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Cisco Systems’ newest Telehealth solutions drew strong interest Sunday night as thousands of health care professionals converged for the start of the American Telemedicine Association 2012 meeting in San Jose.
Conventiongoers praised Cisco’s ability to devise and deliver end-to-end solutions that meet customers’ demand for simplicity – in both implementation and operation.
“Cisco provides incredible value to telehealth,” enthused Dr. Shez Partovi, chief medical information officer at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, during a visit to Cisco’s Booth 1434 on the exhibition floor.
“In order to really be able to deliver telehealth efficiently, you need to be able to integrate across the enterprise. The underbelly of that system is managed really elegantly by Cisco.”
As ATA attendees lined up for product demos from the dozen white-shirted Cisco hosts staffing Booth 1434, Dr. Danny Sands, Cisco’s chief medical informatics officer, said physicians’ biggest misconception about telemedicine is that the technology gets in the way and makes it harder to take care of a patient. “It’s really an enabling technology,” said Sands. “We can do almost as much with technology today as we can face to face.”
Physicians have historically been reluctant technology adopters, said Sands, noting their past resistance to the telephone, then email – primarily, he said, because they were uncertain they’d be paid for delivering care via those channels. But telehealth, he said, is going through an important inflection point.
“The fact that now I can have an interaction that allows me to see you life-size… that’s quite magical,” said Sands. “And the fact that it’s a fluid, immersive interaction is magical. The technologies are becoming transparent… We’re moving from an era where we need technologists to run the technology, to an era in which I feel like I’ve seen you face to face. That’s the magic.”
Front and center in the Cisco booth was the new Cisco VX Clinical Assistant, a compact mobile telemedicine cart built expressly for medical environments and classified as a Class 1 medical device. Also attracting interest was the new Cisco TelePresence VX Tactical solution, a mobile video collaboration system in a ruggedized briefcase designed for harsh field conditions. General availability for the solution is planned for June 2012.
Look ahead to two years from now, said Sands, and the technology will get even better. “Maybe holograms,” he said. “In a few years, haptics.”
“I think we’re going to have telemedicine specialists who only see patients as a telemedicine encounter.”
For his part, Partovi predicted the near future will see downscaling of telehealth solutions so they are accessible to ever-smaller practices, accompanied by constantly improving economics.
“In order to be able to become ubiquitous, and to get to a point where you have telehealth as simple as online banking, you have to scale it from enterprise down. So the direction is going to be to try to push it to become simpler and simpler, so that it can be adopted by every physician as part of their practice,” Partovi said. “Cisco has demonstrated the ability to scale down.”
ATA runs through Tuesday, May 1 at the San Jose Convention Center.

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