Video conferencing has drastically affected the way companies communicate and do business with one another. By switching to video conferencing, companies are saving time and money running their business. John Kolodziejski, Manager of Enterprise Telecommunications at BE Aerospace, talks about his experience with video conferencing, and the impact it has made on his company.

IVCi: Can you give us a brief overview of your video environment?
JK: We currently have 32 endpoints which are mainly Cisco C20s or C40s and in conference rooms or executive board rooms. All of our systems are dual displays so we can have a presentation on one screen and people on the other screen. We also have full Cisco infrastructure; TMS management system and gateways on the outside so we can get to external conferences. Our primary data center and corporate IT location is in Winston, North Carolina but we have systems in the Philippines, the US, England, Ireland, Germany, and the Netherlands.

IVCi: What were the business drivers that led you to implement video?
JK: Primarily to reduce travel costs, but it was also very important to be able to establish easy communication between our global sites. We need that instant face to face communication. We’re a huge engineering firm and have sites all over the world. For an engineer, it is more efficient to connect face to face with someone to talk about a part or a problem because they can have the physical part with them during the video call or explain the problem clearly. The clarity of communication is important. For our general managers to communicate with their remote sites, face to face interaction is much more effective than a phone call. When you’re on a phone call, you have a tendency to multitask.

IVCi: What has been the end user reaction to video?
JK: We have a wide range of acceptability. Some sites use it 40 hours a month, so almost a full week of usage, while others use it a couple of hours a month. Typically, if the executives don’t use it, the lower levels tend to not use it either and vice versa.

We try to work with site administrators to promote video conferencing more and some sites have tried to get the execs to jump on board. The Netherlands and Philippines were eager to use video and they use the daylights out of their systems. They’re talking to each other; engineers are sharing information and doing a lot of work. Our help desk also uses it a lot for training purposes.

IVCi: What was your favorite moment using video?
JK: Very early on in the adoption of video conferencing, a manufacturing site here needed to talk to a manufacturer in France about a problem they were having. Before video, our engineers would have had to fly over to France to meet with their engineers or vice versa, so you lose several days of productivity along with the cost of travel and other expenses. But with video conferencing, we set up a meeting and in three hours they had the problem resolved. They were able to see the part, draw up sketches, and they work it out. It would have been tens of thousands of dollars and cost significant production time had it not been for video conferencing.

IVCi: How has video grown within your organization and what does the future look like?
JK: It’s doubled since we first started the project in August of 2011. We started our initial project with endpoints for 15 sites and core infrastructure components. Since then we’ve grown to 32 sites and, as soon as we get our equipment shipped, we will be adding another site. Right now I’m adding almost a site a month.

We have probably 50 medium to large sites worldwide and we’re looking to put video in each site. Then we have a countless number of 2-3 man offices and customer embedded sites so eventually we’ll expand video there as well.

IVCi: Where do you see the most usage and opportunity for growth – room, desktop or mobile?
JK: Right now we use our rooms the most but we’re running out of sites to install video in so we’ll address desktop and mobile. We have experimented with Jabber and rolled out a test deployment about 6 months ago. The problem though, is that Jabber eats up bandwidth, and we need to keep the internal use of bandwidth available. Our engineers transfer huge files across our network and we need to keep bandwidth available for that, so we will have Jabber for desktop video but it will be an as-need basis.

IVCi: Do you have any advice for organizations implementing video for the first time?
JK: Pick a really good implementer, a good partner and don’t let cost be the driving factor of who you select. Good project management is key; it makes implementation a lot easier. From there, just make sure you really evaluate your needs and find what’s appropriate. Video conferencing is great but you have to really promote it with your users so you’re getting that return on investment.

Infocomm, the largest industry tradeshow for all things communications, was held earlier this month. The show focuses on audio visual technology including the technologies that are used to build collaborative room environments.  Major visual collaboration vendors also setup large booths to showcase and demo their recent offerings to the public and their partners. This year, a trend that we have consistently been seeing in video came to fruition.

In a previous post, we discussed the move of video conferencing to software and virtualization. At the show this year, a plethora of products were announced that follow this exact model. Rather than provide a breakdown of every company and their new solutions, let’s take a look at the common themes throughout all of the announcements.

Software Based
Each new product and solution that was announced was entirely software based. What does that mean? Gone are the days of specialized hardware or DSPs that are purpose built for a particular video conferencing application. Instead, manufacturers are writing software that can either be loaded on off- the-shelf servers or deployed on virtual servers. A significant benefit to this trend is increased scalability, can easily add or delete users without having to purchase more hardware. Not only does this help reduce the costs associated with video it allows more people to access to the technology.

It’s About Collaboration
Video conferencing vendors are beginning to recognize that simply meeting via video isn’t enough. The need for users to collaborate with others on documents and deliverables is growing in importance. Nearly all of the software based announcements included features around content sharing, annotation and white boarding and even the ability to store perpetual notes in a virtual room that can be revisited. These features will elevate video from individual meetings to on-going collaborative sessions that can start and stop organically.

Go Mobile or Go Home
Not surprising, mobile devices took center stage at Infocomm and all of the video related announcements included significant functionality around them. For a short time, the ability to simply join a video meeting on your mobile device was enough. Users were blown away by the convenience of being able to join from anywhere. However, early solutions provided limited functionality for those mobile attendees. Manufacturers have realized that simply joining from a mobile device is no longer enough. End users want the ability to join, share content, control the meeting and have no restrictions based on their device. Some really exciting features include the ability to connect to meetings with multiple devices, screen share directly from a tablet or smartphone, and more.

