"Demand for telehealth programmes is exploding because it addresses one of the fundamental challenges facing the health care industry today, which is that there are not enough doctors and they are unevenly distributed", stated Dr. Deborah Jeffries, director of health care markets, Polycom. "Polycom telehealth solutions address this issue by bringing physicians to the point of care, regardless of their location."
The enhanced Polycom solution combines the Polycom Converged Management Application (CMA), a comprehensive video network management system, Polycom CMA Desktop, a highly scalable, cost-effective solution for PC-based desktop video conferencing, and the Polycom Video Border Proxy (VBP) line of network-aware firewall traversal systems, which work in conjunction with existing firewall infrastructure to allow seamless and secure video calling between networks. The standards-based offering delivers powerful, high-quality visual communication capabilities, including the ability to share video, audio and content from medical devices, and features seamless interoperability with other standards-based telehealth, telepresence and video conferencing solutions.
The new solution helps organisations like the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) significantly expand their existing capabilities to address growing demand. OTN is a service provider for hospitals and health clinics throughout the Ontario province and operates one of the largest, most active telehealth networks in the world. The network includes more than 1500 video systems and OTN estimates it facilitated more than 53.000 clinical consultations and more than 12.000 education and training events in 2008.
"Demand for telehealth services in Ontario is outstripping supply even with our growth rates of between 20 to 40 percent a year", stated Ron Riesenbach, vice president of emerging business, OTN. "There are approximately 150.000 health care professionals in the province. We service several thousand of them, but we have many more thousands yet to connect. To date, providing greater access has been time consuming. Deployments require a lot of co-ordination and onsite delivery to install the video systems, the networks and the routers needed to access our VPN overlay network."
"The Polycom solution helps address the scalability, cost and network issues by allowing us to more easily provision secure, high-quality personal telehealth capabilities to users and clinics outside of our VPN overlay network", added Ron Riesenbach. "With this new technology, we are starting to enable new sites with telehealth capabilities in less time and at a reduced cost."
In addition to enabling secure and easy communication between the private OTN network and public networks, the Polycom solution also features unique quality of service (QoS) technology that ensures a more consistent, high-quality experience for users on public networks that are often susceptible to network congestion and packet loss. Polycom Lost Packet Recovery (LPR) is a forward error correction technology that helps minimize the impact of network congestion and packet loss, dramatically improving the quality of experience (video and audio) for users. Polycom LPR is featured across Polycom visual communication solutions from endpoints to infrastructure systems and is beneficial in calls with non-Polycom systems.
OTN is initially connecting 300 users with the new Polycom solution and plans to add thousands of additional sites next year. Officials anticipate the expanded network will also expand the applications for telehealth. Currently, telehealth is used for real-time consultations between specialists at larger hospitals and patients at their community health centres; a telestroke programme which connects stroke neurologists to emergency rooms to help evaluate time-critical patient needs; mental health evaluations and treatment; and to enhance medical care within correctional facilities. Health care practitioners and health system professionals also use the OTN network to gain access to an active programme of educational and administrative events.
The Polycom CMA Desktop is also a key component of OTN's pandemic response planning for the current H1N1 - Swine Flu - virus. The OTN telehealth capabilities allow health care to happen across distances, which can accelerate response times, while protecting physicians from infection. To ensure that OTN can continue to provide telemedicine support services in the event of an outbreak, OTN service staff is outfitted with video telework capabilities as part of their comprehensive plan.
"There are numerous potential applications for telehealth and interest is growing because it delivers significant, tangible benefits, including improving access to quality care, improving efficiency and the distribution of clinical expertise, enhancing education and training, and helping lower overall health care costs", stated Dr. Jeffries. "In fact, the President of the United States has referenced successful telehealth programmes like the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania in several recent speeches as examples of more efficient, cost-effective health care models. This recognition is reinforced by new Federal funding programmes that encourage telehealth for hospitals and community clinics."
Polycom visual communication solutions are the most widely deployed video systems in telehealth networks today and used by leading hospitals and practitioners around the globe. Customers can choose from a wide range of Polycom voice and video solutions to meet different application, space and budget requirements, including industry-specific solutions such as the Polycom HDX Practitioner Cart, a wireless, mobile telepresence solution suited for emergency room and community clinic environments, and other health care-specific solutions developed with Polycom ARENA ecosystem partners including Global Media, AMD Global Telemedicine, AudiSoft Technologies and Colubris Networks.
The Ontario Telemedicine Network is one of the largest Telemedicine networks in the world and is an independent, not-for-profit organisation funded by the Government of Ontario. OTN helps deliver clinical care and professional education among healthcare providers and patients. OTN is transforming the way patients receive needed health care by extending and enhancing access to health care providers and eliminating barriers to care, all across Ontario.
Polycom Inc. is a global expert in telepresence, video, and voice solutions and a visionary in communications that empower people to connect and collaborate everywhere. More company news can be found in the VMW July 2009 article Polycom and AMD Global Telemedicine Inc. to deliver integrated visual and voice telehealth capability to clinicians on-the-go.