Bikers and Teddy Bears: 9th Annual Teddy Bear Ride

biketeddys

photo credit: Jeff Schrier | MLive.com

Starting at 2 p.m. this Saturday, children in the pediatric center of Covenant Healthcare in Saginaw, MI, which is a customer using HitCast, an earlier release of what has become our swyMed solution, will be receiving between 200 and 400 teddy bears courtesy of the Great Lakes Harley Davidson and Tri-County Michigan Hogs.

This is a fantastic tradition that’s been as wonderful for the kids in the hospital as for the bikers giving of their time and resources.  However, the children generally are not able to go outside the hospital to see the bikers arriving with teddy bears often attached to the bikes, or to see them dismounting and coming in.  Covenant has, in the past, utilized some of the telemedicine capability to stream video of the bikers arriving into the pediatric center.

Please follow these links for more of the story, and be inspired to do something similar in your area if you can:
http://www.abc12.com/story/26164728/ninth-annual-teddy-bear-ride-to-take-place-this-saturday
http://www.minbcnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=929540#.U-TSmvm-2-0

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5 Things I Learned on ATA’s This Month in Telemedicine Webinar

As with last month, this is largely geared to updates about legislation along with reminders about the upcoming Fall Forum conference in Palm Springs, CA, which I’ll have to consider as I live out Orange County.

This month’s takeaways are a little more subdued than last month which had some pretty big news (see here).  The ATA had just done a survey on online consultations and had over 500 respondents.

1)  45% of respondents are using telemedicine TODAY.  This is fantastic news and, in my mind, is possibly underreported because, as Mr. Linkous and Mr. Capistrant pointed out on the last call (and pointed out in our 3 Things from last month), nearly every institution is already using some form of telemedicine and the boards don’t realize it.

2)  Specialty Care and Behavioral Health were the leading segments.  Not terribly surprising, as specialty care often needs to use leading edge tools to leverage resources for special care, and behavioral health lends itself well to an old-school videoconferencing set up (patient and doctor meet via video), leading to less push-back on its use while providing maximum benefit to both patients and providers.  The industry will have to really work, I think, to make sure providers and CDOs are aware of the more specialized applications and the benefits to be had.  Telemedice will not yield a large harvest if we only pick the low-hanging fruit.  As if to prove that point:

3)  77% use video, 57% use audio and 28% use medical peripherals.  Just over a quarter are using peripherals, while three times that are using video.  Being at a video-primary solution provider: Yay!  Being a proponent of telemedicine as a whole: We can do better.  Even the video-primary medical solutions offer a lot of specialized or integrated offerings that provide more than just adding a visual element to distance care.  Again, the question is, how do we get this to the doctors and CDOs?

4) Of the 55% of respondents that replied they are not using telemedicine today, 75% plan to implement it very soon.  I present that as Exhibit A to the tipping point naysayers…although I concede that if you responded to a survey about telemedicine from the American Telemedicine Association, you’re probably already predisposed to an interest in telemedicine.  Having said that, interest in telemedicine has been on the rise, and 75% of that growing crowd being interested in giving it a shot can only be a good thing.

4)  Mr. Linkous pointed out something toward the end that I assumed would be a primary driver (or at least remove an obstacle) but assumed would take several more years:  Private insurance is increasingly taking the lead in pushing telemedicine.  I’ve been noting that the reduced cost/better outcome/reduced readmissions scenario HAS to eventually turn private insurance into champions of telemedicine.  Amongst the names he mentioned were Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, WellPoint, and others.

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iPods and Raising Telemedicine Adoption

or

What about the Doctors?

telemediPod 2000 try it bdr

The seeds of this article began when my CEO forwarded a Gartner case study from 2008[1]with the question, “If a hospital could do 345,000 video visits up to 2007, why hasn’t telemedicine expanded more?  Is the issue technological, cultural, managerial, or..?”

Fantastic question.  The issue definitely isn’t technological–at least from a capabilities standpoint.  It may be from a design standpoint…but more on that later.  I’d argue that it is indeed cultural and managerial, although some of that culture and management reflects back on us, the telemedicine solution providers.

We are presented with a quandary: 1) Where telemedicine has been systematically implemented, it has radically improved patient care, lowered costs, improved doctor/staff morale, and even increased revenue…even in the face of lingering payor reimbursement questions currently being worked out by insurers and state legislatures, and yet… 2) Adoption by both individual healthcare providers and organizations has been, well, lackluster, and often outright resisted.

The gap is caused because Read more

Telemedicine Reimbursement vs. Decreased Readmissions

readmission

The question of reimbursement is very, very important. But not as important as you might think.  As promised a couple weeks ago, we want to look more in depth at the third of our takeaways from the 2014 American Telehealth Conference…especially in light of new developments that have popped up in the news since then.

First, to  bring new readers up  …read more…

Past the Tipping Point

tipping point

Last Thursday I promised to discuss our takeaways from the ATA conference individually in more detail, starting with

#1 We’re past the tipping point.

I won’t belabor the point of the overall importance of this takeaway, as you can read about it here.  However, I will re-quote ATA CEO Jonathan Linkous because his numbers make a good launching point: “Today, 20 million Americans get some part of their healthcare remotely, and that number will grow as telemedicine expands its reach.”  And the ATA President, Edward Brown, believes that mHealth/Telemedicine will grow by 50% every year.

