There’s never been a better time for schools and healthcare practices to invest in distance learning or telemedicine. Now more than ever, schools and healthcare providers are leveraging collaborative technologies to impact students, patients, staff and beyond. Video conferencing applications are allowing providers to grow their practices and students to access experiences and knowledge they previously would never have had.

Let’s explore how distance learning and telemedicine are transforming the healthcare and education industries. We’ll also share with you some exclusive, inside information on a key funding source for new or expanding distance learning and telemedicine projects.

Enhancing Patient Care

In the healthcare space, patients can connect face-to-face with healthcare providers across the state, country and even the globe via telehealth also referred to as telemedicine. This is impacting healthcare provider efficiencies by reducing patient wait times. It is also saving money for both providers and patients.

Healthcare providers are also using video conferencing applications to innovate and provide better quality patient care. Take for instance an award-winning project at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Medical Group in conjunction with SADA Systems that delivers remote training for eye surgeons in Armenia.

The goal of this program is to help reduce rates of infant blindness, which occurs three times as often in Armenia as in the United States. Dr. Thomas C. Lee, M.D., director of The Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, uses Skype and Polycom video conferencing to view surgery in real time. He also uses the platform to communicate with the Armenian surgical team face-to-face from his office in California.

The University of California Riverside is also exploring how video conferencing can be used to treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients more effectively. A pilot is being conducted in which a nurse practitioner will go directly to a patient’s home and remotely connect with MS expert, Elizabeth Morrison-Banks, MD. Assessments will involve a review of the patient’s history, discussion of lab results and neuroimaging and treatment plans.

Distance Learning: Transforming the Educational Experience

Within the education sector, teachers use video conferencing platforms to open up learning opportunities that never existed before. The inconveniences and expenses of a field trip will soon be a thing of the past as students can now explore virtual field trips (VFTs) anywhere in the world with just a click of a button.

Washington State’s Parks recent VFT is a great example. Students from around the world were able to get up-close-and-personal with Orca whales and other marine creatures in the Puget Sound ecosystem.

Experienced naturalists introduced students to the plants and animals that inhabit the nearshore environment of Puget Sound. Students also experienced live touch-tanks, a virtual beach walk, and asked several questions to learn more about the feeding habits and the adaptations marine creatures must possess to live in harsh beach environments.

Western Kentucky University (WKU) allows students to take courses via video that aren’t offered at their local campus. Polycom video systems are integrated into 44 classrooms and conference rooms throughout the WKU system, and each week over 900 hours of instructional learning is being delivered.

Not only do students save time traveling to and from campuses, but they also save a substantial amount of money. By replacing driving with video, students collectively save $1 million in fuel costs annually and five million miles of driving, which results in reduced carbon emissions and happier students.

Universities, such as Nova Southeastern (NSU), have also experienced significant growth as a result of implementing video teleconferencing (VTC) applications. Similar to WKU, NSU connects campuses via VTC, and video-enabled classes are used on a regular basis.

For example, a single pharmacy class will have 80 students each from two campuses in Florida, and an additional 50 students in San Juan, which makes the pharmacy program accessible to students who are not on the mainland. This distance learning initiative has sparked NSU’s expansion efforts and has enabled the university to attract a new population of students.

There’s a grant for that: Federal funding is available for telemedicine and distance learning projects

In rural communities, especially, access to collaborative technologies for distance learning and telemedicine can change the quality of life for many residents. To help increase this access, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds a Distance Learning and Telemedicine (RUS-DLT) grant program. The program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density.

Of course, pursuing grant funding can be arduous and even intimidating for some. This is why our grant experts at Polycom have put together a free e-book chock-full of tips, advice and best practices from their years of experience with a multitude of grant programs as well as from past RUS-DLT grant awardees.

When you download the free e-book, you also get access to a series of videos-on-demand and other resources our Polycom Grant Assistance Program experts have compiled to assist you on your journey to grant success.

Obviously, distance learning and telemedicine are here to stay. If your school or healthcare practice has yet to adopt video conferencing applications to help improve efficiencies, increase access to care or provide new learning opportunities then now is the time to do it. And if you are unsure about how to secure funding, then seek the assistance from the Polycom grant experts.