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5/12/2010
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Vidyo Launches Healthcare Telepresence

Videoconferencing vendors are meeting the demand for telehealth applications by beefing up privacy and security.

With demand for telemedicine applications rising, Vidyo is offering an enhanced version of its personal telepresence products to provide a more secure platform for medical use.

While Vidyo had previously offered its telepresence products to healthcare customers, the new VidyoHealth telemedicine videoconferencing suite features HIPAA-compliant encryption and other secure features, said Vidyo senior VP of marketing Marty Hollander. Those features include telemedicine "examination rooms" that can be locked manually or automatically and opened only by the owners of the rooms.

VidyoHealth also supports multiple practices on the same system, maintaining full privacy from other "tenants" on the system via simple administrative rules, said Hollander.

Unlike many telehealth platforms from other vendors, VidyoHealth doesn't require a costly dedicated videoconferencing network, and its ease of use makes the system affordable for smaller healthcare providers that don't have dedicated IT teams, he said.

The software-based solution can run on commodity PCs and Macs featuring Webcams and leverages general IP networks and Internet connections.

Also, a plug-in USB feature allows VidyoHealth videoconferencing capabilities to be added to standard PCs, making the system "easy for elderly patients," especially if used with a touchscreen computer, said Hollander.

The low latency VideoHealth can also be used in ambulances, on medical carts, and in high-definition room systems. The system is priced at $17,000 for healthcare providers and can support up to 25 users.

While enhancements have been made in the development of VideoHealth, Vidyo's telepresence system has been used in the healthcare sector for a number of years, said Hollander.

That includes the use of Vidyo videoconferencing in 36 municipalities in Finland, which has a government-run healthcare system. Through telemedicine applications provided by Vidyo partner Videra, Vidyo's products are helping elderly Finnish patients who have difficulties with mobility to connect with healthcare providers and family members, said Hollander. The goal is to bring the offering nationwide in Finland, he said.

Back in the United States, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's funding for broadband expansion is also helping to fuel demand for new telehealth applications, especially those that connect rural patients with medical specialists and other healthcare providers in larger cities, said Bob Preston, chief collaboration officer of Polycom, another provider of videoconferencing telehealth systems.

Demand for telemedicine applications "is growing at a phenomenal rate," he said. Efforts "to help get broadband to rural communities have [healthcare providers] asking, 'how will we service these people,'" he said.

In the meantime, consumer use of at-home medical devices in the management of chronic illnesses is also driving an upswing in telehealth applications.

A recent study published by medical research group InMedica said a breakdown of the numbers shows that shipments of home-use digital blood glucose meters, blood pressure monitors, weight scales, pulse oximeters, and peak flow meters used in telehealth applications will grow to more than 1.6 million, while shipments of health hubs will grow to 400,000.

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