Chambers and Schwarzenegger Announce Telemedicine Pilot Program for California
Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers says telemedicine will help buffer a looming shortfall of 160,000 doctors in the coming years, and a new pilot program using Cisco HealthPresence technologies shows how it can be done.
Chambers was referring to a prediction by the Association of American Medical Colleges in comments he made last Friday at a press conference with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in Long Beach. The chief executives were there to announce a telemedicine pilot program aimed at providing healthcare to underserved communities throughout the state.
The program – which uses state-of-the-art video, audio and medical data to create remarkably life-like, virtual doctor-patient encounters – will equip more than 15 sites in California to deliver telemedicine using HealthPresence technologies. It’s the result of a partnership involving the state of California, Molina Healthcare, two San Diego health centers – Mountain Health and Community Services and La Maestra Community Health Centers – and Cisco, which is contributing $10 million in products, services and support.
With Schwarzenegger and Chambers standing by, doctors demonstrated the power of the technologies by consulting with a patient in Sacramento, 400 miles away. HealthPresence has been piloted for two years in clinical settings, but the new initiative is specifically geared toward low-income individuals and families, with the idea that it could eventually span the entire state, Cisco said.
“Telemedicine saves time and it saves money, but most importantly it will save lives,” Schwarzenegger said. “Every Californian should have equal access to quality medical care, even people that live in the most rural areas.”
Chambers, equipped with his ever-ready Flip camera, said the medical profession has not dramatically changed in 60 years but is now at a turning point, thanks to technologies like HealthPresence.
“You don’t solve current problems with old-world solutions,” he said, noting that both his parents were doctors and that he has siblings in the medical field.
Chambers said telemedicine technology would eventually work with such devices as smart phones and even be available to consumers at home via broadband and a high-definition TV.
Chambers said telemedicine can help chronically ill or elderly patients see the doctor without leaving home, allow people to see several doctors when necessary without repeated trips to the hospital and generally supplement in-person doctor’s visits. This is increasingly important, he said, as doctors become scarcer – a situation he said will only get worse and be harder to pay for under the current healthcare model as the population ages.
California’s investment in telemedicine projects – including a brand new 52,000 square-foot facility at the University of California Davis to help train doctors in eHealth – was funded in part by $200 million earmarked for the purpose in infrastructure bonds passed in 2006, Schwarzenegger said.
Schwarzenegger said that, in addition to healthcare access, the program would likely stimulate new jobs in California in future. Chambers said the $3 billion healthcare information technology industry is blossoming into a $10 billion market, and Schwarzenegger praised Cisco’s track record of creating jobs, both in California and beyond.
“It’s about jobs, jobs, jobs,” the governor said. “I don’t want to wait for the world economy to come back, or for Washington to come up with a great job creation program. We have to create the action in California.”
Videos at the event:
Blog authored by Laurence Cruz