Lisa Endlich Heffernan, of the Huffington Post, was recently featured on the Today Show, speaking to how she had many regrets in her life as a working mother and staying home after her third child was born. She felt that she let down all of the women who had come before her to make it possible to attain that “High Powered Career”.

“When you leave the fulltime workplace and become a stay-at-home mom, you begin to live in a world of women your own age with kids the same age as your kids and your experiences really narrow as the range of people you deal with narrows.” – Lisa Endlich Heffernan

There is a fine line parents walk when going back to work after having a child. Many feel guilty for relying on others to watch their child while they pursue their own dreams of a career. However, sacrificing a career to stay at home can leave a void that eventually turns into regret.

Thankfully, new developments in technology are eliminating that choice by allowing parents to work remotely in an effective manner.  Unified communications (UC) solutions can simulate the traditional office environment for most remote employees.  Video conferencing provides face-to-face interaction allowing remote employees to develop relationships with their peers.  Quick questions or generic small talk can be conducted through Instant Messaging. Not to mention presence information provides the same available or away status as walking past a colleague’s office.

Even better, enhanced interoperability with mobile devices allow parents to join important collaboration session from their iPad while sitting in the parking lot at their child’s swimming lessons. Now, parents can fulfill their intellectual desires by pursuing their career while having the flexibility to run up to school and drop of their child’s forgotten lunch or walk their child home from the bus stop.

The best part about enabling parents to work remotely is the increased talent pool for organizations. Parents who would have given up their career, like Lisa Endlich Heffernan, can contribute valuable insight to organizations without sacrificing the desire to be at home for their children.

Sara Sutton Fell, CEO & Founder of Flexjobs.com, even wrote an article about 15 surprising jobs parents can do from home; specifically mentioning CEO or Executive Director. However, the actual number of jobs that can be performed remotely far exceed this number when organizations implement UC and other video solutions.

 

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.

Federal Policy Summit
On June 27, Linkous and Capistrant attended the Federal Policy Summit, a conference in which several issues regarding telemedicine were discussed. “It’s a great time to be having this Federal Telehealth Policy Summit, because we’re on the verge of an explosion of opportunities for telehealth, not necessarily things directly or specifically for telehealth but a lot of opportunities for change in the healthcare marketplace,” says Capistrant. Several key political figures attended the summit as well, such as Congressman Mike Thompson, Congressman Gregg Harper, and Congressman Glenn Thompson, all of whom spoke about telehealth and telemedicine. Each Congressman has contributed to the success of telehealth and continues to do so politically. Several pieces of legislation are currently in the works with the idea of positively changing telehealth in mind.

Four leaders of key federal agencies were in attendance as well. These leaders include the Health Resources and Services Administration (HERSA), the Federal Communications Commissioner, the head of the FDA on medical device and the leader in telehealth at the Veterans Affairs Department.

Along with these speakers, there were three different panels dealing with three specific aspects of telehealth. These panels include patient panels, health players and providers, and telecommunication providers. Other issues that are going to be heavily discussed include the FCC’s health care connect program and its opportunities such as the billion dollar funding opportunity that was previously discussed in last month’s installment of This Month in Telemedicine; along with the Nation Institute of Standards and Technology to review standards and guidelines.

Legislation
Congressman Harper is currently working on a bill that was planning to be introduced in time for the summit, however it is not yet ready. “The idea is to create a package that both Democrat and Republican congressmen and senators can line up and support and create the kind of political support through it that the congressional budget office will actually estimate the cost of it,” says Capistrant. The bill borrows most of the provisions from the Mike Thompson legislation to fit into existing payment innovations. There are also improvements regarding Medicare. This bill focuses on dealing with the 104 counties that lost their Medicaid coverage due to the fact that they are no longer considered metropolitan areas. The goal is to get Medicaid back into metropolitan areas and then accomplish the specific goal of getting Telehealth into the home.

The idea of this package is, “to have it ready for much more serious consideration later this fall when Congress has to deal with the physician payment reform issue” says Capistrant.

There has been previous discussion of a bill being put together by Congressman Nunes of California about allowing Medicare beneficiaries to be served by someone across the state line without that provider being licensed in both places. However, an early draft of the bill contained a doctor patient relationship requirement which the ATA opposes. This particular legislation has not yet been formally introduced.

Affordable Care Act
There are certain dates coming up regarding the Affordable Care Act.  On October 1, states will be offered state based health insurance exchanges, although actual coverage begins in January. The ATA estimates that around 14 million people will participate in that new coverage. There are also hopes that telemedicine will be a part of that coverage. January 1 is a very important day for Medicaid enrollment, as the ATA estimates that half of the states that will be opting in to expand Medicaid coverage. Key states such as Ohio and Arizona are still debating it; however if they do there will be an estimated 20 million people on the roll with Medicaid. At the end of the year there will be a “doc fix”, or a bill that is looked at every year called “The Sustainable Growth Rate Bill”. “Congress has pledged to really do something this year, of course they say that every year but this year they really mean it. Several members have told us that if they go through a change that telemedicine is going to be an important part of it,” says Linkous.

ATA Service Provider Forum
The ATA Service Provider Forum is a special meeting that will take place prior to the Federal Policy Summit. “There is a new group coming out of our industry council for industry council members. So many of our companies traditionally have been medical device companies, but now the world has changed,” says Linkous. There are many companies involved in providing direct services as well as specialty consoles to emergency rooms, monitoring services, as well provide web based consultations. This forum serves as a way to discuss this growing field, and will open for the meeting. The ATA Board has also approved exploring the idea of doing accreditation of online web based consultation services.

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.