Real Time Communications Featured Article

How Videoconferencing Technology is Helping Save Lives

August 01, 2016

No one wants to take a ride in an ambulance. That’s a fact. If you’re in an ambulance, that most likely means that you are having a health issue, which could be caused by a variety of things. It’s not fun to think about, but it happens to a lot of people. I’ll tell you what is interesting to think about, though, the idea of enabling video conferencing in ambulances. This concept could revolutionize patient care and allow people to receive the help they need right away.

A recent clinical trial, referred to as The Improving Treatment with Rapid Evaluation of Acute Stroke via Mobile Telemedicine (iTREAT), conducted by researchers from the University of Virginia (UVA) Health System in Charlottesville, found that videoconferencing in ambulances could make a world of difference when it comes to patient care. The study, which gave paramedics accompanying patients in ambulances access to mobile videoconferencing, found that the EMTs were able to discuss the patient’s needs with a doctor via video feed. This study focused specifically on stroke patients and how receiving treatment as soon as possible could reduce their risk of disability and death. The doctor could see and assess the patient before they even got to the hospital, meaning that they could offer the paramedics advice on how to best handle the situation until they arrived at the hospital.

Andrew M. Southerland, assistant professor of neurology and head of the study team, commented on the importance of this development by saying, “Acute stroke is a very time-dependent illness. Specifically, in acute ischemic stroke, if you can remove the vascular obstruction and re-vascularize the injured part of the brain in a timely way, you can potentially prevent disability and death.”

According to an article from Medical News Today, “In the U.S., stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability and is responsible for 130,000 deaths a year—that is one out of every 20 deaths.” By enabling paramedics to communicate with doctors via videoconferencing on the way to the hospital, the number of deaths by stroke could be decreased significantly. In fact, the iTREAT study found that having a low-cost computer tablet, enabled with videoconferencing capabilities, in the ambulance was like having the hospital doctor in the ambulance along with the paramedic and patient. With two medical professionals at your side, assessing your condition, you’re bound to be well taken care of. This idea if backed up by the study’s findings. After testing, Professor Southerland and his colleagues found that the system had sufficient quality and connectivity to allow successful consultations in over 90 percent of local test runs. That makes this concept a complete game changer when it comes to saving lives and preventing life-altering disabilities.

Another new app that falls into this category of medical services is Skywriter MD, a real-time, true, virtual medical scribe service provider dedicated to helping physicians increase the amount of time they may spend with patients while decreasing their heavy documentation burden. Skywriter MD leveraged new communication technology from to deliver an upgraded patient experience, both during and after the doctor visit. 

Essentially, it’s operating on the same idea as the previous clinical study: the sooner patients have access to a doctor, the better. Anyone who has ever been in a hospital knows that medical scribes are basically an extension of the doctor’s arm. They take down all of your information and brief the doctor on your situation. Through Skywriter’s system, this briefing can happen before the patient even reaches the hospital. That way, physicians are prepped and ready to meet patients as soon as they arrive, thus easing the burden on everyone involved.

So, how exactly does this work? An idea like this almost sounds too good to be true. Well, this solution relies heavily on real-time communications. According to their website, “Providers connect with Skywriters using a portable device (tablet or laptop); a wearable communication device is optional. Skywriters navigate the EMR, enter discrete data into the EMR’s progress notes and H&Ps, execute tasks and write orders as directed. Screen-sharing technology allows the provider to watch and/or review, and sign the record within their native EMR. Upon completion of the administrative tasks, the Skywriter is immediately available to support other providers. A designated team of Skywriters consistently service each physician group, fostering a familiar experience.” It sounds to me like this is an incredibly efficient process, enabling doctors to be well-informed about a patient upon arrival.

At the end of the day, the company is all about helping patients, doctors and EMTs alike. Being rushed to the hospital is stressful on everyone involved, so getting one step out of the way before the patient arrives at the hospital can be nothing but helpful when it comes to saving lives.

“Skywriter MD is helping physicians shift their focus back to the patient, while still meeting the intense documentation requirements associated with Meaningful Use, Accountable Care, and the countless other regulations that have evolved over the past decade. By providing more time for direct patient interaction, care quality and patient throughput is improved, and satisfaction scores for both patients and providers increase dramatically.”

Between doctors being able to offer real-time advice to EMTs in ambulances and medical scribes taking down all the necessary patient information before they arrive at the hospital, it’s safe to say that the medical industry is being revamped. EMTS, doctors and scribes are all in the business of saving lives, and video conferencing technology has proven to be an ample tool in aiding that important process.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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