As Far as the Eye Can See
As previously mentioned, these new software platforms are lowering the cost of implementing video across all users in an organization. Beyond that, the importance of being able to extend visual collaboration to anyone outside of the organization has become a major feature. All solutions are allowing anyone to join via a web browser, a UC client, or a myriad of other solutions currently in use. Instead of requiring uses to take special steps to join a meeting, they can join with whatever software, device, or solution they are currently utilizing.

The transition to software in collaboration is happening quickly and the latest solutions are a testament to that. With this new model, the development time for new features and support is rapidly increasing so users will have access to the latest tools as soon as they are available. It’s an exciting time for people everywhere as their ability to be connected is increasing exponentially!

The thought of implementing a new Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system is enough to make anyone in a healthcare organization wake up in a cold sweat. Switching from paper charts to an entirely new way of providing patient care is a daunting task for most physicians as it requires a brand new set of processes and procedures.

However, the benefits of EMR can no longer be ignored. Not only does storing medical records digitally help prevent filing errors, patient records can be backed up in multiple locations significantly reducing the threat of losing patient health information in an emergency. Plus, the data is accessible almost anywhere allowing physicians to view medical history and treat a patient regardless of where they are.

As a result, five leading health systems have created the Care Connectivity Consortium to pioneer the use of electronic medical records. Together, Intermountain Healthcare (based in Utah), Geisinger Health System (Pennsylvania), Group Health Cooperative (Washington), Kaiser Permanente (California), and Mayo Clinic (Minnesota) are working to develop a secure way of sharing patient information regardless of the vendor used to originally create the record.

The five healthcare systems involved have an enormous geographic reach and access to large volumes of patients. They must work together to develop, test and implement processes and procedures to quickly access and share patient information across multiple different EMR systems. Additionally, the Consortium must address how to obtain a patient’s advance consent and then store it properly to ensure it is readily accessible in the event of an emergency visit, states Todd Allen in a blog article.

Visual collaboration technologies can help connect geographically dispersed members of the Care Connectivity Consortium and enhance the collaboration experience. Audio visual integrated rooms designed to support complex data allow participants to share multiple forms of content from multiple sources. Therefore, members participating in collaboration sessions can view different EMR interfaces side by side along with other data to help advance the EMR process.

These collaboration rooms can also be used within different areas in the health systems. For example, operations staff can meet to discuss best practices around EMR and other hospital operations. Roundtable sessions can also be conducted by connecting medical specialists and allowing them to discuss recent findings, best practices and treatment options.

Once the Care Connectivity Consortium has created an effective process, the organization can utilize collaboration solutions to train physicians, administrators and other staff members through recorded Video on Demand sessions. Embedded video clients can then allow anyone with questions to connect via video to an EMR specialist and receive clarification. Furthermore, embedding video solutions in the EMR system itself would allow doctors or nurses to connect with a patient’s primary physician.

As a mother of three very accident prone children, I have been to the Emergency Room in Intermountain Healthcare’s network. There is a small peace of mind in knowing that when we arrive, my child’s entire medical history will be available with just a click of a mouse. I applaud the Care Connectivity Consortium for their effort in advancing Electronic Medical Records and hope that one day mothers across the country are able to experience these same benefits.

You’ve likely heard a lot about collaboration lately. Collaboration is now considered an integral part of corporate innovation and success. According to this study by IBM, the CEOs of top companies all give collaboration skills top billing for driving firms’ achievements:

“CEOs regard interpersonal skills of collaboration (75 percent), communication (67 percent), creativity (61 percent) and flexibility (61 percent) as key drivers of employee success to operate in a more complex, interconnected environment.”

Choosing a “Collaborative Architecture”
But what trips up a lot of companies’ leadership is not whether they should create a collaborative environment, but how to do it. According to this Harvard Business Review article, companies are often in such a rush to implement collaboration that little, if any, thought is put into the nuts and bolts:

“All too often firms jump into relationships without considering their structure and organizing principles—what we call the collaborative architecture,” write article authors Gary Pisano and Roberto Verganti. They’ve come up with a method to identify the best strategy for your company, which begins with these key questions:

“Given your strategy, how open or closed should your firm’s network of collaborators be? And who should decide which problems the network will tackle and which solutions will be adopted?”

To help you create such a structure, here are some tips to create a healthy and productive collaboration project.

7 Tips to Help Build a Better Collaboration:

  1. Move from individual idea-generation to a group, and then back to solo work.
  2. Mix virtual and in-person meetings, if possible, and use a variety of methods that will give attendees visuals and important cues, like body language.
  3. Create a great physical space that’s comfortable, encourages participation and fosters great ideas.
  4. Keep your supporting documents and files organized.
  5. Use a mix of technologies to create a virtual collaboration environment, including integrating mobile components to adapt to the increase in mobile application use.
  6. Keep collaboration groups small and fix a beginning and an end to a collaboration project to avoid overwhelming participants and scope creep.
  7. Create collaboration events, like 3M does for its employees from different divisions to get innovation happening.

Choose Your Tools Wisely:

  • Online: You can look to a product that designed for collaboration, like 37Signals Basecamp or Teambox. As the value of collaboration has become more recognized, the amount of programs designed for collaborative projects has kept pace, so test drive a few to find the best fit.
  • Video: Video conferencing technology has improved to the point that great visuals, complex data, and real-time performance mean long distance collaborations are no longer second rank to in-person meetings.
  • Social: Take a look at WebEx Social, which is a social network for corporations. Some companies are exploring ways to use Pinterest, which now has business accounts, and Google can be a good tool as well.
  • In-person: Maybe you agree with Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer that physical presence leads to better ideas, in which case create areas around your office that will foster exchange. Google likes communal areas, as does Etsy, because cubicles kill creativity.

Interested in learning more about how your company can collaborate its way to success? Contact IVCi to discuss the best collaboration solution for your needs.

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].”