The ongoing economic crisis has impacted everyone. Businesses are cutting costs left and right to help alleviate falling sales revenues in the private sector, and governments have in no way been immune. Currently 48 of the 50 states are mired in a steep budget shortfall and are trying everything possible to cut back.
With education funding being slashed across the country to help states balance their budgets, there are many things school districts are learning to live without. However, new technologies being applied in interesting and innovative ways are enabling some schools to provide a full education without breaking the bank. Most notable of these is video teleconferencing (VTC).
In fact, a recent article in Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook discusses some of the creative and innovative ways in which schools are utilizing VTC technologies as an inexpensive alternative to traditional teacher training.
Often times when budgets are slashed both in the private sector and in government, professional development budgets are one of the first casualties. However, the expense of travel to and enrolling in classes can be dramatically reduced through the integration of VTC. This ensures that teachers are up-to-date on the most recent teaching techniques and curriculum without having the travel to classes.
Also, new professional development opportunities that previously would have been considered disruptive to classrooms are now available only through VTC. For example, the Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook article references the Duval County School District in Florida which has been able to open up the classrooms of high-performing teachers for others to watch, and then subsequently ask questions, thanks in large part to VTC. The initiative is called Model Classrooms and it could not exist without technologies like those in TANDBERG video teleconferencing solutions.
The savings and benefits of VTC for professional development in the education industry are obvious. Without VTC, teachers would need to take days off, be replaced with substitutes and have to travel. With VTC, training can be accomplished in short sessions after school and the money saved on flights, hotel and subs go back in the bank.
Video teleconferencing ensures that teachers can continue to be taught to teach at a low cost. How much can your school system save with VTC?
This week there was an interesting story from IDG Australia about telemedicine in that country. It’s growing rapidly, spurred by economics, the need for better medicine in rural areas and direct government support.
We were struck by the language in the story about expanding broadband in Australia to better healthcare. It sounded very similar to how some of the broadband stimulus dollars from the NTIA and USDA RUS will be used in this country:
In a release, The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said it was a positive early indication that the National Broadband Network (NBN) would benefit video conferencing applications in healthcare.
“The NBN will serve all Australians, no matter where they choose to live and work, and will provide the enabling platform for a whole range of future remote health applications,” Conroy stated.
Australia and the United States are similar in many ways when it comes to expanding broadband and improving the delivery of healthcare. The population is ageing, the countries are large with geographically dispersed populations, and there are particular challenges getting the best care to rural areas.
TANDBERG is a major sponsor of the National Rural Healthcare Association (NRHA) and has supported the improved delivery of rural healthcare for many years. Whatever the funding mechanism, let’s hope that we will continue to accelerate the adoption of video conferencing as quickly as other developed countries.
Last week the TANDBERG team was at the American Telemedicine Association (ATA)’s third annual mid-year conference. Despite the tough economic times, the show was bigger and livelier than ever this year. The adoption of video conferencing has risen dramatically, and attendees were excited to talk about how to implement video and to share best practices.
Driven by the somber forecast for a H1N1 comeback this flu season, a hot topic was the demand for acute medical care and the ability to increase capacity with telemedicine. Having physicians see more patients in a shorter amount of time -- and at more locations -- is appealing not only from a quality of care and people reached perspective, but also from the doctor’s perspective. Seeing a flu patient over video also means it’s less likely that the doctor will get sick as well. It’s quite a healthy win/win!
Mental Health and Behavioral Health are natural applications for video communications -- patients can get the care they need without driving, missing work or school time and docs more easily see more patients in a wider geography.
The conference has also turned into a hotbed for start-ups. The floor was chock full of people interested in getting into telemedicine. We talked to attendees about everything from a non-profit bringing healthcare to students in Haiti to a small private practice connecting to a large, urban hospital. There is no doubt telemedicine has hit the tipping point and the American Telemedicine Association is the place to be for information, guidelines and networking.
Healthcare to children and schools was a big focus of discussion -- partly because one of the tracks was the 4th Annual Pediatric Telehealth Colloquium, but also because schools and healthcare providers alike are realizing the power of video communications to delivery healthcare more efficiently. The applications discussed were numerous -- diabetes education, mental health treatment, drug and alcohol education and treatment. And all of this can be done without losing instructional time or incurring costs of travel/transport.
Central to the ongoing healthcare reform debate is the inconsistent level of care delivered to American citizens. These discrepancies and the gaps in access to effective healthcare are huge issues that video can address in immediate ways. Vulnerable populations, especially in remote, underserved areas, can access care from a previously inaccessible specialist via video at a local clinic or even in their home.
Look for telemedicine to remain a white hot space, and we’ll look for you at the next ATA event!