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Telehealth a hit in rural Ohio

December 1, 2009 at 8:18 pm PST

Here at the TANDBERG Public Sector blog, we’ve talked extensively about the different ways that video teleconferencing (VTC) is currently being implemented in the healthcare space. The fact is, as HD technologies and picture quality have improved and high-bandwidth broadband has become more readily available, the ability to provide medical care via video has increased exponentially.

Rural areas are one of the main beneficiaries of these technologies. Small, rural hospitals often struggle to afford and lure big city specialists to join their staff. When a specialist is needed, it’s often the patient that suffers as they either have to be transported to where a specialist is available, or wait for one to arrive. This can take time that the patient doesn’t have and can lead to additional, often life-altering complications and side-effects.

Pediatrics is a great example of this. For rural hospitals without pediatricians on staff, the treatment of children can be a tricky proposal. Adena Health System in Chillicothe, Ohio, is currently using telemedicine to collaborate with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus for just this purpose. Utilizing VTC, the staff at Adena Health System are able to easily consult with pediatricians at Nationwide to determine if a baby needs to be transferred to Columbus for care. This has reduced transfers by almost 40% and helps speed diagnosis.

Adena isn’t the only hospital and health group embracing telehealth in Ohio, but there are complications for many. Unfortunately, rural broadband adoption has been slow in some places and the available bandwidth can’t support VTC. Also, some small, rural hospitals are struggling to afford VTC equipment.

Luckily, the Obama administration has made rural broadband adoption one of the key areas he’s looking to address during his presidency. Although this has been slow to materialize, the promise and potential for increased broadband in rural America remains. Also, $34.9 million in grants was recently awarded by the Agriculture Department to expand access to health care services in rural areas, which will hopefully go a long way in making VTC solutions available to rural hospitals.

Diagnosis via video? That’s an exciting and new way of healing. Here at TANDBERG we’re excited to be on the forefront of a medical revolution.

Putting the "social" in social studies

November 24, 2009 at 5:16 pm PST

Maps—for many of us, they were the bane of our existence during social studies and history classes. From learning about our own state and its capital, we moved on to being required to know each state in the union and its capital. Soon we were putting together little rhymes and phrases to help us remember which Scandinavian and Latin American country was which.

For those of us with poor memories, maps were evil in paper form, rolled up and taunting us from their perches above the chalkboard or glaring at us from our desk, challenging us to identify the names of the landmasses separated by squiggly black lines and dry, two-dimensional oceans.

Once the maps were memorized to the best of our abilities and the tests taken to prove it, the rich history of these far off lands and the cultures of their inhabitants were soon narrated to us from the pages of books. We were taught by people who, more often than not, had never traversed the squiggly black lines and stepped foot in those countries.

Minds were filled with stories of battles, revolutions, military coups, the rise and fall of empires and the erasing and subsequent redrawing of the squiggly black lines. But we never once saw these places for ourselves. Many of us never would.

But that was then, and this is now. Technology innovations like TANDBERG’s video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions have since erased and redrawn the boundaries of how we teach all subjects, but especially social studies.

In 2009 a new program called the Global Classroom Project was begun at four schools, including Colvin Run Elementary School in Fairfax, VA. The Global Classroom Project utilizes VTC solutions to connect students from classrooms in places like Colvin Run to students around the world, where they can discuss their cultures, lives and outlook on world news and events.

Unlike in the past, students are now communicating face-to-face with people thousands of miles away and with very different cultures via VTC. This provides not only a window into another culture, but a first-hand look at the people and places that were previously only available in words and pictures on a page. In addition to promoting collaboration and understanding with people of other cultures, it’s also creating a feeling of oneness with people who are so culturally different, yet so similar in many ways.

The benefits to the students at places like Colvin Run don’t end with the rich educational experience and cultural understanding they receive. Awareness and acceptance of new technologies is being integrated into lessons about geography and social studies. They’re essentially learning technology and social studies together.

VTC is empowering a richer, fuller educational experience and opening a window to a world that was previously confined to the pages of a text book. Now that’s a new way of learning for a world without borders.

The Trials of Homeland Security

November 20, 2009 at 10:20 am PST

It’s probably safe to say that any American not born this decade can recall where they were at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. At this time that a passenger plane collided with the north tower of the World Trade Center. Some 15 minutes later, another plane would strike the south tower. Two additional planes would later fall from the sky, one collided with the Pentagon and the other crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

Sept. 11, 2001, remains one of the largest tragedies and deadliest terrorist attacks in American history. And now, more than eight years later, the alleged mastermind behind the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four other alleged terrorists are set to face charges in federal court in New York.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to put these individuals on trial for federal charges has been a topic of contention for multiple reasons. Some Americans feel they should face trial via military commission. Still others are concerned about the consequences of bringing alleged terrorists into the country, especially into a city that has been the target of multiple terrorist attacks and remains in a state of constant vigilance.

Although, much like Attorney General Holder, we believe in the abilities of New York’s police department and those of the country’s multiple agencies who protect the American people by identifying and neutralizing threats before they occur, we feel that transporting these criminals into the country and trying them in New York City is a very large risk.

