swyMe – Expanding Telehealth, Mobile, Cloud

reprinted with permission by Mobile Cloud Era


Photo: By Tim Evanson, [CC BY-SA 2.0], at Flickr

In a merger of telehealth, mobile and cloud, Massachusetts-based swyMe is pass4sure exams offering video conferencing in ambulances. The basic system includes three cameras in the vehicle: a standard “fish eye” 360º camera mounted high on the ambulance wall; a webcam attached to a touch screen monitor; and a handheld HDTV 720p IP camera.

The combination of the three affords a remote physician a view of the overall situation in the ambulance, the ability to communicate face-to-face with attending EMS workers and capability to zero in to close-up views of the patient. The system is HIPAA compliant and uses AES256 security.

swyMe COO Jeff Urdan explained that the system provides high quality video using public Internet with low bandwidth mobile, about 384 kbs for a quality video signal. It can accommodate p4soutlet multiple carriers. The software comes standard with a handheld examination camera, otoscope and stethoscope, but can include any USB or Bluetooth medical diagnostic device including ultrasound or EKG. The system is interactive.

Among the benefits of their system is the obvious fact that many emergency patients may be in locations that require long rides to hospitals and may need doctor’s care immediately. Urdan points out that EMS workers are regulated and have limited authority to treat. This also enables additional levels of care in the ambulance with a doctor in contact. It also does lead to additional stocking of supplies in the ambulance and added training. Of course, a doctor could be in telephone contact with an ambulance during its journey, however, the video adds greatly to the physician’s ability to diagnose and treat the patient.

The system was released in early May. Urdan states that the first client is conducting a technical evaluation until August. The test is not using an actual ambulance in the field. It is done with a suitcase with the system parts.

swyMe has partnered with Michigan-based MaxLife to produce the system. swyMe’s expertise is in software for video and communications. They sought out a supplier of video surveillance cameras for this app, which brought them to MaxLife , a Verizon M2M partner.

Pricing is $25,000 to outfit an ambulance, including software and Verizon service for the first two years.  Then annual renewals for software and Verizon are $3,000/year after that. swyMe is a Delaware C Corp, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of VeaMea BV, (Netherlands-based).  HitCast (Italy-based) has an ownership stake in VeaMea BV. The company deals primarily with healthcare clients, but also offers video and related solutions to financial services companies.

VeaMea and HitCast have extensive, software-centric solutions for unified conferencing, via the internet TCP/IP protocols and a wide range of standards: H.323, SIP, LAPD, as examples. This provides a magic sauce for swyMe to implement across a host of existing legacy systems. These solutions also are remote video signal processing oriented and specifically adapted for 3G/4G UMTS systems, thereby providing an unusual level of quality transmission. The collaboration brought by this joint venture is directed toward mobile telemedicine applications. One other interesting aspect of VeaMea’s products is the integration of a “cloud Console” for client administration of the service.

swyMe is apparently going to be the branding trademark of VeaMea in the US. The Ambulance product offering is apparently only the beginning of a broader marketing front in video conferencing via the mobile cloud.

There are about 15,000 ambulance companies in the U.S., with approximately 50,000 vehicles. The company is also looking to the European market for expansion.

Mobilecloudera.com is produced by two leading information industry experts, Al Boschulte and Victor Schnee, who have published four studies about the ‘Future of the Mobile Cloud.’

5 Things I Learned on ATA’s This Month in Telemedicine Webinar

As with last month, this is largely geared to updates about legislation along with reminders about the upcoming Fall Forum conference in Palm Springs, CA, which I’ll have to consider as I live out Orange County.

This month’s takeaways are a little more subdued than last month which had some pretty big news (see here).  The ATA had just done a survey on online consultations and had over 500 respondents.

1)  45% of respondents are using telemedicine TODAY.  This is fantastic news and, in my mind, is possibly underreported because, as Mr. Linkous and Mr. Capistrant pointed out on the last call (and pointed out in our 3 Things from last month), nearly every institution is already using some form of telemedicine and the boards don’t realize it.

