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Verizon Pushes Deeper Into Tele-Medicine

Carol Wilson
11/23/2009
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Verizon Enterprise Solutions is making a big step in the tele-healthcare arena, introducing new video conferencing and collaboration services specifically developed for doctors and their patients.

The new Verizon Telehealth Collaboration Services will enable remote treatment and diagnosis of rural patients, on-demand education and training for doctors, and consultations among medical personnel without the need for travel.

The new services are the result of a healthcare practice -- Verizon Connected Healthcare Solutions -- being set up within Verizon. That move brought medical experts into the company to help design services specifically to meet the needs of the healthcare community.

Hiring those medical experts means Verizon Business can "bring a better story to the marketplace," says Nancy Green, managing principal for healthcare at the carrier and a 16-year veteran selling into the medical industry.

Specifically, Verizon is offering IT support to help hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices to assess their collaboration and conferencing needs. The carrier can design a solution, implement it, and support it on an ongoing basis. Verizon is also developing cloud-based options, but not yet bringing that to market, Green says.

One immediate need is bringing specialist care to patients who live in rural areas, she notes: "Ten percent of physicians practice in rural America, and 25 percent of Americans live there. And most of that 10 percent are not specialists."

Healthcare providers are looking for cost-effective ways to extend the reach of specialists, and videoconferencing can enable that to happen, Green feels. It enables patients to "see" a doctor without either the doctor or patient traveling hundreds of miles, and can be also cost-effective for special populations, such as prisoners.

Doctors also must regularly update their training, and on-demand video represents a cost-effective way to do continuing education on the doctors' own schedules, and enable them to keep up to date on their certifications, Green says. Doctor-to-doctor consultations, many involving medical imaging, also can be done through collaboration services.

By offering a readiness assessment, Verizon will enable healthcare professionals to use what they may have already deployed, regardless of the vendor involved, and also to determine the best way forward, and to get more out of videoconferencing and collaboration. Verizon may be able to show a hospital or clinic ways to use newer technologies they haven’t yet considered.

"They may already have deployed Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Tandberg ASA (OSE: TAA), or Polycom Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM) gear, and that’s fine -- we’re not going to push them down one path or another, we partner with all of them," says Green. "But in many cases, their existing systems no longer have the capacity they need, or they may need more connectivity."

Verizon also plans to provide consulting services to its telehealth customers to advise on the most efficient business processes and best practices to support a new kind of healthcare delivery. For example, as Green observes, if a video connection is lost during a consultation, the healthcare providers need to know exactly how to respond to provide the best patient care.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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