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Telehealth News

Video Visits Gaining Favor Among Providers and Patients

A new survey and a major investment in an up-and-coming telemedicine provider are putting the spotlight on healthcare videoconferencing platforms.

By Eric Wicklund

- More than 80 percent of providers and patients are satisfied with video-based care as a means of reaching people in rural locations, according to a new survey.

The University of Missouri School of Medicine survey, “User Satisfaction with Telehealth: Study of Patients, Providers and Coordinators,” was recently featured in The Health Care Manager. It comes on the heels of news of a significant investment in one of the nation’s up-and-coming video telemedicine companies.

Together, the news points to a bright future for the technology platform.

Mirna Becevic, PhD, an assistant research professor of telemedicine at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study, says video visits could become the norm for consumers in remote locations who can’t access healthcare in a reasonable amount of time.

“Telehealth uses technology such as video conferencing to bridge the distance between a patient and physician,” she said in a Dec. 8 report announcing the survey’s results. “It allows patients to remain in their communities, saving them from undue hardships related to long-distance travel and time off work. Although the main concept is to provide health services to patients, for telemedicine to be truly effective, it also must be beneficial to those who provide care. The goal of our study was to understand satisfaction levels of all telehealth users.”

The survey featured three questionnaires, designed for patients, physicians and on-site coordinators involved with the Missouri Telehealth Network, which was launched by the MU School of Medicine in 1994 and now serves 29 clinical specialties at 202 sites around the state.

According to the survey, 86 percent of 21 physicians said they were satisfied with the quality of care provided by the telehealth platform, while 83 percent of the patients felt they’d received quality care and 78 percent said they’d use the platform again. Two-thirds of the 12 site coordinators surveyed, meanwhile, said the service was easy to set up.

“Our study confirmed and validated the use of telehealth to care for rural patients,” Becevic said in the report. “Knowing the level of satisfaction among all users allows us to explore the possibility of expanding specialty services such as behavioral health, dermatology and care for autism beyond rural areas to include more urban sites.”

Among the many remote populations to benefit from video visits are veterans, who often can’t or don’t want to travel to a nearest Veteran’s Administration hospital. A 2014 study by the Richard A. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis found that over a two-year span, veterans using the center’s telemedicine platform saved the hospital more than $330,000 in reimbursements simply by cutting more than 770,000 travel miles by veterans.

In addition, the overall satisfaction rate among veterans stood at 96 percent.

“The VA’s mission is to provide our veterans with the ‘right care in the right place at the right time;’ this is effectively supported through the appropriate use of telehealth technologies,” the study concluded. “The goal is to make the home or the local community center the safe and desired place of care when appropriate.”

While some health systems are experimenting with Microsoft’s Skype for Business, most are turning to the tried-and-true platforms offered by longtime standard-bearers Polycom, Cisco and Huawei. But a relatively new player is emerging as a legitimate challenger in the video venue – the aptly-named Vidyo.

The Hackensack, N.J.-based company, which launched in 2008, this week announced another $15 million in funding, with $10 million of that coming from the corporate venture capital branch of Kaiser Permamente, a longtime customer.

Vidyo has now raised some $163 million in VC funding and touts as customers nearly half of the nation’s largest health systems, including Partners Healthcare, UPMC, Mercy and Carolinas Healthcare, as well as major EHR vendors like Epic and Cerner and telemedicine providers like American Well.

“We see this investment as validation of the ability of the VidyoWorks platform to address the various needs of major telehealth implementations, especially our ability to seamlessly embed HD quality, reliable video interactions into workflows and applications at scale,” company CEO Eran Westman said in a Dec. 14 blog, noting the telehealth market is expected to top $34 billion by 2020. “Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson is ‘betting big on videoconference technology that will improve online healthcare,’ and is ‘distributing care out of the hospital.’”

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