports have spurred a concussion epidemic that spans from football, to hockey, to even wrestling. Multiple concussions can cause brain damage that leaves lasting effects. In an article, former professional wrestler Christopher Nowinski states “I can’t exercise without getting a headache and without feeling sick.”

With kids playing sports at earlier ages, it is even more important to properly diagnose concussions to prevent brain damage from cumulative injuries. As a result, Davidson County in North Carolina has introduced a new telemedicine program linking high school athletes who may have a concussion to specialists at the Lexington Medical Center for diagnosis.

A remotely operated telepresence robot allows doctors to look for symptoms and give brain and balance tests to determine whether or not an athlete has sustained a concussion. While diagnosing a concussion over video may seem lacking, Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum, Director of Wake Forest Baptist’s Sports Medicine Fellowship Program, said the contrary in a recent article.

“There’s not a lot of hands-on evaluation needed with concussions. Typically, you are making two big decisions: return to play or not to play, and go to the emergency room or go home.” – Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum

Telemedicine clinics can be especially valuable for rural areas where access to health care specialists typically requires a lengthy drive to the nearest metropolitan area. Instead of depending on local doctors or sports trainers, these athletes can have instant access to a concussion specialist who is trained to spot signs that might otherwise be missed.

Watch the video below for a quick demonstration!

 

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid now base a portion of hospital reimbursement on how well a hospital performs along with clinical and patient satisfaction measures. The Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program metrics are based on metrics from Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) metrics which are publicly available. In order to receive full Medicare funding, hospitals need to score in at least the 50th percentile in patient satisfaction scores.

One key area is ensuring the area around patient rooms is always quite at night which is challenge for most hospitals. Doctors and nurses who are constantly milling around, responding to calls or checking in on patients can easily disrupt neighboring patients at night. Not only is a lack of sleep frustrating for patients, it can actually prolong recuperation. According to Niklas Moeller, studies have shown that sleep deprivation can “weaken the immune system, impede the body’s ability to generate new cells, and decrease pain tolerance – all of which can lengthen hospital stays.”

So how do hospitals reduce noise in patient rooms and, more importantly, in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit? Forbidding doctors and nurses to talk during “quiet hours” is out of the question and noise-cancelling headphones are uncomfortable to sleep in plus present additional sanitary concerns.

Enter speech privacy, also known as sound masking, solutions for healthcare environments.

Essentially, a background noise similar to airflow is disseminated through ceiling mounted speakers which drowns out human speech and other distracting noises. So, when a patient has a revolving door of visitors; neighbors can easily relax, watch television or read without continued distractions. When a patient is screaming for the nurse, the nurse is paging the doctor and the doctor is running down the hall; neighbors can continue their restful sleep instead of being rudely awoken.

Day or night, the soothing noise allows patients to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer due to a quieter environment increasing patient recovery and hospital efficiency in addition to the VBP program benefits.  Additionally, speech privacy solutions also help doctors and nurses maintain patient confidentiality by masking their conversations from other patients.

We are nosy by nature and patients are curious as to what landed their neighboring counterparts in the hospital. Sometimes it’s casually overhearing the doctor speak in the hallway, other times it’s pressing an ear against the wall to hear what’s going on. Speech privacy solutions mask the intelligibility of speech so even the nosiest patient can’t distinguish exactly what is being said – unless of course they creep into the room and hide under the bed but that seems highly unlikely.

Additional Articles & Resources:
Sound Masking Solutions 
Telemedicine Reimbursement - The Time is Now!