The benefits of visual collaboration are expansive and cross just about every job function and industry. European retail giant Kingfisher recently sat down for a Cisco case study to discuss how collaboration technologies have helped overcome challenges in their supply chain,  improving profitability and shortening product development cycles.

One of the biggest challenges Kingfisher faced was how to connect direct sourcing suppliers located in Asia, with buyers and quality control teams located in Europe.  Not only was travel time consuming and expensive, the entire product design process was lengthy and cumbersome as people had to physically handle product prototypes, artwork or packaging before providing feedback.

As a result, Kingfisher decided to implement Cisco Telepresence systems in six locations across Europe and Asia. The business case was undeniable. It was calculated that 85% of products could be physically taken into one of these rooms which would help “take weeks, even months off of time to market, resulting in millions of pounds of additional revenue,” according to Richard Oats, Synergies Director at Kingfisher.

The results have been just as remarkable. Rapid and effective problem solving is accelerating products’ time to market, along with helping cut costs and increase revenues.  For example, a team in charge of developing a range of power tools is able to meet frequently and on very short notice to address any issues which keeps the project moving forward.  Additionally, Kingfish has been using video to standardize procurement practices by allowing buyers from all of the operating companies to collaborate with each other.

Watch the video below for more details on how video has helped improve Kingfish’s bottom line.

American Telemedicine Association’s policy guys, Jonathan Linkous, CEO, and Gary Capistrant, senior director of public policy, are back with another monthly installment of This Month in Telemedicine.

They’re predicting an additional 30 to 40 million Americans will be added to Medicaid roles by next year, and there are now 20 states looking to expand Medicaid coverage to accommodate this surge. Better start preparing now, says Linkous. “I think next year we’re going to see a whole different world, in a few short months it’s happening so the time to gear up is now,” he says.

Funding Opportunity
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation has just launched another billion dollar funding opportunity. It’s looking for “big, bold projects,” particularly any that will be actionable on a multi-state level. Letters of intent are due by June 28, and the full applications are due August 15.

Austin Meeting Recap
Linkous and Capistrant also discussed the ATA’s recent meeting that was held at the beginning of May in Austin, Texas. During the meeting, the first of four best practices was released. They’re for state Medicaid programs, and the ATA has been working with special interest groups and refining the guidelines, and they should be available soon. They cover specialties such as telemental health, home telehealth and remote monitoring, school-based telehealth, and specialties like diabetic retinopathy.

The ATA also distributed a draft version of their state best practices guidelines, which is now being reviewed by special interest groups. Additionally, a new and expanded version of their toolkit is now available on the ATA website.

“We try and provide more information for you all to use,” says Capistrant. “But also to try and act as a clearing house and identify what the various states are doing so that all the other states can benefit from that without duplicating efforts or trying to draft something from scratch.”

Federal News
On the federal level, the ATA is very focused on dealing with getting Medicare coverage approved, and some opportunities for Medicaid as well. The bill sponsored by Senator Scott Thompson is working its way through the system, but because that bill is more of a big-picture attempt to solve and clarify telemedicine issues, the ATA felt the need for a bill that would deal with smaller-scale issues that could move quickly and be approved relatively easily. To that end, they’ve been working with Congressman Greg Harp, R-Mississippi, to assemble a package of incremental changes. “Hopefully, [it will be] easier to get support and budget estimates,” said Capistrant. They’re also hoping to be involved in physician payment reform.

As discussed during previous ATA webcasts, 104 counties lost Medicare coverage in February because of redesignation as metropolitan areas. The ATA is working on restoring coverage to the affected counties. The ATA is also working to remove some major barriers, like metropolitan area access, stroke diagnosis, and services for homebound patients that aren’t currently covered by Medicare. Homebound patients present a particularly strong argument, says Capistrant. “They’re not in the position to travel to a doctor’s office, so there’s a compelling clinical case for care in the home.”

Bipartisan Effort
There’s bipartisan interest in telemedicine, says Linkous, which is something the ATA has cultivated. “We’ve always made sure this is a bipartisan effort,” he says. “We’ve worked very hard to avoid any type of partisan positioning.” The ATA has had congress people of both stripes approach, and voice support for telemedicine.

In state action, Georgia and Alabama both have proposals from their respective medical boards under review. They’re improved versions of past proposals although still there are still issues: they don’t deal with the full range and diversity of telehealth uses and situations e.g. emergencies, and also interpretative services such as cardiology, radiology, etc. For example, in Georgia, telehealth ICU would require patients to I.D. every health practitioner who had previously served them, which is a burdensome task for all involved.

In the Alabama proposal, telehome care is exempt from rules if delivered by a licensed homecare health agency but community health centers and physician practices are excluded.

The pair also took issue with certain language in both proposals, identifying it as “anti-telehealth”; particularly requirements for prior physician-patient relationships, meaning the physician has to see patient in his or her office first. “That’s a code word for people who want to kill telemedicine,” says Linkous. ”It’s about protecting your market and protecting yourself from competition that telemedicine provides. And when you do that, there are 5.5 million Americans received teleradiology services and they’re gone, they don’t get it anymore because of the prior physician-patient relationship [requirement].”

