If you live in a rural or remote area, access to quality healthcare may be less an issue of insurance coverage, referrals or finances, than an issue of logistics and geography.
Small town hospitals struggle to attract the quality doctors who practice out of the big cities and their suburbs, and many can’t afford to keep the specialists, like neurologists, psychiatrists and other doctors, who can offer patients quality care for specific disorders and illnesses.
To get the care of these doctors, many patients find themselves taking long and expensive trips for treatments. Although this may be fine for non-emergency situations, it can mean delays in administering life-saving treatments when emergency care is needed. These delays can lead to additional life-altering complications, and in some cases be the difference between life and death.
One of the greatest examples of this is stroke. When strokes are caused by blood clots, there are clot-dissolving medications that can be administered to remove the clot and mitigate the damage. Unfortunately, many general practitioners are unable to tell the cause of a stroke immediately and therefore hesitant to administer these medications before a patient can be seen by a neurologist. For some patients, that means being stabilized and transferred over long distances to see a specialist while the delay in treatment leads to increasing damage and lesser recovery.
But now there’s a better way.
To help deliver relief to stroke victims faster and more efficiently, many hospitals without resident neurologists are turning to video teleconferencing (VTC). By connecting doctors in remote and rural hospitals with neurologists miles away via VTC, patients can be examined, and life-saving medicines can be administered, without the significant delays of transporting a patient or awaiting the arrival of a specialist.
This is one of the reasons why the Center for Connected Health and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) recently upgraded their VTC systems with solutions from TANDBERG. The TANDBERG solutions will provide an interoperable, reliable and easy to use VTC system that will enable MGH’s staff of internationally-renowned stroke neurologists, including Dr. Lee Schwamm and other specialists, to treat patients and provide consultations to doctors regardless of where they are located.
In addition to their telestroke program, MGH has launched a pilot program that utilizes TANDBERG’s VTC solutions that, when implemented, can be a real life saver. It’s called teletrauma, and it will enable MGH to bring specialists and translators directly into the emergency room. This is especially important in places with large populations of non-English-speaking residents who may be unable to accurately and effectively describe their problems to doctors. It’s also an excellent way to deliver fast diagnosis and treatment in places where specialists may be a long distance away for people experiencing medical emergencies.
The use of VTC in healthcare is no longer a novelty. VTC is responsible for bringing life-saving treatments to patients who may have had no access to them, or may have had to wait significant amounts of time for them. Through VTC, every patient is able to receive timely, quality care regardless of where they are. At TANDBERG, we’re proud to be at the forefront of this new way to heal.
This week I had the pleasure to attend the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ (NASCIO) 2009 Annual Conference in Austin, TX. The conference brings together CIOs, information technology executives and managers from the states, territories, and the District of Columbia with technology providers to discuss best practices and issues in the public and private sector IT space.
Regardless of which state, territory or district the CIOs and IT professionals represented, one constant seemed to emerge from my conversations: the economy has created significant internal pressure to do more with less.
As my associates have mentioned multiple times on this blog, 48 of the 50 states are experiencing significant budget shortfalls during this economic downturn. With tight budgets getting slashed even more, CIOs are searching for inexpensive technologies that can help their states operate more effectively and save money.
One of the major directions this new cost-cutting directive is leading state CIOs towards is consolidation. In many states, multiple agencies, offices, college campuses, medical facilities, etc., are all employing their own disparate network infrastructures. Each of these network infrastructures costs money to power and maintain and is often not being used to capacity. There is considerable savings to be gained by consolidating these disparate networks and having multiple organizations utilizing the same networks.
One thing that wasn’t often mentioned in all of the consolidation discussions was the multiple disparate video teleconferencing (VTC) infrastructures in each state. With VTC being viewed as a cost saving and mission-critical technology in government offices, schools, hospitals, and other organizations, the proliferation of video in government agencies and organizations has been rapid, but oftentimes disjointed.
By consolidating disparate VTC networks, the states would be taking a huge leap forward in operational effectiveness and efficiency. Collaboration and communication between and within government agencies would steadily increase, new advanced technologies, such as instant messaging and IP telephony would become available to employees, and conducting “business as usual” would be significantly easier in the face of emergency or crisis.
The benefits of the consolidation of state VTC networks are great, but luckily, the price doesn’t have to be. This can all be accomplished without the need to tear down existing infrastructures and rebuild thanks to interoperable VTC solutions like the ones offered by TANDBERG.
The simple addition of some interoperable VTC solutions could turn multiple, disjointed VTC networks into one state-wide VTC network that enables continuity of operations, increases efficiency, and saves money. In this economy, can your state afford to not consider VTC network consolidation?
Video conferencing can help prevent the risk of exposure to illness from traveling
According to Dr. Robert C. Chandler, an expert on organizational behavior and communication during human health crises, “When epidemics like H1N1 strike, companies are forced to re-assess their business continuity plans to ensure possible business impact is minimized or avoided all together. Preparedness and communication are the foundation to any effective plan. Given the widespread risk of H1N1, businesses with the ability to maintain communication via virtual face-to-face connectivity will undoubtedly come out ahead.”
So, how can visual communications help prevent workplace illness? Here are 5 ways:
- Minimize Business Travel – Whether you travel by planes, trains or automobiles, traveling puts you at increased risk to exposure to illness. HD video conferencing is a proven alternative that is just as good as being there, but doesn’t come with the added risk. It’s more cost-effective too.
