Last week I met with two company CEO’s here in Redmond who wanted to show me their latest solutions for telemedicine, bedside monitors, and home health remote monitoring. It should come as no surprise that neither company is based in the United States. If you’ve been a follower of this Blog you know that I tend to see much greater use of telepresence technologies in healthcare beyond US boarders and especially overseas. It’s not that we don’t have the technology in the United States, it’s just that the business model for using it isn’t as compelling as it is in countries that have more centrally managed, publicly financed health systems.
The first company I met with was TeleMedCare of Rosebery, Australia. Professor Branko Celler, TeleMedCare CEO, is a bioengineer by training. You might assume he was a physician when hearing him speak about the telehealth solutions his company has pioneered. Throughout the demonstration of TeleMedCare’s latest solutions and devices, their clinical rigor shined through. Professor Branko (he still maintains a professorship at New South Whales University) is passionate about using technology to extend health information and medical services to people with chronic diseases. He totally understands why such an approach not only saves money, but improves personal health and well being. He cited numerous examples of this from the many pilots his company has conducted with patients in Australia and the UK.
I was particularly impressed by seeing the company’s latest telehealth monitoring station in action. The station is about the size of a small, flat screen television. It can measure temperature, pulse, blood pressure, weight, peak flow, pulse oximetry, and glucose using a variety of attached and Bluetooth compatible devices. The unit can also handle fall monitoring and social alarms, do health screenings and patient education, and provide medication management and monitoring functions. With a built in camera and voice over IP setup, it can serve as a real-time telemedicine link to the patient’s own healthcare providers. The monitoring station was remarkably unobtrusive and simple to use. According to Professor Branko, even elderly patients adapt to the technology with ease.
My second meeting was with a company I’ve been following for some time. That company is QualiLife, one that I’ve written about previously on this Blog. QualiLife is based in beautiful Lugano, Switzerland. I’ve met with QualiLife CEO, Claudio Giugliemma, on several prior occasions here in Redmond and also in Zurich. In our meeting last week, Mr. Giugliemma updated me on his company’s latest technologies including their new patient bedside counsels. These flatscreen devices provide hospitalized patients with music, television, movies and patient education on demand, Internet access, e-mail, messaging, and voice and video communications. In a federated network, doctors can do virtual rounding on their patients from anywhere.
QualiLife got its start by developing computer software for people with disabilities. By applying this discipline to their bedside counsel solutions, the company offers a user interface to its applications that makes them accessible to anyone regardless of age or disability making this the ideal solution for hospitalized patients.
Unified communications technology is now being combined with smart software, affordable base stations, and a full array of connected physiological monitoring devices for use in the home, hospital, and everywhere in between. This signals the beginning of a revolution in telehealth; an independence day of sorts for telepresence in healthcare. It’s time to celebrate. And for my US readers, Happy 4th of July!
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation