American Telemedicine Association’s policy duo Jonathan Linkous, CEO and Gary Capistrant, Senior Director of Public Policy, return with updates and new information regarding telemedicine.

Mobile Health
Mobile Health is making much more than a dent in the telemedicine industry; $161 Million has been dedicated to mobile health from 43 different companies in the last quarter. This is a drastic increase compared to earlier in the quarter when only $42 Million was dedicated to mobile health.

Currently the guidelines that involve mental health correspond with mobile health. ATA is currently in the process of doing an accreditation of mobile health care services online, and hopes to have it ready by early next year. This is a major step for ATA and for telemedicine. A Special Interest Group on mobile health is hosting a webinar on privacy and international applications in mobile health.

Telehealth Opportunities
A component of the Affordable Care Act, which is currently being implemented, says that those in the health insurance exchanges have to support essential health benefits. However, there is no basis in the regulation to not pay for a telehealth claim. It is all supposed to be provided and covered on the same basis as in-person care.

The CMMI, or Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, continue to create funding opportunities either directly for projects or through the states. There is managed care within Medicare and Medicaid populations, most of the managed care plans have had the flexibility to use mobile health or other telehealth aspects. Hospitals have grown interested in home monitoring of people, and other aspects dealing with readmissions problems. Since Medicare cuts funding for hospitals not reducing their readmissions enough, many have grown more receptive of using difference health technologies such as mobile health.

Medicare Physician Fee Schedule
A major change that is expected in the new fee schedule for telehealth is CMS will use a much more open definition of rural health shortage areas that will allow telehealth to be provided on the fringes of rural areas.

Legislation
Harper Bill, H.R. 3306 is a very notable bill for mHealth and has many bipartisan sponsors. Telehealth for Medicare ACO’s, or Accountable Care Organizations, currently don’t have coverage for telehealth in metropolitan areas, where most of the ACO’s are. The goal is for ACO’s to have full flexibility of telehealth.

It will also have shared savings for reducing Medicare readmissions. This proposal gives hospitals the incentive to do better than their own benchmark, in hopes of saving money for Medicare. It is an opportunity for hospitals to have some sort of income, and it will ultimately be a positive thing for patients. It will also target home dialysis, hospice, and homebound patients. Mobile Heath can cover these kinds of patients at home, and have the same kind of in person physician assistance.

There are also several other bills that are pending and being discussed. The Step Act (H.R. 1832) was enacted in December 2011. This act expanded the authority for the defense department to require only one state license for health professionals to operate in any state. This model is also being expanded to apply to two others, the VA: VETS Act, H.R. 2001, or Vets affairs facilities and TELE-MED Act, H.R. 3077, or the Medicare population.

Finally there is also the SOFTWARE Act, H.R. 3303, which is Sensible Oversight for Technology Which Advances Regulatory Efficiency and has been proposed by Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. This bill deals with the volume of applications that have flooded FDA for mobile applications.

This-week-in-collaboration

Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the week’s best articles surrounding collaboration.

1. Using collaboration as a sales tool

New technology is transforming meeting rooms. Important aspects needed to be taken in to consideration when selecting the right collaboration technology. These factors include ease of use, ability to collaborate with meeting participants, content sharing capability, and quicker start up.

2. Extending Video to the Web through Open Source H.264

Up until now video has not been natively possible through a web browser. WebRTC has been the answer to that, however, speed bumps have been hit around choosing a video codec for the browser. In response, Cisco has announced their plan to open-source their H.264 codec, and to provide it as a binary module that can be downloaded for free from the internet.

3. Reducing Risk by Way of Cloud

Increasingly, UC premises-based solutions are not physical, but instead software based on standard or virtualized servers. The reason for this move to the cloud is actually so the buyer can shift the responsibility for actual results to the provider.

4. The Therapist Will Skype You Now

School of Social Work professor Namkee Choi brought psychotherapy to aging adults’ homes through Skype. This study used a method called Problem-Solving Therapy (PST) and compared the Skype videoconference to in person and telephone support calls. Results showed a significant reduction in depression symptoms and highe evaluation scores from the tele-PST group than the in-person PST group.

5. Clemson University library unveils classroom of the future

The new digital resources laboratory at Clemson University includes a supercomputer connection 10,000 times faster than the typical home Internet connection and synchronized ultra-high-definition video screens that span 60-square feet. This lab offer students and professors a place to share ideas and enables up to 4 remote audiences at a time via video conferencing.

 

The-Lync-Integration-Challenge

Microsoft Lync continues to gain traction as a viable desktop communications solution that encompasses IM, presence, voice, video and more. Millions of users are now using it as a daily tool and millions more are coming on-line every year.

One of the challenges with Lync is how to integrate it into the rest of a collaboration environment. Microsoft has done a great job of creating a solution that can incorporate as many users as possible; however, there are limitations in how Lync can speak to solutions from other companies, such as Cisco and Lifesize. As the ubiquity of Lync has increased, so has the desire for customers to integrate it into their company work flow. A countless number of organizations have responded with solutions that provide integration of Lync to nearly any other type of solution.

Blue Jeans Network
Blue Jeans has developed integration for Lync 2010 & 2013 that enables users to connect to a virtual meeting room that can interoperate with nearly any other solution out there. If an organization uses Cisco or Lifesize for video, all users can simply connect to Blue Jeans and meet. In addition, the service supports the sharing and receiving of content within the Lync client.

Polycom
Polycom has closely aligned with Microsoft and manufactures dozens of video conferencing and audio conferencing products that natively integrate with Lync. This allows Lync users to call a Polycom system simply by finding it in their buddy list. In addition, as Lync continues to grow as a viable alternative to a standard PBX, Polycom is providing their award winning line of phones with native Lync integration. This includes presence and the ability to login with a Lync identity so the phone is aware of whom the user is.

