Football reigns supreme in our nation; whether it’s the NFL, NCAA, High School or even little league. In many towns, Friday night games are the center of a town’s social activity; and anyone involved with the winning touchdown is considered a hero. It’s no wonder kids are gearing up to play almost as soon as they can walk.  In fact, my nephew has been playing since he was four years old!

Unfortunately, repeated hits to the head from high contact sports have spurred a concussion epidemic that spans from football, to hockey, to even wrestling. Multiple concussions can cause brain damage that leaves lasting effects. In an article, former professional wrestler Christopher Nowinski states “I can’t exercise without getting a headache and without feeling sick.”

With kids playing sports at earlier ages, it is even more important to properly diagnose concussions to prevent brain damage from cumulative injuries. As a result, Davidson County in North Carolina has introduced a new telemedicine program linking high school athletes who may have a concussion to specialists at the Lexington Medical Center for diagnosis.

A remotely operated telepresence robot allows doctors to look for symptoms and give brain and balance tests to determine whether or not an athlete has sustained a concussion. While diagnosing a concussion over video may seem lacking, Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum, Director of Wake Forest Baptist’s Sports Medicine Fellowship Program, said the contrary in a recent article.

“There’s not a lot of hands-on evaluation needed with concussions. Typically, you are making two big decisions: return to play or not to play, and go to the emergency room or go home.” – Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum

Telemedicine clinics can be especially valuable for rural areas where access to health care specialists typically requires a lengthy drive to the nearest metropolitan area. Instead of depending on local doctors or sports trainers, these athletes can have instant access to a concussion specialist who is trained to spot signs that might otherwise be missed.

Watch the video below for a quick demonstration!

 

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid now base a portion of hospital reimbursement on how well a hospital performs along with clinical and patient satisfaction measures. The Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program metrics are based on metrics from Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) metrics which are publicly available. In order to receive full Medicare funding, hospitals need to score in at least the 50th percentile in patient satisfaction scores.

One key area is ensuring the area around patient rooms is always quite at night which is challenge for most hospitals. Doctors and nurses who are constantly milling around, responding to calls or checking in on patients can easily disrupt neighboring patients at night. Not only is a lack of sleep frustrating for patients, it can actually prolong recuperation. According to Niklas Moeller, studies have shown that sleep deprivation can “weaken the immune system, impede the body’s ability to generate new cells, and decrease pain tolerance – all of which can lengthen hospital stays.”

So how do hospitals reduce noise in patient rooms and, more importantly, in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit? Forbidding doctors and nurses to talk during “quiet hours” is out of the question and noise-cancelling headphones are uncomfortable to sleep in plus present additional sanitary concerns.

Enter speech privacy, also known as sound masking, solutions for healthcare environments.

Essentially, a background noise similar to airflow is disseminated through ceiling mounted speakers which drowns out human speech and other distracting noises. So, when a patient has a revolving door of visitors; neighbors can easily relax, watch television or read without continued distractions. When a patient is screaming for the nurse, the nurse is paging the doctor and the doctor is running down the hall; neighbors can continue their restful sleep instead of being rudely awoken.

Day or night, the soothing noise allows patients to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer due to a quieter environment increasing patient recovery and hospital efficiency in addition to the VBP program benefits.  Additionally, speech privacy solutions also help doctors and nurses maintain patient confidentiality by masking their conversations from other patients.

We are nosy by nature and patients are curious as to what landed their neighboring counterparts in the hospital. Sometimes it’s casually overhearing the doctor speak in the hallway, other times it’s pressing an ear against the wall to hear what’s going on. Speech privacy solutions mask the intelligibility of speech so even the nosiest patient can’t distinguish exactly what is being said – unless of course they creep into the room and hide under the bed but that seems highly unlikely.

Additional Articles & Resources:
Sound Masking Solutions 
Telemedicine Reimbursement - The Time is Now!

Health care organizations throughout the world continue to implement telemedicine solutions at a growing rate to help extend the reach of health care. The benefits are enormous, for both the patient and the health care provider:

  1. No matter where a patient is located, they can gain access to the specialists they need to diagnose and treat their ailments.
  2. A health care provider can check in with patients remotely, helping to reduce costly re-admissions.
  3. In an emergency setting, a patient’s specialized needs can be responded to in a quicker, more efficient manner.

While the list of benefits is extensive; a major challenge of telemedicine is the economics behind it. Health care organizations have been able to offer telemedicine-based consults to patients for some time; however, the business of health care has not kept up.

Insurance organizations (including Medicare and Medicaid) did not offer parity for these visits versus a real-life encounter. Providers would find themselves being denied reimbursement for the telemedicine services that they had provided.

But as with many other technologies, the bureaucracy is catching up. Over the last several years there has been a shift throughout the US and “reimbursement equity” is now being offered for telemedicine consultations. Most recently, Maryland and Pennsylvania have joined the list of states signing such legislation into law. Maryland’s law is simple: Insurance companies must pay the same fee for telemedicine services that would otherwise be covered with an in-person visit.

State laws regarding telemedicine reimbursement differ. Currently, there are fourteen states with some form of reimbursement equity: California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

Medicare has its own policy as well. Generally, the reimbursement is on par with the same service when it is provided face-to-face. There are some limitations that include the location of the facility, eligible medical services, and the eligibility of providers and facilities.  To read specific rules relating to Medicare, click here.

Telemedicine reimbursement is a complex issue, but one clear trend is emerging: it is moving into the mainstream. With so many states already moving towards parity, it is only a matter of time before more follow. The result of this will be continued growth of telemedicine practices and patients gaining more access to the affordable, specialized healthcare they need.

Additional Resources:
Telemedicine Solutions Overview
Extend the Reach of Healthcare with Telehealth

Related Articles:
Sound Masking Your Way to Medicare Reimbursement
Baltimore Business Journal – Maryland law may spur video Dr. ‘visits’
Pennsylvania Governor Corbett Improves Access to Quality Health Care through Telemedicine Initiative

Moving products to market quickly is the key to success for many pharmaceutical companies. Shortening the product development cycle ensures that companies benefit from the limited patent life that is typical for new drugs, and are compensated for the costs that are incurred during the developmental phase. Unified Communications (UC) solutions, including visual collaboration technology, enable communication with remote parties, creating the effect that all participants are sitting face-to-face, at the same table or in the same room.

UC solutions allow pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs sooner by:

  • Enabling face-to-face communication with remote parties during the crucial drug trial process.
  • Enhancing the quality and speed of decision-making, resulting in a reduction in travel related time and expenses.
  • Facilitating training, project reviews, and remote trial observation.
  • Allowing experts to collaborate more frequently with global subsidiaries.
  • Facilitating the ability of researchers and others participants to hold meetings with physicians, patients and government agencies.
  • Allowing all parties involved in the trial process to collaborate efficiently, and receive instant feedback.

The real time collaboration made possible by UC solutions allows pharmaceutical companies to more effectively partner with remote parties on research, promotion, and dissemination of new products. By enabling pharmaceuticals to bring products to market more quickly and efficiently, these companies realize revenue and profits earlier in the product development phase.