- Maximize Teleworking Productivity – When you need to telework to prevent the spread of illness, or to take care of a sick loved one, being visually enabled with video conferencing helps maintain productivity by enabling face-to-face collaboration to keep you engaged while working from home.
- Minimize High Risk Exposure – Some businesses have instituted a 48 hour (the incubation period for the H1N1 virus) work from home policy for employees who simply couldn’t avoid air travel as a measure to minimize risk to the rest of the workforce. For those people, remote video conferencing solutions help them maintain business as usual.
- Highly Effective Crisis Communications -- In the event that your business needs to implement its business continuity plan, the most effective and reassuring method for communication is in-person. Video allows managers to deliver direction and important information face-to-face, when in-person isn’t possible.
- Meetings On-Demand – Video tools that support recording, archiving and streaming of video for playback at any time are essential for ensuring that key people stay informed, even when they can’t be there.
Can you think of other ways video helps prevent workplace illness? I’d like to hear your thoughts.
School was a little different for Hawaii’s 170,000 public school students last Friday. In fact, it didn’t exist. That’s because last Friday was the first of 17 scheduled furlough days for Hawaii’s 13,000 public school teachers. These furlough days were designed to help reduce the state’s budget deficit and will make its school calendar the shortest of any in the United States.
Like many states, Hawaii’s economy is hurting during the ongoing economic downturn and the state budget shortfall is causing significant cuts across the board. Unfortunately, the latest and deepest cut is one that may be more counterproductive than lawmakers realize.
With the country’s economic situation steadily, if not slowly improving, new jobs are on the horizon. However, the ability to lure new businesses and jobs to the state often comes down to the availability of a well-trained workforce, and cutting education funding is one way to ensure that your state’s workforce is not prepared to compete in the global economy for available jobs.
We understand Hawaii’s desire to work towards a balanced budget without cutting the jobs of school faculty and staff, but there’s a better way to cut education costs without sacrificing the quantity and quality of the education being provided. Video teleconferencing (VTC) is an effective, lower-cost solution of educating students in a way that is just as effective, if not more effective, than traditional schooling.
By utilizing VTC solutions, school systems can increase the effectiveness and range of each teacher by having them teach multiple classes via video. This allows schools to address teacher shortages without the need to hire additional resources. This also allows schools in remote or geographically isolated areas to offer a wider range of subject and classes that they originally didn’t have the staff to offer. This can enable schools to continue to offer arts and other classes and electives via video that may have been too costly to continue.
In addition to increasing the effectiveness of each teacher and providing flexibility in scheduling and additional teaching resources to schools, VTC also enables teachers to continue their education in a way that is less expensive and inconvenient to school systems. As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, professional development for teachers via VTC allows them to stay on top of the latest teaching techniques and advances without a need for expensive travel and substitute teachers.
If you’re not completely sold on the benefits of VTC in educational environments, simply look at Arkansas. The State of Arkansas’ distance learning and video initiative has allowed small districts the opportunity to offer courses they otherwise would not be able to offer and has provided a richer educational experience when one would be unavailable due to a scarcity of funds or resources.
The recent decision for teacher furloughs and to close schools for 17 days is not only a poor one, but an unnecessary one. Less school is not only harmful for students, but damaging for Hawaii’s economic future. There are alternatives like VTC. Can Hawaii really afford not to explore them?
In an effort to make some needed room in a tight state budget, the State of Utah recently made the decision to close government offices on Fridays. To accommodate the loss of a workday, the state moved from an 8 hour workweek to a 10 hour workweek Monday through Thursday.
A recent article by Associated Press reporter Paul Foy looked back on that schedule-shrinking decision to see what the end result was in savings. According to Foy, the State of Utah saved more than $500,000 in energy expenditures, $200,000 in reduced janitorial services and significant savings in overtime. The end result was a total savings of $4.8 million.
In addition to the significant cost savings, there’s been an unexpected result. Employees are happier. More than 85 percent of government employees responded to a survey saying they were happy with the switch to four longer workdays a week with three day weekends.
However, despite all of the positives from this new program, there have only been a handful of states looking to emulate it. There are multiple reasons why states may be hesitant to pull the trigger on the four-day workweek, but the largest is the fact that four-day weeks make state agencies and offices unavailable to constituents for three days a week instead of the standard two.
For states looking for the cost savings that comes with keeping employees away from the office, but are hesitant to fully embrace four-day workweeks, video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions like the ones provided by TANDBERG are the perfect compromise.
By implementing VTC solutions, states enable face-to-face communication between employees regardless of distance. This ability to seamlessly communicate and collaborate removes many barriers keeping state organizations and agencies from embracing telework and enables employees to continue to accomplish mission-critical tasks from outside of the office.
By implementing VTC solutions for non-constituent-facing employees, states can begin scheduling telework days and encouraging entire offices to work in a distributed manner. This allows states to keep agencies and organizations functioning five days a week while reaping the rewards of reduced energy costs, less janitorial expenses and reduced overtime from increased productivity.
VTC brings all of the savings of a four-day workweek without having to deprive constituents of important services for whole days at a time. Now that’s a cost saving solution that benefits employees and constituents.