2)  Specialty Care and Behavioral Health were the leading segments.  Not terribly surprising, as specialty care often needs to use leading edge tools to leverage resources for special care, and behavioral health lends itself well to an old-school videoconferencing set up (patient and doctor meet via video), leading to less push-back on its use while providing maximum benefit to both patients and providers.  The industry will have to really work, I think, to make sure providers and CDOs are aware of the more specialized applications and the benefits to be had.  Telemedice will not yield a large harvest if we only pick the low-hanging fruit.  As if to prove that point:

3)  77% use video, 57% use audio and 28% use medical peripherals.  Just over a quarter are using peripherals, while three times that are using video.  Being at a video-primary solution provider: Yay!  Being a proponent of telemedicine as a whole: We can do better.  Even the video-primary medical solutions offer a lot of specialized or integrated offerings that provide more than just adding a visual element to distance care.  Again, the question is, how do we get this to the doctors and CDOs?

4) Of the 55% of respondents that replied they are not using telemedicine today, 75% plan to implement it very soon.  I present that as Exhibit A to the tipping point naysayers…although I concede that if you responded to a survey about telemedicine from the American Telemedicine Association, you’re probably already predisposed to an interest in telemedicine.  Having said that, interest in telemedicine has been on the rise, and 75% of that growing crowd being interested in giving it a shot can only be a good thing.

4)  Mr. Linkous pointed out something toward the end that I assumed would be a primary driver (or at least remove an obstacle) but assumed would take several more years:  Private insurance is increasingly taking the lead in pushing telemedicine.  I’ve been noting that the reduced cost/better outcome/reduced readmissions scenario HAS to eventually turn private insurance into champions of telemedicine.  Amongst the names he mentioned were Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, WellPoint, and others.

VeaMea named “Best Practice” by SAMHSA

River Edge resized 600  SAMHSA resized 600

River Edge Behavioral Health has been praised by SAMHSA for its forward-thinking, efficient and effective use of technology.

One critical component of their strategy is using VeaMea as a telehealth platform to:

  • Increase access
  • Reduce physician turnover
  • Improve productivity
River Edge transformed their delivery of service.  You can too.
Learn more about River Edge.
Contact Us to find out how you can join them in the ranks of innovators.

Telepsychiatry Cuts Hospital Admissions and Saves Money

I TOLD YOU SO!

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Almost 4 months ago, I wrote that TelePsychiatry is the Killer App for Video Conferencing.  It may put a kink in Lucy’s walk-in practice, but the benefits to the rest of society are clear.  (And if Lucy would like to Expand Her Presence, there is a place she can go)

Who should come along to back me up, but the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).  Their July 2011 issue of ACEP News includes an article titled “ED Telepsychiatry Cuts Admissions, Saves Money.”

The article tells the story of implementations in South Carolina and includes a commentary by the vice chair for Emergency Medicine at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Pennsylvania where a telepsychiatry program is also in place.

The following data are from the South Carolina study:

  • Admission rates (33% lower)
  • Length of Emergency Department stays (25% shorter)
  • Outpatient follow-up rates (nearly 4x higher)
  • Cost (29% lower for Medicaid patients, 38% lower for private insurance)
  • Patient satisfaction: 80%
  • Physician Satisfaction: 90%
  • Physicians who believe they are more productive using telepsychiatry: 75%

Per the study, “the patient receives a higher quality of care, and the hospitals have reduced costs.”

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ?

Top 5 Reasons TelePsychiatry is a Killer App for Video Conferencing

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a database where you can search for information about shortages of access to primary care, dental and mental health services.  A quick search for mental health services reveals a significant shortage in almost every area across the nation.

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Top 5 Reasons Why TelePsychiatry is a Killer App for Video Conferencing

1) Mental health services means different Read more