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Alcatel-Lucent, Pittsburgh Hospital Team On Telemedicine Platform

The joint venture will combine live, store and forward, and home monitoring audio- and video-communications services for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

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In an effort to push further into the telemedicine market, telecommunications provider Alcatel-Lucent has announced that it will collaborate with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to develop a telemedicine platform and suite of applications.

The company says the new system will offer real-time clinical encounters in a virtual "exam room." By using a Web portal, patients will have access to both scheduled and emergency care from any location at any time through a variety of mobile devices using real-time video and audio communication among multiple participants in multiple locations.

At the same time, the system will generate, retrieve, and store patient data, and will make use of advanced technologies such as immersive and cloud-based communications.

Sid Ahuja, VP of Alcatel-Lucent Ventures, said the platform will be an important component of Alcatel-Lucent's connected hospital strategy that will allow hospitals to extend their reach and care beyond their physical walls. He also said the UPMC health delivery network, which has more than 20 hospitals, 400 outpatient sites, a health plan, and operates medical facilities in Italy and Ireland, will help Alcatel-Lucent test, validate, and build a better solution that will be offered to other healthcare organizations.

"The healthcare sector requires specific customizations of IT systems for reasons of privacy, quality of care, and reachability," Ahuja said in an interview. "Further, acceptance and usage of new technologies takes significant usage trials and commitment from healthcare organizations. We have decided to not just introduce new technology but to make sure it is vetted in the 'care process' practiced today." According to Ahuja, the plan is to have real UPMC trials with patient usage by end of this year. Alcatel-Lucent will also showcase the platform to other healthcare organizations and develop plans for other trials next year.

Currently, UPMC is using telepresence technology from Polycom in several areas of patient care including pathology, dermatology, stroke, psychiatry, trauma, and wound care. The next-generation telemedicine platform will upgrade the service with the necessary clinical input to ensure a richer and more robust product that fits the workflow of caregivers.

"The new platform will help to coordinate all three types of telehealth (live, store and forward, and home monitoring) into a single offering that is coupled with education and administration, all riding on an integrated telehealth network," said Andrew Watson, VP of UPMC's international and commercial services division. "We believe that almost all clinical services can be positively impacted by telemedicine, which can be used to treat chronic diseases, acute medical issues such as stroke, and for specialist care such as cardiology, endocrinology, and surgery."

Watson also said telemedicine provides UPMC with significant cost savings through increased home care, fewer readmissions, and greater provider efficiency.

The new telemedicine platform will build on the more than $1.3 billion that UPMC has invested over the last five years in health IT. This includes significant investments in electronic medical records and interoperability, a patient Web portal, primary and secondary data centers, and connectivity among UPMC's more than 20 hospitals both regionally and internationally. The telemedicine platform is being developed to leverage and complement these investments.

It is being developed along with Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent's research arm, and expected to be ready for commercial launch in early 2013.

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