Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The act, which was championed by President Obama, was designed to bring healthcare coverage to all Americans.
In addition to increasing healthcare access, the act also provides incentives to healthcare organizations that embrace advanced health IT solutions, such as electronic health records (EHR). This is intended to drive adoption of today’s advanced technologies that can make the entire industry more efficient and help decrease healthcare costs.
However, EHRs aren’t the only healthcare technologies that can increase information sharing and cut healthcare costs. Unified Communications (UC) technologies, such as video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions, used in telemedicine implementations can also help create a more connected and cost-effective healthcare system.
A great example is right across the pond in Ireland, where the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust is using VTC for telemedicine and seeing significant benefits.
The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust delivers integrated health and social care to 340,000 people in Belfast, as well as specialist services to all of Northern Ireland. The Trust is one of the largest in the United Kingdom, with a staff of 20,000 treating approximately 210,000 inpatients a year.
The Trust recently implemented a UC network that delivers video communications to their 17,000 health care staff. The network has drastically expedited decision making by allowing staff to have face-to-face communication and meetings instantly from any location and almost any device via video.
In addition to bringing staff together, the network is helping to increase access to care for patients. By connecting the Trust’s multiple hospitals, specialists can be delivered via video to where care is most needed. Another added benefit is that doctors can see more patients.
According to Paul Duffy, the Co-Director of IT and Telecommunications at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust:
“People are having more ad hoc video calls than we thought they would, because it’s easy to do, and video speeds up our decision making…within healthcare, information needs to be passed quickly and accurately through the system in order to get a more immediate response which, in turn, means we can see more people—another added benefit we are seeing to the implementation of our new solution.”
With the PPACA upheld and healthcare access and efficiency a main priority in the U.S., the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust is a great example of how UC solutions can drive a more effective healthcare system. By following their lead and embracing these solutions, we can bring care to more patients, when they need it, where they need it and for less.