Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) is renowned for excellence in patient care, biomedical resource, education, and community service. The Center includes more than 47 buildings on 31 acres. BIDMC is also the founding member of the CareGroup Healthcare System, the second largest integrated delivery system in the northeastern United States, with revenues of $1.2 billion annually. Comprised of a network of six hospitals, 3000 providers, and more than 13.000 staff people in eastern Massachusetts, CareGroup annually serves more than a million patients. Video conferencing has been harnessed for a wide variety of applications since 1995.
"We know that interpretation services are critical to our ability to provide timely, exceptional health care to the communities we serve", noted Peter Macaulay, director of media services, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "In this pilot project, CareLink eliminates the transit time for interpreters between multiple campus locations, improving response time. This especially holds true for unscheduled and after-hour patient visits. CareLink also enables us to expand access to qualified medical interpreters for a greater number of languages, without the requirement to hire additional full-time interpreters."
Previously, the hospital used audio-only telephone calls or ISDN-based video conference calls to support interpretation when interpreters were not available. While the audio-only calls meet the immediate interpreting need for non-English speakers, visual clues are lost, which limits effectiveness. The second option, ISDN-based video conferencing, has developed primarily within the hearing impaired community.
The two-way audio and video forms a significant improvement over audio-only telephone calls. However, there are sometimes prohibitive cost-per-minute charges incurred. CareLinks' Video-Over-IP technology delivers "free access" to the wide-ranging language capabilities of the medical centre's professional interpreters, specialised in Russian, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Cape Verdean, Vietnamese, and Sign Language. CareLink is utilised for both scheduled health care visits and unscheduled emergency room visits.
"We were impressed and inspired by the hospital's creative CareLink project", commented Mary DeVany, telehealth network manager, Avera McKennan Hospital, and president, PictureTel User Group. "The BIDMC programme is technically innovative due to the use of video-over-IP and the incorporation of wireless technologies, and is unique in the health care environment due to the number of language groups it can serve. The BIDMC is effectively demonstrating a powerful benefit in improving access to exceptional health care."
The Americas PictureTel User Group (APUG) was founded in 1992 as an independent, international organisation to promote and encourage communication between users of PictureTel Corporation products and services. The group provides feedback to PictureTel on product enhancements and new development, and works toward the overall education of the video conferencing professional. The PictureTel User Group is dedicated to influencing the development of standards-based multi-media tele-conferencing technologies and applications; improving industry support and services; and facilitating the exchange of information among its user members.