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].”

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.

In collaboration environments there is often the need to display different types of content. Selecting the correct display plays an integral role in the effectiveness of a collaboration environment as the wrong type of display can provide a poor user experience. For example, if the display is too small for the room, participants will have a difficult time seeing the content.

The two main types of displays are flat panel displays and projection systems and there are several factors to consider when selecting a display. This includes the size of the room, the application and type of content being displayed, room aesthetics (amount and type of lighting), the budget and overall user expectations.

The size of the room has a direct correlation to the size of the display; larger spaces will need a larger display while smaller spaces can used a smaller display. Flat panel display sizes typically range anywhere from 42” to 90” diagonal but can go to 103” while projector screen sizes typically range from 119″-133″ diagonal and up.

Projection Systems:
Projectors are great for sharing text, spreadsheets or presentations as projectors can provide a larger image at a lower price point. Projection screens can also be hidden in the ceiling when they are not in use. However, projectors require low-lit or dim spaces as room light from bulbs and windows can wash out the image on the screen. Projection systems are either rear project or front projection systems.

In rear projection implementation, a projector is placed in a projection room and the image is bounced off a series of mirrors on the projection screen. This allows the projector to remain hidden, eliminating any projector noise and is also less sensitive to ambient lighting. However, collaboration rooms must be large enough to accommodate a projection room. In front projection implementation, the projector is hung from the ceiling or hidden in a drop down platform and the image is projected directly onto the front of the screen. While this setup eliminates the need for a control room, it is more susceptible to ambient light and does not hide projector noise.

Flat Panel Displays:
Flat panel displays are typically used for video conferencing as well as presentations. Flat screens offer a clear, vivid picture which is ideal for high resolution images. They are not as susceptible to ambient light; however, for an optimal experience organizations may still want to cover windows if there is a substantial amount of direct natural light coming into the room to prevent a glare. There are three types of flat panel displays including plasma, liquid crystal display (LCD) and light emitting diode (LED).

Plasma displays use gas to excite light photons which produce color on the screen. They provide the highest and most accurate representation of color and a consistent brightness to the image which can be important when displaying images or other content. However, plasmas are typically heavier, not as bright and consume more energy than other types of displays.

LCD displays use pixels that contain three colors (red, green and blue) plus a backlight. The liquid crystals, when energized, block certain colors from showing and produce the desired color. LCD displays are lighter and consumer less energy than plasmas and are typically at a lower price point.

LED displays are similar to LCD displays and use a cluster of red, green and blue diodes that are driven together for form a full color pixel. LED displays are the lightest and most energy efficient of flat panel displays. They are also brighter and provide a more accurate color than LCD; however, they are at the highest price point.

When faced with a display decision, it is important to understand how and where the equipment will be used along with the budget requirements. While a 103” plasma display might provide a lifelike experience; it is not the most affordable solution. An organization must consider the application and types of content being displayed to determine the right type of display technology.

AV Buyers Guide CTA