Acano
Acano is a new start-up that has created a highly scalable conferencing solution that supports video, voice, and web. Their solution provides enterprise grade integration to Lync 2010 and 2013 that enables content sharing, video, and more. Acano also has a web-based client that makes it easy for anyone to join a meeting that includes participants using Lync as well as standards based video conferencing or even those on a voice call.

Microsoft
In the two years since Microsoft closed on its $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype, they have been working hard to integrate the over 300 million users into all areas of their product offering. This includes Outlook.com, Sharepoint, and more. Most recently, Microsoft has enabled Skype to Lync audio calling and instant messaging. Eventually native video calling will be enabled. As a result, tens of millions of Lync users will be able to seamlessly communicate with Skype.

Lync is expanding rapidly and the market is responding with many solutions to extend the reach of Lync beyond an organization’s internal teams. As organizations evaluate Lync deployments, they now have many options to consider when it comes to integrating Lync into their already established systems and workflow. That flexibility will only accelerate Lync’s adoption at every level.

Distance learning programs have been around for years.  They’re a great way to extend a college or university’s reach to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. For example, moving across the country or sometimes even the state isn’t feasible. However, with distance learning programs, these students can attend classes from their home and receive their degree remotely.

Over the years the method of delivering distance learning programs has evolved significantly.  The first virtual classroom wasn’t much of a classroom at all. Professors would upload PowerPoint presentations with voice clips attached to each slide and students would listen to each session on their own time. To facilitate discussion, professors could pose questions on message boards and require students to post responses or comment on each other’s posts.  Unfortunately, these classes lacked the interactivity and group discussion typically found in a traditional classroom. Students were unable to ask questions or discuss topics in real time causing an isolated learning experience.

Then web conferencing solutions came along. These solutions allowed a presenter to share content (a presentation) and talk through the slides while participants joined the conference and followed along virtually. This allowed students to ask questions and participate in real-time, making the learning experience much more interactive. However, these solutions lacked the face-to-face interaction common in traditional classrooms which allows students to bond and develop relationships with each other; both of which are necessary to stimulate open discussion.

Eventually, video conferencing began to integrate into web conferencing solutions. Cloud-based virtual meeting rooms were also developed which provided a way for professors and students to interact face-to-face while simultaneously viewing the presentation. This created a more interactive learning environment and allowed a virtual classroom to more closely emulate a traditional classroom.  However, the ability break out into small groups during class or work on group projects still presented a challenge. These services were not scalable and it was cost prohibitive to give small groups of students their own room let alone give each student his or her own virtual meeting.

Acano, a visual collaboration technology that was recently introduced, overcomes these scalability barriers and allows virtual classrooms to truly rival a traditional classroom. Every distance learning student can receive their own account and licenses can be redistributed as students graduate or leave the program. Virtual meeting rooms can be set up for each class and students can be subscribed to the classes they are registered for.  Additionally, professors can set up separate rooms for breakout sessions then subscribe small groups of students.  A list of rooms that users are subscribed to is always available, allowing students and professors to easily switch between different classes and breakout groups.  As a result, distance learning students are able to listen to a lecture while simultaneously viewing the presentation, easily engaging and interacting with professors and their peers, as well as participating in both class and group discussions.

Virtual Classroom CTA

Last week Cisco hosted their 2013 Collaboration Summit where Rowan Trollope, SVP and GM of the Cisco Collaboration Technology Group, delivered the key note address which included Cisco’s collaboration strategy as well as new product announcements.

Trollope started with memories of his first computer; how technology at work surpassed what was available to him at home. In the past few years though, with the advent of the smartphones and tablets along with Facebook and other social networking sites, technology available to consumers at home has surpassed the technology available at work which has led to a sense of frustration. There is significant opportunity for advancement in the enterprise technology space and Trollope stated that Cisco is working “to make the technology we have at work as great or better than the technology we have at home.”

Trollope also stated that at Cisco, he not only had access to a lot of different collaboration technologies but the opportunity to use them. Unfortunately, the majority of people do not have this opportunity due  to different barriers; a lack of access, cost of implementation and complexity to name a few. Therefore, Cisco is committing to three goals; to make technology easier to use, easier to buy and to bring it all together. By making the technology more accessible, reducing the complexity, and delivering it at the right price more people will be able to take advantages of the benefits collaboration has to offer.

The goal, in Trollope’s words, is to “Make Collaboration Simple” and drive the next innovation cycle. Cisco will do this in the following ways:

  • User experience:  integrating the technologies they have and making them more intuitive
  • IT support: making the technology easy to deploy, manage, and run
  • Partners: making it easy to buy, sell and support Cisco solutions

Finally, Trollope announced and demonstrated a few new products.  Two key themes were cloud and mobility; hide the complexity of technology in the cloud and embrace mobility in the enterprise.  A few noteworthy announcements include:

  • Collaboration Systems Release: Cisco is testing everything together to make sure all components works together.
  • Cisco Expressway: Offers a secure tunnel into collaboration technologies without having to VPN into the network.
  • Cisco Jabber Guest: Turns virtual customer service into a reality by allowing organizations to integrate video into their website.
  • Intelligent Proximity App (currently in testing): Provides the ability for someone to walk into a room and pull the content to a smartphone or tablet. Users can also bring their personal directory with them and use it on the intelligent device in the room.

In closing, Trollope said “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” The products being unveiled represent a new direction in collaboration technologies and I, for one, can’t wait to see what they come out with next!

Watch the full replay of Trollope’s speech here.