In America, efforts to maintain a healthy society are being challenged by population growth, rising healthcare costs, a lack of access to medical facilities and a serious shortage of physicians that is expected to exceed 100,000 in the coming years. TelaCare is tackling these daunting problems by providing a breakthrough solution that unites healthcare providers and patients in a remarkable new way. With help from INTERSTAR Media, LLC and Vidyo, we've created a new turnkey Telemedicine system that provides a complete practice management solution for physicians and a convenient, comfortable healthcare experience for patients.
Why TelaCare is needed
As an industry executive and father of three children, I founded TelaCare because I want what every parent wants--quick, convenient access to reliable and affordable healthcare. When a child is sick and can't wait for days to see the family doctor, normal routines are disrupted and the parents typically have to spend long, stressful hours trying to soothe their child as they wait in an urgent care clinic. For those who live in rural towns, distance from medical facilities and lack of available doctors lead to lengthy car journeys, often in the middle of the night. Meanwhile, population density in urban areas leads to overbooked doctors and time-consuming, expensive trips to the ER. In both cases, continuity of care is also an issue--not just for children, but for elderly, disabled and otherwise less mobile patients.
Designing the TelaCare Telemedicine Station
When I founded TelaCare, my goal was to overcome the aforementioned issues by making affordable, high-quality services readily available in community settings. As such, our staff worked closely with the healthcare community to ensure we understood the real needs of both physicians and patients. This indispensable knowledge was instrumental in our creation of a new generation of kiosk-based Telemedicine systems.
During the design phase, we sought out high quality, cutting-edge technology that had a proven record of success. When integrating these technologies with our systems, one of our top priorities was to provide a secure, consistent experience; we wanted our clients to feel like they were in the same room at every healthcare visit. This goal led us to look for an established, high quality video conferencing solution that could be easily and effectively extended to accommodate future evolution of our system. Our extensive search culminated in choosing Vidyo on the basis of reliable quality, scalability, ease of use and smooth integration. By leveraging Vidyo's Adaptive Video Layering™ technology and scalable video codec, we can offer consumers optimized and consistent video and audio quality, even in low bandwidth environments. Without the HD quality and integration of video conferencing that Vidyo brings to the kiosk, this level of service would not be possible.
How patients and physicians experience the TelaCare Telemedicine Station
The resulting TelaCare Telemedicine Station is a wall-mounted kiosk with a touch-screen that allows patients to engage in high definition video conferences with board-certified doctors. Interactive diagnostic tools allow the doctors to make treatment recommendations and assess the severity of health problems. The TelaCare Telemedicine Station offers a safe, private environment where patients can talk comfortably and confidentially. Kiosks can be set up wherever convenient, ranging from neighborhood pharmacies and drug stores to schools, community centers and shopping malls. Meanwhile, doctors can easily take part in these face-to-face interactions whether they are working at home or in the office.
Patients can visit a TelaCare Telemedicine Station to be diagnosed with a wide range of common conditions, including colds, the flu, allergies and skin conditions. Patients are invited to discuss their symptoms, just as they would be in the doctor's office, and the physician can also observe non-verbal cues in the patient's physical appearance and demeanor. In addition, the kiosk's integrated digital diagnostic tools check the patient's vital signs, providing real-time medical images and data for examination.
Robin McGill, a 38 year old mom from Toledo, Ohio, speaks positively of her experience as a patient who has visited a TelaCare Telemedicine Station for urgent care:
"I showed up at the kiosk not knowing what to expect. The medical attendant was very helpful and within a few minutes I was inside the kiosk and doing the vital signs self-check. I thought I had a minor sinus infection, but in the process of the remote consultation, the physician identified the problem as more complex--I had a high fever and a double ear infection. I used the otoscope and the physician showed me how the onscreen image indicated infection. During the visit, he was able to refer me to an internist for immediate follow-up care.
It was an empowering experience to get the care I needed without delay--like something out of the future. There weren't any lags in video and audio during my interaction with the doctor, so I felt as if I was with him in person."
Dr. Samant Virk is among the doctors with early and extensive experience with the TelaCare Telemedicine Station:
"The high quality of video and audio in the TelaCare Station is key to establishing a good doctor-patient relationship. Without the level of video conferencing quality that Vidyo provides, the interaction would be uncomfortable and unproductive, particularly in encounters where the doctor and patient are meeting for the first time--it could compromise the relationship and the patient's confidence in both the healthcare encounter and recommended treatment.
There's a growing shortage of physicians, and those who are practicing today understand the increasing need for Telemedicine solutions to help overcome healthcare access and cost issues. I've had occasion to introduce other physicians to use of the TelaCare Telemedicine Station, and they are finding it quite efficient and easy to use. Once they experience the quality of the video communication and the images and data displayed, they see the TelaCare Telemedicine Station as a viable Telemedicine solution that will enable them to make an accurate patient assessment and diagnosis. The fact that the physician can easily share images and data with the patient in real time makes it that much easier to communicate about symptoms and treatment and help the patient feel connected to the process."
Easy installation in any location
Stakeholders in the community will be pleased to learn that TelaCare Telemedicine Stations can be quickly and easily installed without any disruption to infrastructure or business flow. Urban and rural areas are equally well-suited to TelaCare, and our kiosks are particularly appealing to hospitals, retail pharmacies, airports, school campuses, worksites and shopping malls.
We can offer our unique approach to healthcare services in virtually any location with an Internet connection--thanks to Vidyo's seamless integration with our TelaCare Telemedicine Station, we are confident that we can offer reliable, high-quality video communication via ordinary wired or wireless IP networks. The video conferencing virtualization provided by Vidyo has played in a key role in allowing TelaCare to provide efficient, affordable healthcare visits for communities. Vidyo shares our commitments to continuous innovation and accommodates our need for agile development as we constantly update our kiosk system. Along with its flexible platform and unparalleled ability to run on off-the-shelf hardware, Vidyo APIS allow us to wrap our software around the video conferencing technology and tailor the interface to TelaCare requirements. The result is a consistent, high-quality look and feel that earns the trust and confidence of our customers. As a bonus, the seamless integration of Vidyo with our Telemedicine platform helps our developers save valuable time in the design-build-deploy cycle
The Future of TelaCare
As more and more major retail organizations begin to see the significant added value of having high-quality healthcare services at flagship locations, we will expand nationwide.
One of the key reasons why we are attracting increasing numbers of healthcare professionals is that Vidyo makes it so easy to connect to TelaCare Telemedicine Stations using existing devices. There is no need to invest in complex, special-purpose hardware of technical support, and the platform provides essential peace of mind by using encryption technology (in compliance with HIPAA guidelines). Our kiosks use specific technology to authenticate and enable private video and audio communication, embedding the video stream into the conference between the patient and provider in order to preserve confidentiality.
We also expect the popularity of TelaCare to increase in part because the patient care workflow of TelaCare allows providers can save valuable time when dealing with patient data, triage processes and follow-up information. With healthcare reform, this kind of workflow efficiency is more important than ever.
We are proud to be meeting the needs of present and future doctors by helping them to go beyond status quo patient management with a more efficient model of care.