Kentucky school telehealth care project centred around ViaTV Videophone service

Santa Clara 01 March 1999 Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Telecare Network at the University of Kentucky, and the 8x8 company, a manufacturer and provider of videoconferencing systems, are involved in a telemedicine programme for local schools in rural Kentucky. The 8x8 ViaTV Videophone units will form the key component in a new telehealth care project to offer remote support to sick children in three elementary schools, situated in medically under-served areas.

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Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Telecare Network at the University of Kentucky, and the 8x8 company, a manufacturer and provider of videoconferencing systems, are involved in a telemedicine programme for local schools in rural Kentucky. The 8x8 ViaTV Videophone units will form the key component in a new telehealth care project to offer remote support to sick children in three elementary schools, situated in medically under-served areas.

The pilot project was conceived as a way of improving the health of children in Kentucky by providing paediatric medical expertise to schools with limited resources. Since many students live in rural and low-income regions, the school nurse often constitutes the only regular access to health care. The current initiative is funded by Lexington's Ronald McDonald House Charities. With the support of the University of Kentucky TeleCare network of medical care providers, the project team will supply health care services to the school children by means of ViaTV Videophones.

Ronald McDonald House Charities has a mission to offer comfort and care to children and their families by supporting special Ronald McDonald Houses in communities around the world and by funding related initiatives of not-for-profit organizations whose programmes are focused on children in need. Ronald McDonald House Charities has a network of over 150 Local Charities serving in 27 countries. In turn, the University of Kentucky TeleCare network is committed to the enhancement of the health care delivery system. Both time and distance can be overcome through the judicious use of electronic medical communication systems.

In the case of the three elementary schools participating in the project, the school nurse now can guarantee that sick children receive the appropriate medical attention. Instead of sending a child home with an earache, the nurse will be able to organize a video call to a paediatrician, who remotely will examine the child and prescribe medication, if required. The 8x8 ViaTV Videophone units provide a surprisingly high level of video quality and great ease of use while being cost-effective at the same time.

Rob Sprang, who is director of Kentucky TeleCare network, the telemedicine programme at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center, has built up a large and positive experience using the 8x8 ViaTV Videophone units in his organization where they support a broad range of clinical services. As a major manufacturer of multimedia communication systems, semiconductors and software, 8x8 is committed to supplying both businesses and consumers with a more complete way of communicating. The company's solutions range from high-performance digital telephony processors to affordable videophone units.

Video communication has long been applied in doctor-to-doctor settings but due to the cost of the equipment and the need for specialized telephone lines, the doctor-to-patient relationship up till now has not benefited from this type of technology, according to Chris McNiffe, who is vice president of marketing and sales for 8x8. He regards ViaTV as the ideal tool to supply video-based health care services to patient-centred applications, like home health care programmes, assisted living centres, and rural and school health projects, such as the Kentucky programme.


Leslie Versweyveld

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