There are numerous statistics that discuss the proliferation of video conferencing into conference rooms and other meeting environments. Every year, some analyst or video evangelist says, “This is the year video is going to explode!” While video continues to grow at a steady pace, that “explosion” of mass adoption and ubiquity has yet to happen. Right now, only 5% of conference rooms are equipped with some form of video conferencing. This leaves a lot of room for growth!

A typical situation for an organization implementing video usually follows this formula; ten conference rooms have been identified as “video rooms” and will be outfitted with high-quality video conferencing systems from manufacturers such as Cisco or Polycom. This company, however, has another 50 rooms that are used for smaller meetings, huddle sessions, or other forms of collaboration. The cost of equipping each one of those smaller rooms with the same video systems creates budget constraints. Consequently, at this point most companies are forced to leave those rooms without any video conferencing.

If one takes this limited roll-out approach and multiplies it across every organization out there, the ability for video to be truly everywhere becomes almost impossible. So the question becomes, how should the market address this?

Enter the telyHD Pro from Tely Labs. This unit is capable of full 720p HD video conferencing and can be attached to any display (via HDMI). Best of all, it’s under $1000. In addition to the low cost, it is also capable of connecting to standard video conferencing infrastructure (via the SIP protocol) and is natively integrated into the Blue Jeans Network for full interoperable video.

A recent white paper from Wainhouse Research highlighted these smaller meeting rooms and how the availability of a low cost video conferencing system opens up huge possibilities.

These solutions specifically do not offer the high cost ‘luxury’ features such as industry-leading video resolution, full motion dual stream video, optical and motorized pan/tilt/zoom cameras, support for multiple microphones, integrated audio mixers, or multiple video/audio outputs. What they do offer is a solid collaboration experience, including in some cases interoperability with standards-based systems, at an easy-to-afford price. –Wainhouse Research

These types of systems present “good enough” video conferencing; quality that provides a suitable experience but not on the same level as an enterprise grade video conferencing system. In many cases, however, that is ok. Organizations can connect these smaller rooms and help increase overall collaboration across the entire business.

With millions of conference rooms sitting without video connectivity, the introduction of a low-cost unit has the potential to help video spread like wildfire!

The Cohen Children’s Medical Center, a part of North Shore LIJ, strongly believes that art is a crucial aspect of children’s hospitals, as it creates an optimistic and constructive environment. This kind of environment allows children to open up their imagination and begin the healing process. As a result, they implemented an interactive virtual aquarium to entertain the children who are in the pediatric emergency waiting room.

The inspiration of this theme came from Long Island’s very own ocean and shoreline to create a familiar setting for young children, making them feel more at home rather than in a hospital. A hospital environment can be scary for young children and having interactive technology that makes them more comfortable can make their stay much more enjoyable and entertaining. By interacting with the technology and creating their own underwater world within the digital aquarium, children can gain a sense of control, something they may have lost by being in a hospital.

Rather than sitting in an intimidating waiting room, children can now be entertained with the virtual aquarium, and interactive “fish tank” that allows children to create their own fish, and then launch it into the tank to swim among the other fish other children have created. The fish are virtually fed, and swim among other sea creatures, such as turtles, larger fish and live among sea coral. Fish and shells decorate the floors and walls, and the CT scan also has fish painted on it. The renovations have made the hospital more appealing to children, making them less fearful of their environment. “Years of planning went into making the new facility child-friendly. Kids almost want to be here,” said Dr. Charles Schleien, Chairman of Pediatrics, in an interview with Newsday.

IVCi was contracted by North Shore LIJ and The Rockwell Group to install the system which is made up of six LCD panels, each about 55 inches wide, creating a fifteen foot screen. Six iPads are used to control what happens on the panels and allow the children to create the fish they want. The main audio comes from two speakers located on either side of the LCD mounting frame, creating as real of an experience as possible.

See for yourself with the demonstration below!

Digital Aquarium at Cohens Childrens Medical Center – Emergency Waiting Room from labatrockwell on Vimeo.

As the need for collaboration grows, the video conferencing industry provides. Microsoft and Accenture have published survey results showing that the oil and gas industry has looked to video conferencing as a solution for major problems within the industry. Accessing information at anytime from anywhere is a key factor in business success, and having the ability to share data and communicate in real time provides major benefits.  As a result, the need for video collaboration in this industry is steadily increasing as workplace dynamics continue to change.

Approximately 200 oil and gas industry professionals including engineers, mid-level and executive management, business unit heads and staff, project managers and geoscientists, were candidates for completing Microsoft and Accenture’s online survey in order to determine how video conferencing has affected the gas and oil industry. Results show that the percentage of oil and gas professionals that are collaborating is increasing, and 35% have spent more time collaborating. Social networking has also become a major business collaboration tool as well, and is growing each year. Results of the survey also show that instant messaging and social networks are the most popular social media tools for business collaboration, and the usage of internal company social networks has increased.

