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Healthcare Innovations: Getting Better, Faster with RTC

September 18, 2015

Mobile communications is making a huge impact upon the health care industry, with the ability to save U.S. companies up to $6 billion a year in costs by some estimates. A recent study by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) expects virtual telemedicine visits to skyrocket in the near future. Last year, 48 percent of 140 large employers surveyed by NBGH made telehealth options available. In 2016, that number is expected to jump to 74 percent.

First wave systems focused on a teleconferencing experience, where patients and doctors in different locations can talk and discuss.  The City of Houston provides first responders with a tablet so a doctor can do a direct consult with a patient to determine if a call is urgent enough to require immediate transportation to an ER or if the health issue can be handled by a local clinic.  Kaiser Permanente and other larger HMOs are starting to provide telemedicine consults for off-hours and transportation-limited customers in a similar mode.  Savings could be huge; with Houston estimating it could save up to $1 million or more a year on unnecessary ambulance runs and ER visits.

But telemedicine is only a starting point, with applications incorporating voice and video and integrating it into a holistic system that includes back-end integration with a patient's medical records and care systems.


TeleCommunication Systems (TCS) showed off its vision of collaborative telemedicine last week at the CTIA Super Mobility Show, announcing the VirtuMedix mobile App for Android and IOS devices for general availability.   Prior to last week's general availability launch, publicly-held TCS says it added nearly 1,000 providers to the VirtuMedix platform over the past six months.

VirtuMedix is a cloud-based telemedicine platform that supports patient-physician interaction, anytime, anywhere, and on any device, so it covers the full range of devices from PCs to smart phones.  Benefits of the app include the ability to provide continuous care for patients whose locations or conditions make office/hospital visits inconvenient or impractical and saving money and maximizing treatment efficacy by enabling doctors to identify and treat patients' conditions in advance of a formal face-to-face medical visit and before conditions escalate.

TCS, with its background in providing products and services to the U.S. military and E911 service for wireless operators, takes VirtuMedix to another level with a focus on security and encryption.   The mobile app supports HIPAA-compliant audio/video communication and information storage, so patients and doctors can communicate privately and securely.  TCS Commercial Software Group President Jay Whitehurst noted that the company had taken the app and put it up against its Cybersecurity penetration team for auditing and will work with providers to ensure that VirtuMedix and the surrounding IT ecosystem is properly secure.

Mental health is arguably a field in rapid evolution. The TelePsych Alliance announced that its MindMe application will leverage RTC in GENBAND's Kandy to help individuals at risk of depression and suicide.  MindMe enables at risk individuals to access self-driven treatment or professional help on a 24 by 7 basis.

MindMe leverages advanced psychotherapy approaches to treating vulnerable individuals by providing a self-guided approach that includes instant messaging, voice, and video conversations with therapists.  Treatment can be extended beyond monthly or weekly in-person visits often limited by insurance coverage, with the app capable of providing direct voice and video communication between a patient and a professional in case of a crisis or other times.

We'll see more solutions integrating data-driven health care with the personal touch delivered by real time communications in the future.  Samsung has demonstrated how to integrate wearables and other IoT home devices with "Big Data" analytics to track a patient's well being.  If things like heart rate are up or weight is down, a cloud system can arrange a RTC voice or video consult between the patient and his health care system to determine if there's a problem that needs to be proactively addressed before things get out of hand.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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