In a previous post on FedUC, we discussed recent rules put in place by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that would reduce the Medicare payments to hospitals if patients are readmitted unnecessarily within 30 days of discharge. We also discussed how collaborative video solutions could help hospitals avoid these penalties.

Ultimately, by utilizing Unified Communications (UC) technologies, such as video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions for healthcare, hospitals can significantly reduce readmission rates by engaging patients in their own care. They can provide better, more interactive discharge information and instructions that empower patients and their caregivers to work towards staying healthy. They can also enable patients to interact with medical professionals on demand from anywhere.

However, collaborative video for healthcare can have an impact on many more patients than those simply suffering from pneumonia, heart disease and congestive heart failure – the three conditions being monitored for the penalties above. Patients with chronic conditions can also see significant benefits from embracing these solutions.

Chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and others, need constant attention, care and management. The constant care and frequent check-ups can get expensive over time. According to the American Diabetes Association, the national cost of diabetes alone in the U.S. exceeds $174 billion per year.

“Extending care coordination outside of the hospital or doctor’s office is imperative for the health and wellness of patients, even when it’s not immediately following a hospitalization,” said Dr. Deborah A. Jeffries, Director Global Healthcare Marketing for Polycom. “Chronic conditions account for a large percentage of healthcare spending in our country, and video collaboration solutions for healthcare can help patients suffering from chronic conditions manage their disease more effectively to achieve better outcomes, and a better quality of life.”

By embracing multipoint collaborative video solutions for healthcare, patients can be given peer to peer medical education that brings together communities of patients all suffering from the same condition. Patients that are successfully managing their disease can spend time with others discussing the disease management best practices that they’ve established.

Take diabetes, as an example. Diabetes can often be managed and controlled through diet and exercise. Patients that are struggling to stay on a fitness regimen could benefit from the encouragement and anecdotes of peers that have struggled through the same challenges. Multipoint video collaboration can help to bring them together.

Patients with chronic conditions can also connect with individuals other than peers that can contribute to their wellness and care. Video collaboration solutions can connect patients with their doctors via video. With chronic conditions requiring frequent check-ups and monitoring, this can drastically reduce the cost and inconvenience for patients and help to ensure that they keep appointments.

Also, with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) awarding billions of dollars to keep people healthy and out of the hospital, healthcare providers are adding a new layer of care in the form of health coaches or health advocates. These patient advocates sit closer to the community and help patients sort through choices and better manage their conditions. Collaborative video solutions can help make patient advocates more accessible to patients.

According to Dr. Jeffries, “we’re seeing a shift in the healthcare industry – a move towards ACO’s, patient-centered care, and the introduction of new personnel at healthcare providers and payers that are tasked with engaging patients in their own care and keeping them healthy. Collaborative video solutions are an essential part of this process and can enable patients to make the right choices and stay on the path to health and wellness. ”

“UC technologies, such as VTC, enable healthcare organizations to shift to a patient-centered model of care that not only allows smoother transitions as patients exit the hospital and return home, but also provides multipoint video-enabled support for peer-to peer medical education, live interactive video between doctors and patients for follow up visits, and access to community-wide streamed educational sessions for wellness,” said Dr. Jeffries.

Video collaboration for healthcare can be an effective tool for hospitals looking to empower patients in their own care and avoid fines for readmission, but that’s just the beginning. By embracing video in the care and management of chronic diseases, the American healthcare system can help these patients live healthier lives while cutting the cost of some of America’s costliest medical conditions.