Video conferencing has been a definite solution for the problems that this industry faces. Problems, such as a lack of skills and an aging work force, make it difficult for this industry to stay modern and keep up. Younger generations don’t have the skills and experience needed to maintain the industry. There are also issues with breaking workflow and challenges involving knowledge sharing. Video conferencing has allowed these issues to dissolve, as collaboration allows users to share information in real time and creates an outlet for easy communication.

While many companies find that video conferencing is a solution, about 30% of the companies surveyed are still hesitant about the technology and restrict its usage, leading employees to be weary of using social tools in the workplace. However, 40% of employees surveyed feel that there is not enough teamwork among employees and social tools drive collaboration. The survey has also shown that there are distinct differences between counties, sectors and genders relating to productivity.

Every company utilizes their tools in different ways. Some feel that video collaboration will make them more successful, while others may not. However, the majority of companies that participated in this survey have realized the benefits of video conferencing and are integrating it into their daily business routines, thus improving collaboration, speeding up customer response and assistance, and creating a new competitive advantage.

Strap on your Roominator and get ready, because now you can be in your office and running down the streets of Manhattan at the exact same time! Gone are the days of jugging work meetings with personal commitments. The Roominator, coupled with the Blue Jeans service, allows collaboration whenever, wherever, and with whichever device they please.

So say goodbye to the days of stuffy conference rooms and poor video connection. Blue Jeans provides high-quality video collaboration that expands the boundaries of video collaboration to the outdoors while the Roominator provides a business like setting to conduct your meeting. You simply set up a meeting using Blue Jeans’ web interface then can instantly connect with someone via smartphone, tablet, or laptop, from the beach, soccer practice or even the delivery room!

Need proof?  Watch the video below. I mean, its on the internet, so it has to be real! Right?

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.

Medicare
Several weeks ago Medicare created its proposed rulemaking for the physician fee schedule, set to begin on January 1st, 2014. There have also been two major improvements proposed for telehealth. One is the expansion of the definition of a rural health shortage area. The purpose of this is to increase coverage of telehealth by allowing more areas to be considered metropolitan counties. This proposal will help the 104 counties that lost their telehealth coverage due to their lost status as a metropolitan county.

The second proposal would provide telehealth coverage for CPT codes for transitional care management services. With this process however, there are some difficulties. While there will be a website people can visit to find out if they are covered, it does not have direct yes or no answers, making it hard to determine coverage. Another issue is that eligibility for coverage is renewed yearly, meaning one year a person may be eligible and the next they are not.

Congress
In last month’s installment of This Month in Telemedicine, Linkous and Capistrant mentioned legislation that Congressman Greg Harper was working on. His bill is moving forward, and some changes were made in the process of finalizing it. “The effort is to really deal with the Congressional Budget Office and what they will end up saying about telehealth provisions” explained Capistrant. There have also been several proposals to get a savings estimate from the CBO.

  • To have a Medicaid option for high risk pregnancies. Two years ago ATA got an estimate that it would save Medicaid 168 million over 10 years.
  • Giving hospitals an incentive for doing a better job in reducing their number of readmissions. It would allow the hospitals to share in the savings and will pay for home monitoring and video.
  • Have Accountable Care Organizations currently under Medicare (which serve about 4 million beneficiaries) use telehealth the same way Medicare’s managed care plan does. Medicare has started an effort to experiment with bundling with hospital payments with post-acute payments. There has participation in almost 400 hospitals all over the country. The goal is to have those hospitals be able to use telehealth to deal with that post-acute care and not have the restrictions that are in Medicare’s statute continue to apply.
  • Allow home video to people who are doing dialysis at home. This will empower more home dialysis and yield savings.

Other Harper package provisions that have been added include: restoring coverage for 104 counties, provision to go for coverage for telestroke diagnosis country wide, as well as some provisions dealing with critical access hospitals that are in metropolitan areas. These hospitals will not be included in the health shortage area because it is a hospital.

States
There has been a lot of progress among the states with telemedicine. The Governor of Missouri has signed a bill that will allow a parody law for private insurance covering telehealth. Missouri is now the 19th state that has this law. The ATA is finalizing three of the state best practices for Medicaid uses of telehealth, as well as a final report of major gaps in each state about telehealth

The ATA Board just recently approved online, web-based mental health services. It is also interested in developing practice guidelines for teleICU, web based or online primary and urgent care services that are starting to be developed, and remote health date management on wounds and burns, according to Linkous. Telepathology guidelines are also being rewritten.

Fall Forum in Toronto
The focus of the Fall Forum in Toronto is to examine some of the problems that have recently been discussed involving telemedicine. A major focus will be reducing readmission rates in hospitals. “A big topic in every hospital, in not only this country but around the world, is how do you reduce the readmission rate within the hospital and there’s a lot of work that’s been done on this using telemedicine as part of the answer. Not as the answer, but part of it,” explained Linkous. They will also be covering issues such as Telehealth networks, and how you can make those networks sustainable, as well as how to engage customers. They will also be covering topics such as mainstreaming in health applications, or “apps” to be integrated into the healthcare system. Other topics include virtual care and provider services.