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Time Warner Wants To Bring Telemedicine Home

Virtual Visits trial has Time Warner Cable technicians installing Tely Labs equipment to help Cleveland Clinic lower hospital readmissions.

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Time Warner Cable Business Services is teaming with Tely Labs and Cleveland Clinic to conduct a "virtual visits" trial of a videoconferencing product as a way to lower hospital readmissions.

Time Warner's contribution: the cable guy. Because Time Warner already has technicians who install its equipment and services in customers' homes, it can use that workforce to install a TelyHD Pro videoconferencing unit in the home of a recently discharged patient. Teleconferencing lets the patient check in with a doctor by video rather than driving in for an office visit.

Time Warner announced Cleveland Clinic as the first partner to launch a trial implementation of the customized teleconferencing system in November. That trial is focused on providing follow-up care for cardiac patients, and so far has been extended to a few dozen patients, said Satya Parimi, group vice president, product management, Time Warner Cable Business Services. "We're making sure the process works well, and the technology works to their satisfaction, before opening it up to a wider population," he said. "We're looking to ramp up the number of patients over the next couple of months."

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Tely Labs originally came to market with a videoconferencing appliance consumers and small businesses could use to connect to Skype with a television set and an Internet connection. The TelyHD Pro version adds support for connecting to common business videoconferencing systems, and the company has also developed a software package called TelyMed for healthcare customers. As part of Cleveland Clinic's virtual visits project, Tely Labs also tweaked the TelyHD Pro hardware to meet the requirements of the Clinic and Time Warner.

"Healthcare is probably the single most exciting vertical we're looking at that's underserved this class of video," said Tely Labs CEO Sreekanth Ravi. Part of the Affordable Care Act is an effort to "put a lid on healthcare costs," he noted, and hospitals are under particular pressure to reduce readmissions. The virtual visits concept would allow patients to recover at home, but still be closely monitored through video check-ins with a doctor. "They can stay in the comfort of their home and get more frequent care," he said.

In addition to videoconferencing, the device is capable of collecting data from health-monitoring devices via WiFi, Bluetooth, or a USB port. With the right assortment of monitoring gadgets, "that's almost to the point where you could gather all the vitals the nurse takes when you come into the office," Ravi said.

Time Warner recommended Tely Labs because its product is easy to use, according to Parimi. Tely Labs finds Time Warner to be a good partner because cable Internet supports the bandwidth required for good video and the Time Warner workforce can perform installations in tens of millions of homes -- potentially, even more, with its pending acquisition by Comcast. "Getting access to the consumer's home is not a trivial thing," said Ravi.

One of the main things to be established during the trial is whether Time Warner's schedule can be meshed with Cleveland Clinic's, Parimi said. To cater to recently discharged patients, who might be in and out of the home for follow-up doctor's visits, technicians need to schedule the timing of the camera installation differently than for a basic cable hookup. Once they get into the home, they must work out details such as positioning the TV and the lighting in the room to ensure it will work for videoconferencing. "Sometimes, the lighting can be a little difficult," he said.

Ravi said Tely Labs is working with a half dozen other hospitals on similar trials.

Download Healthcare IT in the Obamacare Era, the InformationWeek Healthcare digital issue on the impact of new laws and regulations. Modern technology created the opportunity to restructure the healthcare industry around accountable care organizations, but IT priorities are also being driven by the shift.

David F. Carr oversees InformationWeek's coverage of government and healthcare IT. He previously led coverage of social business and education technologies and continues to contribute in those areas. He is the editor of Social Collaboration for Dummies (Wiley, Oct. 2013) and ... View Full Bio

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David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 12:18:39 PM
Re: TelyHD
I should have explained that they wouldn't normally rely on Skype for communications between the hospital and the patient at home, although in some cases that might be useful to have as an option.
IW Pick
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2014 | 2:46:22 PM
I have long anticipated that telemedicine would become ubiquitous. (And, coincidently purchased TelyHD solutions for family members recently... not necessarily for telemedicine, but perhaps hoping where telemedicine might be going.

Telemedicine is a tool that we will all possibly use in our lifetime; certainly future generations will.

Kudos to Time Warner and Cleveland Clinic for exploring options. Commonly used solutions such as Skype or video conferencing solutions(without PHI) is a great place to start!


Marilyn Cohodas
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
3/5/2014 | 10:45:29 AM
Re: House calls
Agreed. It will be a giant leap for the cable guy to become a home health aid. Where I live, the local cable provider does attempt to make "house calls"  within a one- two-hour window (to greater and lesser degrees of success). But my mother had heart surgery a decade ago at Cleveland Clinic and their sophistication with electronic health records at that time, blew me away. So if any hospital can figure it out, it's those guys.
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
3/5/2014 | 10:40:50 AM
Re: House calls
To make the cable company a player in healthcare telemedicine, they'll need to make a clean break from "the cable guy" stereotype of the technician who keeps you waiting all day -- need to hit a narrow time window and provide efficient service. Wouldn't it be nice if those practices made their way back into the rest of the businesss?
Marilyn Cohodas
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
3/5/2014 | 10:33:26 AM
House calls
This is a really interesting concept and the idea of having a trained technician coming into the home to set up the equipment will be a key factor to its success. I look foreward to hearing more about it as the trial progresses. 
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