Published by Dr. Deborah Jeffries, Director of Global Healthcare Marketing at Polycom

For those suffering from chronic or long-term health problems, there is
often nothing quite as relieving as being sent home from the hospital – but
also nothing quite as heartbreaking as re-hospitalization. Unfortunately, it is
not unusual. Patients are sent home with instructions to continue improving
their health, but few manage to do everything they need to do for a variety
of reasons. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent this re-hospitalization.
Extending care from the hospital to the community and home level; focusing on preventive care and case
management; offering medical services beyond the hospital through other clinics, community health
centers, rehab centers, and skilled nursing facilities—these are all ways people can avoid unwanted rehospitalizations
while better managing chronic diseases and preventing health emergencies from
occurring in the first place.
One of the simplest, most effective ways to bring healthcare to the community level is through video
collaboration. When video technology is enabled through a standards-based, scalable platform,
community members can all join a multipoint video call to collaborate and work together with
professionals and even with groups of similarly afflicted, empathetic peers to address health issues.
Patients benefit from more regular evaluations and better access to specialty support. They participate in
live or recorded education sessions—regardless of location or ability to travel. And with today’s move to
ubiquitous video, you cannot only do one-to-one video sessions, but groups can meet over video to share ideas and best practices. Groups of healthcare providers and patients can all join community-based video calls to collaborate as never before. Healthcare teams and family members are able to meet over video to determine the best health plan and have a positive impact on health and healthcare delivery.
Nobody understands this better than the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. This organization recently doubled patient adherence to psychiatric treatment, reducing hospital stays and saving $21.7 million, with a telepsychiatry program that was powered by Polycom® RealPresence® video solutions.
Here are five key areas responsible for unnecessary re-hospitalizations, and suggested solutions:
1. Hospital discharge planners do not adequately relay information to patients, caregivers, and post-acute care providers at the end of a hospital stay.
There are two highly effective ways to combat this problem. First, these planners can offer live, collaborative video at the point of discharge and even beforehand. A live conversation ensures patients, caregivers, and family members all participate in the creation of the discharge plan, and fully understand what they need to do as the patient returns home or to long term care.
Second, video recordings can be created and made available to the patient and family to explain the discharge plan. The information included prepares the patient for what to expect and consider “normal” post-discharge, versus what would be considered a red flag. Videos can be stored and archived so they are readily available in training libraries and offered on-demand at the convenience of those who need it—whether they are at home or in a long term care facility. Video content that is developed thoughtfully and includes best practices for all disease states and situations becomes valuable both internally for operational education and externally for care delivery.
2. Patients show poor compliance with their care instructions.
In cases where patients forget their care instructions, the details can be delivered again via real-time video collaboration or offered on-demand from a pre-recorded video library. Either way, instructions go from a one-time offering to something that can be reviewed regularly. Another benefit of these reviews is that family members can participate as well, from any location, and help provide feedback regarding any foreseeable obstacles to adherence.
For patients who are not following their instructions due to language barriers, translation services are another huge advantage to video collaboration–translators can be conferenced in over live video or instructions can be recorded in a variety of languages and used as needed.
3. Follow-up care is compromised due to poor hand-off at the point of hospital discharge. The patient feels isolated upon returning home or to long term care.
With video collaboration, patients and their loved ones or caregivers not only benefit from the support of the providers they’ve been assigned post-hospitalization, they also have virtual access to their primary care physicians, case managers, or other trusted professionals via live video. With simplified access from the comfort of their home or long term care center, patients are more likely to attend video follow up visits within the prescribed timeframe, and feel connected, with continuous care.
Patients can also use video in the long term to attend peer-to-peer interactive sessions and conferences—such as multiparty video conferences about “Dealing with Congestive Heart Failure” or other weighty subjects where peer support can be extremely helpful, especially when sessions have healthcare experts overseeing each discussion. This patient empowerment and community connection can do wonders for recovery and general wellness. Through regularly scheduled education sessions offered over live video, patients become a part of a community focused on health and wellness.
4. Family care givers are not connected enough to assist with care.
Live, interactive video from anywhere to anywhere can be a lifeline for family members who may not live close, but want very badly to participate in the care of their loved ones. With video collaboration, family members can all meet on a video call to participate in creating care plans, noticing “red flags” that will interfere with care, and generally assist with communication and participation.
Video collaboration also means family “support networks” can feel secure knowing they can reach out to live professionals for guidance as necessary. They also have access to pre-recorded videos to remind them of the details of care instructions and help keep everyone on the path to recovery.
5. Patient conditions deteriorate and necessary care has not kept up.
Chronic conditions by their very nature need to be managed over time. As symptoms change, video collaboration ties patients more tightly to their care team without the need for re-hospitalization. Real-time video interaction helps case managers, nutritionists, physical therapists, primary care physicians and
others stay in contact and adapt treatment plans as they see changes in health and behavior. Archived content can help them efficiently train patients and caregivers on new protocols and treatment plans.
There is no question that a standards-based, scalable video collaboration system can dramatically reduce the need for re-hospitalization. In the words of Ed Spencer, Director of Telepsychiatry Consultation for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, video collaboration “enhances the treatment experience for patients and their families, and it provides a significant cost savings for taxpayers by shifting more treatment to outpatient care. Polycom video solutions help us achieve our emphasis on community-based care and our ongoing efforts to reduce re-hospitalizations.”
And the benefits the South Carolina Department of Mental Health has seen are just the beginning. Video collaboration is already revolutionizing healthcare in countless ways. Reducing re-hospitalization is simply one, extremely powerful example of how real-time and archived video collaboration is quite literally saving lives.
About the Author
Dr. Deborah A. Jeffries is Director of Global Healthcare Marketing for Polycom. She has spent a 25-year career in telemedicine, information systems, medicine, patient care, education, and physics—all experiences that today are helping her understand the needs of Polycom’s healthcare customers.
Prior to joining Polycom, Dr. Jeffries was Director of Sales for US and Canada for a company that provided telemedicine medical peripherals. She has attended major telemedicine events for a decade, and participates in radio and press interviews to provide thought leadership in the fields of healthcare and telehealth. Dr. Jeffries also conducts regular education sessions on these subjects over video.
Dr. Jeffries has been an aerospace engineer, an IT consultant, and taught hematology and pathophysiology at Merrimack College. She is credentialed as a K-12 teacher, has a physics degree from UCLA, and is currently licensed as a Naturopathic physician.
About Polycom Polycom is the global leader in open standards-based unified communications (UC) solutions for voice and video collaboration, trusted by more than 415,000 customers around the world. Polycom solutions are powered by the Polycom® RealPresence® Platform, comprehensive software infrastructure and rich APIs that interoperate with the broadest set of communication, business, mobile and cloud applications and devices to deliver secure face-to-face video collaboration in any environment. Polycom and its ecosystem of over 7,000 partners provide truly unified communications solutions that deliver the best user experience, highest multi-vendor interoperability, and lowest TCO. Visit or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to learn how we’re pushing the greatness of human collaboration forward.
Contact Us: 1.800.POLYCOM (1.800.765.9266) 6001 America Center Drive P.O. Box 641390, San Jose, CA 95164 USA © Copyright 2012 Polycom, Inc. | All Rights Reserved


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