Now that unified communications have become commonplace and popular, many meeting participants prefer to participate in meetings from their desk. In some instances, that might work well, but in-room collaboration offers benefits that completely remote meetings do not. In-room allows participants to experience non-verbal communication and other visual cues that make collaboration more effective. Participants can get up and move around and still participate in the conversation, plus larger displays make it easier to view remote participants and data sources.

Organizations also often need to share and collaborate on complex data. This includes high resolution images where granular detail is necessary, such as blueprints or products designs, as well as the ability to display and control data from multiple sources simultaneously. In these cases, desktop collaboration just doesn’t quite cut it. Much of the detail and interactivity common among complex data can get lost over the desktop, plus users typically have to choose between sharing video or sharing content.

The solution is a collaboration room designed to support telepresence capabilities and complex data equally. A few application and teams that can benefits from these types of rooms include:

Research Teams: Participants need to view multiple images and different types of research data while on a video call.
Crisis Management: War Rooms that need multiple, high resolution video feeds to stay on top of the situation as well as collaborate with remote colleagues and teams.
Product Management & Development: Ability to view large, high-resolution design images along with 360-design previews

Cyviz is a manufacturer of a range of Collaboration Telepresence (CTP) products that support complex data and aims to bring the three essentials of modern meetings into alignment: video conferencing, data, and visualization. What’s also unique and valuable about Cyviz’s products is they’re all part of a cohesive portfolio designed to work together, depending on the end user’s needs. The 7 components are:

  1. Displaywall: 5 models available
  2. User Interface: Cyviz Display Controller central room control
  3. CTP Engine: for data management; 3 models available
  4. Video Codec: for standard C1 set-up
  5. Integration Kit: all the accessories needed to put the system together
  6. Collaboration Platform: enabling multi-room connection capabilities
  7. Furniture Module: ergonomically designed unit for each product

The product range is broad enough for most CTP situations, and their products are very adaptable and user-friendly. If you’re in need of a high-quality data visual data and conference solution get in touch and we will walk you through the options to ensure you’ll collaborate efficiently and not miss a byte of crucial information.

The Milton Hershey School recently announced that it will extend its Hershey Learn to Grow Ghana Distance Learning program, which launched last fall. The program connects students in Hershey, Pennsylvania with students in Assin Fosu, a rural town in central Ghana and allows students to explore each other’s culture; such as important events or special occasions that are celebrated.

David Bruce, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Milton Hershey School, said “we believe this new approach will be more meaningful and provide a deeper understanding for the students of what it’s like to live in each country.”

Additionally, in a touching story, Ed Schermerhorn of Cisco recounts his experience of the first telepresence call between the two countries. After dealing with a power outage that was resolved by a standby generator, he describes how watching the students in Ghana and Hershey interact made it worth it. “All it took was a vision and a team of dedicated people to open doors that these students had never imagined were possible,” Schermerhorn stated.

It’s truly amazing how video conferencing technology can break through previous geographical barriers and connect people around the world. Distance learning programs that facilitate the interactions between students from different countries allow students to gain a better understanding of different cultures and provide them with experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Students are able to discuss topics and listen to points of view from a different perspective which helps promote tolerance and acceptance of different cultures. Some of the best ideas come from bringing together people from different backgrounds. That’s an important lesson for students to learn and businesses to remember.

*Photo courtesy of Dan Gleiter. View the entire photo gallery here.

This week Apple announced that it had sold three million iPads since the launch of the iPad Mini and the new fourth generation iPad. What is particularly interesting, especially from a video conferencing perspective, is that both of these devices feature 720p cameras on the front.

With recent trends around mobile devices and extending the reach of video, many have suggested that quality can take a backseat to mobility and accessibility. Over the last year or so, the major limitations of video conferencing with mobile devices have been the camera and the network connectivity.

For example, while 3G networking has been widespread the real-life speeds are relatively slow.  Plus, the response rate of these network connections interrupts the steady flow of data hampering the transfer of high quality of video.  As a result, video calls are frequently interrupted, freeze up or simply drop out creating a frustrating experience for all participants.

While Wi-Fi increases the quality, many of these mobile devices have low resolution cameras on the front.  This also diminishes the quality of a video call by providing a grainy image instead of the clear image many have come to expect with HD video conferencing.

The release of several Android smart phones and the iPhone 5 has made 4G more prevalent. “True” 4G provides bandwidth over 10x the speed of 3G, in addition to a faster response (or latency). In many areas, 4G can actually be faster than a cable or DSL connection in markets providing a superior experience.

Wireless carries in the United States have recognized the value and increased throughput of 4G and continue to invest billions in expanding their 4G coverage. Just this week T-Mobile and Sprint announced major investments in their network infrastructure; but AT&T announced the largest with a $14 billion expansion.

So what does all of this mean to the video conferencing user? Really it’s the best of both worlds. High quality video conferencing is more accessible than ever before as mobile users now have multiple options to join video meetings. Once relegated to dialing in over audio, the road warrior can now be fully involved. Even more astonishing, is that the mobile user will no longer have to sacrifice quality to reap all of the benefits of visual collaboration.  As a result, the ubiquity of video is well on its way.