Telepsychiatry Cuts Hospital Admissions and Saves Money



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.”


Microsoft Acquires Skype — Video Collaboration World Yawns

The twittering began a while ago, then came the announcement that an announcement would come, and now…it is announced.

Microsoft will acquire Skype for $8.5 Billion in cash.

Good for Microsoft to get access to the Skype user community with hundreds of millions of loyalists.  Good for Skype to have the 800 lb. gorilla in software as its partner to provide marketing channels and deep pockets.


A client asked for our thoughts.  Here are what come to mind first:

1) Culture Clash —

  • Skype is a peer to peer product developed to help people go around the price-gouging of telecom monopolies via internet and gave its service away for free, for years and still does
  • Microsoft develops something for everyone, enterprise wide, is the de facto standard for many of its markets and has for years been the subject of claims that it is “The Great Satan” or “Evil Empire” in the software world for abusing its market power and ruthless commitment to enhancing its own profits

2) Free — Many people use Skype because it is free and you can access millions of friends, family, etc.  Does Microsoft intend to keep it free?

3) Usability — Skype is simple, easy to get started with and has lots of nice features.  Cross your fingers that Skype’s usability influences Microsoft’s development path and not the other way around.

4) Control — Skype does not have a feature-rich IT control suite, user permissions, rights, bandwidth constraints, domains, profiles, etc.  Expect Microsoft to layer a lot of that functionality in.  Will that make Skype less attractive to users even as it becomes more palatable to IT and Network managers?

5) Security — Skype has some significant, and often-discussed security vulnerabilities as well as the basic challenge of peer-to-peer architecture.  Add Skype (a big target) to Microsoft (the biggest target there is) and you can expect a series of security attacks while newly integrated products are rolled out by Microsoft.  Hopefully no one gets hurt.

6) Quality — Neither Skype nor Microsoft has a high quality video communication and collaboration solution.  So what changes that will be good from the users perspective?

7) Feature Overlap — Many of Skype’s features overlap with Microsoft Lync, Kinect and other tools.  Do they merge, remain parallel, or  something in-between?

8) Reality — Press releases are great at talking about the opportunities.  The hard part is knitting together the gaps in technology, philosophy, marketing, pricing, packaging, distribution, support…


Will they be successful ?  Only time will tell.  What do you think?

6 Learnings from the American Telemedicine Association Annual

VeaMea (now swy|me) visited the American Telemedicine Association Annual Conference in Tampa this past week.  It was an interesting conference with thousands of participants, and hundreds of vendors.

We had some interesting conversations with people who are, or are going to be, practicing Telemedicine as well as a variety of support organizations.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Rural Healthcare Telecom Subsidies — The Universal Services Fund has $400 million in telecom subsidies to give away each year.  They have only been Read more

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.




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

1) Mental health services means different Read more

Video Bridge To Everywhere

There are lots of high quality video conferencing systems in use today, from vendors likePolycomTandbergLifeSizeVSeeVidyo and VeaMea (now swy|me).

But if the person who you want to call isn’t part of your network, and doesn’t have your brand/model video conferencing system, what can you do ?



If you said “Go to Paris and leave your video conferencing troubles behind you,” it is understandable, but not the credited response.  If you thought “Get a bridge!” you shoul Read more

Facts & Fairy Tales: Software Video Conferencing & Collaboration

An interesting discussion has popped up on LinkedIn in the Video Conferencing Professionals Group.  Someone asked for advice about software-based video conferencing solutions and said he wanted to make a list of what was available in the marketplace.

Many users and vendors chimed in, offering names of packages, points of view, experiences, all the things that one might expect.  And then the discussion heated up a little (as one might expect ?).

My read is that there is a basic distinction that is being lost in the noise when people answer the question: “What is Telepresence?”

Telepresence engineers

If you ask an engineer who works on video, it has a pretty specific meaning and it has implications for standards, codecs, lines of resolution, bandwidth, and more.  This point of view led one contributor to write:

“If we want to be honest, many companies are very deceptive about their features, approaches, functionality and pricing —

To illustrate.  One company on this very thread suggests that its a Software based solution that promotes ease of use — high definiton and H.264 for multi-party conferencing and operable as a SaaS or cloud based solution —

If you believe that, then you should also believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.”

In reality, he may be right.  H.264 usually means a lot of bandwidth PER CONNECTION, and a 10-way call = 10x a lot of bandwidth.  So is the company peddling fairy tales ?  Since they were not identified by name it is hard to have an opinion.

But what if the company in question said: “We’re flexible, we let you work with the tools and devices you want to work with, we can work in a cloud/SaaS model, we can do telepresence quality, we have collaboration tools, and more !”  This may all be true, just not all true AT THE SAME TIME.  Is it misleading, deceptive, etc. ?

I say no.  Here’s why.  Back to the question of “What is Telepresence?”  If you ask 1 million people who are NOT video engineers…

Telepresence Definition #2

…you will get a variety of answers from an empty stare and shoulder shrug, to guesses about holograms and video conferencing.  99.99% don’t care about the standards and codecs and such.  (Disclaimer: statistic completely made up for emphasis, not empirically derived)

What do the 99.99% care about ?  Communication and Collaboration. 

  • Can I sit down at my desk (or conference room) and use a tool to communicate with people?
  • Is it intuitive enough for “everyone” to use?
  • Can I invite people who don’t have my brand of system into a meeting?
  • Can I reduce travel?
  • Can I overcome the limitations of voice-only communication?
  • Will it work reliably?
  • Can I manage it?
  • Can I share my desktop?
  • Can I chat?
  • Can I schedule a meeting?
  • Can I run a Webinar?
  • How do I know the other party is ready?
  • How will this integrate into my existing networks/security policies/applications?
  • How much does it cost?

The 99.99% don’t actually care about what the technology is, they care about what it does.

Who really benefits when you put true high definition on a video-phone with a 7″ screen?

Better question: Who benefits when you put sharp, clear video on laptops, desktops, tablets, in conference rooms and clouds and share communication capabilities among all these platforms?  A boatload of people.  (Inappropriately graphic statement avoided)

So back to the question: “What is Telepresence?”  Is it the definition that the .01% know to be correct and that the name was invented to distinguish, or SHOULD IT BE the “like I am there” communication capability that the 99.99% seek and find regularly in both traditional and software-based solutions: the ability to project their presence, via video conferencing and collaboration tools.  I pick the latter, but then I am a bit biased since VeaMea develops and markets a video conferencing and collaboration platform that some might call a fairy tale.

Bottom Line: if you want to separate the myth from the reality, and decide for yourself, you cantry it.