According to a study by IHS Technology and published in January, the almost 350,000 telehealth patients in 2013 will swell to Read more

3 Takeaways from ATA 2014

ATA takeaways

Yes, we’re perhaps a little late with this posting.  However, we think the key takeaways (for us) from this year’s ATA  (American Telemedicine Association) conference are important enough to immortalize anyway.

#1 We’re past the tipping point.

This was such a key point that the ATA itself made sure to quote a speaker mentioning it before the conference even started:

Speaker Joe Peterson, CEO of Specialists on Call, said: “In 2013 telemedicine started passing many ‘tipping points,’ in multiple industry segments, making it a true moment in time to found, scale …read more…

Mobile Bandwidth: A Consideration for Telemedicine and mHealth

no network

An oddly under-scrutinized aspect of telehealth, telemedicine, and mHealth, is summed up by the last of those three terms: mHealth. The “m” stands for “mobile,” and mobility requires telehealth services to be rendered over the most broadly available data networks, which usually are not the fastest.

Although this is usually taken for granted with rural areas, this is also often true of heavily populated ones. For example, I live in a fairly populous suburb. However, due to geography, our coverage map for one of the main carriers in the area (mine!) looks like this:

3g v 4g nearby

The salmon and red areas are 4G coverage and the purple is 3G (the light purple is actually data roaming!).  I repeat, this is not a rural area, although it does border on an undeveloped area.  It has been heavily populated for several decades.

For any mHealth / telemedicine deployment to be useful, it will need to be fully functional at 3G network speeds.  This ensures the widest reach to potential patients as well as the most stability for any use while in motion.  I’ll provide an example of each:

First, imagine a household where one of the occupants has a chronic condition and has agreed to use videocalls for check-ins.  As of 2012, the United States has roughly 75 active mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people.1  This could be as high as 84 this year (2014)2, indicating that even low-income families are potentially indicated as having access to mobile broadband.

The follow up question is, do they have access to higher speed 4G networks?  Do they live in neighborhoods with crowded capacity?  Do their devices have the capability to provide the quality of connection required to avoid a trip to the hospital? (Especially costly in the case of rural/distant patients, but applicable to urban/suburban life as well.)  Even if their usage plan includes 4G LTE/WiMax, do they actually have that reception?  Even I don’t have 4G access at home.

The second example may be illustrated by terrestrial ambulances or air medical services (helicopters, etc.).  If EMTs are in communication with a hospital, sharing potentially life-saving visuals and data, then keeping the call from dropping and maintaining the quality of the call can be extremely important–even when buildings and mountains and such block the towers of the speedier networks.

Hospitals, clinics, ambulance services, in fact, any organization looking to improve patient outcomes and streamline their ability to provide service by use of video communication, should keep in mind that the solution they try needs to have a track record of functioning on 3G.  It needs to be a truly mobile solution, that can perform on a number of devices in that network environment, and under any number of conditions within that environment.

ambulance in flood

  1.  “Active mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants 2012”, Dynamic Report, ITU ITC EYE, International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved on 29 June 2013.
  2. ICT Facts and Figures 2014“, ITU ITC EYE, International Telecommunication Union.
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VeaMea named “Best Practice” by SAMHSA

River Edge resized 600  SAMHSA resized 600

River Edge Behavioral Health has been praised by SAMHSA for its forward-thinking, efficient and effective use of technology.

One critical component of their strategy is using VeaMea as a telehealth platform to:

  • Increase access
  • Reduce physician turnover
  • Improve productivity
River Edge transformed their delivery of service.  You can too.
Learn more about River Edge.
Contact Us to find out how you can join them in the ranks of innovators.
Update: You can learn more by downloading our free River Edge Case Study.
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Telepsychiatry Cuts Hospital Admissions and Saves Money

I TOLD YOU SO!

veamea_telepsychiatry-resized-600

Almost 4 months ago, I wrote that TelePsychiatry is the Killer App for Video Conferencing.  It may put a kink in Lucy’s walk-in practice, but the benefits to the rest of society are clear.  (And if Lucy would like to Expand Her Presence, there is a place she can go)

Who should come along to back me up, but the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).  Their July 2011 issue of ACEP News includes an article titled “ED Telepsychiatry Cuts Admissions, Saves Money.”

The article tells the story of implementations in South Carolina and includes a commentary by the vice chair for Emergency Medicine at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Pennsylvania where a telepsychiatry program is also in place.

The following data are from the South Carolina study:

  • Admission rates (33% lower)
  • Length of Emergency Department stays (25% shorter)
  • Outpatient follow-up rates (nearly 4x higher)
  • Cost (29% lower for Medicaid patients, 38% lower for private insurance)
  • Patient satisfaction: 80%
  • Physician Satisfaction: 90%
  • Physicians who believe they are more productive using telepsychiatry: 75%

Per the study, “the patient receives a higher quality of care, and the hospitals have reduced costs.”

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6 Learnings from the American Telemedicine Association Annual

VeaMea (now swy|me) visited the American Telemedicine Association Annual Conference in Tampa this past week.  It was an interesting conference with thousands of participants, and hundreds of vendors.

We had some interesting conversations with people who are, or are going to be, practicing Telemedicine as well as a variety of support organizations.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Rural Healthcare Telecom Subsidies — The Universal Services Fund has $400 million in telecom subsidies to give away each year.  They have only been Read more