Just as previous terrorist attacks, including the recent tragic incident in Fort Hood, Texas, have taught us, the actions of a single individual or small group of terrorists can be difficult, if not impossible, to foresee. The Attorney General himself said in a prepared statement, “Future dangerousness is notoriously difficult to predict.” If that’s the case, why can’t we find a way to bring these individuals to trial without increasing the risk of this kind of attack?

In recent posts on the TANDBERG Public Sector blog we’ve discussed how video teleconferencing (VTC) systems have made prisons and criminal justice systems operate more efficiently and effectively by reducing the need to physically transport criminals to court. Couldn’t this same concept be implemented to conduct the criminal trial of these suspected terrorists?

By moving these individuals from their current location in Guantanamo Bay into a city already considered a top terrorist target, we are increasing the chance of an attack and putting American citizens in danger. Conducting the trial via VTC alleviates the need to bring the accused into the country and could significantly reduce this risk.

In fact, we believe so strongly that VTC is a better, safer and more effective solution that we’re willing to do more than just talk about it.

If Attorney General Holder and the United States Government are willing to try these individuals via VTC, TANDBERG will not only applaud their decision, but supply the products and services needed to make it happen. That’s right, for the length of the trial, TANDBERG will deliver the hardware and services needed to ensure that the terror suspects never have to step foot in New York City free of charge. Why? Because when it comes to the safety of American citizens, even the smallest chance of attack is too large.

Video Conferencing Backstage I: An Easy to Manage Network

So much of video conferencing discussion revolves around telepresence and HD quality video , but there’s more to a successful video deployment than endpoints.  What about the supporting cast: the network infrastructure?  If a video network is cumbersome, difficult to deploy and challenging to manage, how effective can it truly be?

Having a management suite that is easy for the administrator to provision and update is critical to a successful video network.  Likewise, it’s the management tools that make it easy for end users to schedule meetings and connect point to point and multipoint video calls.  An intuitive management system will increase the effectiveness and overall adoption of a video system.  So what should an administrator look for when deciding on a solution that is right for them?   For starters, the ability to manage a network from a central location is crucial.  Monitoring, troubleshooting and resolving issues quickly and easily will help ensure maximum network availability.   If the tools are reliable, users will make them part of their daily business routine.  Similarly, if they are intuitive, the learning curve is marginalized, making adoption a seamless process.

A few questions to consider when evaluating a video management suite:

  • How quickly and easy will it be to provision endpoints to a large number of users?
  • Can the video network be maintained without the requirement for significant additional resources?
  • Is it easy for users to place scheduled as well as ad hoc calls?
  • Will end users embrace the technology?
  • Can the management be integrated easily with other existing scheduling tools and phonebooks like Microsoft Exchange?

Doing due diligence when researching a video network will pay dividends in the long run.  Endpoints will help transform the business, but only if they are used.  A quality management system will ensure the tools are used.

Stuck in the Middle: The Need for Video in Middle Schools

November 17, 2009 at 6:46 pm PST

The TANDBERG team recently returned from the National Middle School Association’s (NMSA) annual conference in Indianapolis. As usual, the conference was a hall pass for over 8,000 of the nation’s middle school decision makers to advance themselves professionally and discuss best practices in teaching America’s students during what is considered one of the most important and transformative parts of their young lives.

For this year’s show, TANDBERG had the privilege and honor to do more than just exhibit our products and discuss the money-saving and education-advancing implementations of video teleconferencing (VTC) in education. TANDBERG got to do some hands-on learning by delivering presenters, content and virtual field trips via video in the 21st Century Classroom, a state-of-the art classroom exhibit that the NMSA constructed with the assistance of TANDBERG and other vendors. The first event delivered via TANDBERG VTC solutions was an interactive tour of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef during the opening reception.

If the Great Barrier Reef wasn’t interesting enough, we spent some significant time discussing the issues facing educators with faculty and staff from America’s middle schools. One of the recurring themes we heard was an almost-universal perception that middle schools are often lacking visibility in the public eye. Literally, “stuck in the middle” between the excitement and newness of elementary school and the ambition and drive of high school, middle schools are often not first priority for new technologies, funding and other resources.

This slight to middle schools, perceived or not, is concerning considering how important those years are to the education and development of students. Luckily, there are programs helping schools with some of these challenges. In a recent Federal Computer Week article, Doug Beizer discussed the grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) designed to bring VTC technologies to rural areas for distance learning and telehealth applications.

The $34.9 million in grants has been earmarked for 111 projects in 35 states, and has potential to make a significant impact on schools struggling for the resources and technologies they need to educate their students.

VTC solutions enable middle schools to share resources, including teachers, with other schools. This is exceptionally helpful for schools looking to begin or continue teaching fine arts, languages and other subjects where teachers may not be in the budget or available due to geographic location.

VTC solutions also open the door for previously unheard-of educational experiences for students. Through VTC, experts can join classes via video to discuss specific current events, trends or subjects. Students can adventure on virtual fieldtrips to places like rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef – trips that would have been logistically and financially unfeasible without video.

So for all of those middle schools out there, we feel your pain. But help just might be on the way, via video.