Guest post by Garrett Taylor CEO of Uplift Comprehensive Services.
My organization, Uplift Comprehensive Services (residential services) is fully involved in “mhealth.” We use mobile high-definition video conferencing, which allows our doctors and clinicians to care for patients in geographically remote areas of North Carolina, and gives them full access to electronic health records and an easy way to collaborate each other. Along the way, we’ve improved patient service, enhanced productivity, and cut travel and office costs.
By combining video conferencing technology with a bring your own device (BYOD) mobile strategy, Uplift saves at least $500 for each scheduled physician visit. The thousands of dollars we save each year can be used instead to find grant opportunities for better patient care.
It’s not as hard as you might think to use video conferencing in a mhealth strategy. What follows is an explanation of Uplift’s mobile video conferencing approach.
Uplift Comprehensive Services has been in business for 12 years, covering 15 counties across North Carolina. We offer community-based assistance for children, adolescents and adults, with services substance abuse prevention to mental health treatment. Our treatment options include multi-systemic therapy, outpatient therapy, and medication management, among others.
Coordinating clinicians in the field is one of our biggest challenges, because our patients live in parts of North Carolina so remote that they can be reached only by land bridge or ferry. On the best of days, having a doctor catch a ferry for a patient visit takes four hours, round trip. Each trip could cost $500 for in-home physician care.
We realized we could better provide services, manage data, documents and coordinate with staff in the field by sending a nurse practitioner to a patient’s home. Connecting with the doctor remotely, our patient could still have individualized, in-person care – and still meet with their physician. High definition video conferencing was the key.
While some of our clinicians had used free video conferencing services before, we knew free solutions were typically not HIPAA compliant. That compliance is absolutely critical to us. Beyond HIPAA compliance, we also needed safe, secure access to data, which is available with many enterprise-class video conferencing solutions at a price that even a smaller organization like Uplift could afford.
In first using mobile video conferencing for patient care, we gave our employees mobile devices and tablets. We found, however, that employees and clinicians did not want to carry their own mobile device and one for Uplift. Now we use MDM (mobile device management) technology to install and update software, and to set security protocols on our employees’ own devices. If someone leaves our organization, all our data is easily removed from their device from our end.
This BYOD strategy has been a cost savings for Uplift. Instead of paying for a device, we manage the protected content from our headquarters. Our employees can use whichever device they’d like, instead of working with one we might have chosen for the entire organization.
Most enterprise-scale video conferencing solutions now work in the cloud, which is important for Uplift. We know that we have the safety of a secure cloud for our critical information, even if we have a problem with our servers or the power goes out. Better still, our high-speed cellular wireless network is enough to connect us with true HD video conferencing.
By using mobile devices, Uplift no longer needs a satellite office in a rural area. Clinicians can document visits on the mobile device and can get to electronic health records online. With this mobile strategy, both clinicians and patients can communicate with anyone else in the Uplift organization, including doctors.
This approach to patient care also has saved us considerable operating expense. Because all our clinicians are now in the field, filing reports and preparing documents electronically, we’ve downsized our office space with no problem at all.
Reduced travel is also a benefit. Before video conferencing, it was common to have doctors or clinicians spend up to four hours on the road. Productivity suffered. Now staff can work in the field and collaborate remotely using their own mobile devices. Our employees have gotten a considerable part of their day back.
If you’re considering video conferencing for mhealth treatment, I can’t stress enough to have a good MDM solution. Many good solutions are available for free. With an MDM tool, you can monitor devices and install or update apps remotely, which saves both time and money.
Also, make sure you consider the best combination of HIPAA compliance and functionality. You need both data security and the ability to collaborate easily, and add or drop call participants without hassle.
Uplift’s mobile HD video conferencing strategy lets us offer comprehensive treatment options to our patients from the safety and comfort of their own home. It maintains a human element in treatment and allows easy collaboration with doctors as needed. We’ve improved productivity in our practice, so doctors and clinicians can spend more hours with our patients, and less in unnecessary travel time.
Garrett Taylor is CEO of Uplift Comprehensive Services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.