How a healthcare facility demonstrates the untapped potential of videoconferencing

A look at an extensive mental health organization in Massachusetts and how it is incorporating video to improve treatment.

Healthcare videoconferencing Telehealth

The topic of the evolution of collaboration tools to improve virtual collaboration has been red hot of late. There's been a flurry of startup activity in the area of team messaging, and the concept of the virtual meeting room has become the latest buzzword among unified communications vendors.

Despite the hype around all of these virtual tools, it's important that the industry not forget about physical meeting spaces as well. I recently had a chance to discuss this topic with Ray Tamasi, CEO of Gosnold of Cape Cod, an addiction treatment center in Massachusetts. The organization treats about 10,000 patients a year across a dozen locations south of Boston staffed with 425 employees.

As CEO of the organization, Tamasi is focused first and foremost on constantly providing better care to patients, with the need to drive down costs always a secondary objective. One way to achieve both objectives relates to the way meeting spaces are currently being utilized. Today, the facility operates much like any other standard facility, with most of the physical space being utilized for doctor's offices and large meeting spaces.

The process of treating addiction and mental health ailments can be onerous on patients, as they are required to continually visit a facility to engage with a doctor or participate in group sessions. Tamasi has tried to change this by having his clinicians become more mobile, with the goal of treating patients wherever they are located. While Gosnold now has the staff visit patients in schools, local doctors' offices, or even in their homes, this in-person approach can prove to be costly. 

Tamasi believes that the best care is provided when there is a relationship between patient and caregiver that is based on trust. That is why either the patient needs to go to the Gosnold or clinicians need to visit patients where they are. It is the direct connection that counts.

To achieve this level of connection, Tamasi has tried to embrace video “telehealth” solutions where doctors can interact with patients using video solutions in the fixed meeting spaces in various facilities.

Telehealth has been well adopted for remote treatment of patients when it comes to psychiatric work, and data suggests that mental health is the fastest-growing segment in TeleHealth.

Despite this growth, Tamasi firmly believes that there are opportunities to further improve the overall experience. In Tamasi's words, the video experience has not been as “rich” as typical person-to-person interactions. While industry data shows that doctors and patients “like” the video experience, Tamasi believes that an improved “experience” would increase adoption rates of tele-psychiatry video solutions by doctors and patients at Gosnold. Tamasi believes the industry needs solutions capable of providing richer, more natural experiences.

Tamasi also cited that current technology can sometimes cause un-natural environments – such as forcing participants to one end of the table so they can be seen by the remote participant – that diminish the overall value of the technology for serving these type of therapy sessions. Tamasi is not giving up on video, as he believes strongly that current solutions can be enhanced to the point where eye contact can be established with all, and trust and relationships flourish. 

In his view, current room-based systems must get as close to possible as the actual dynamics that occur when everyone is in the same room. He also stresses the need for the technology to be intuitive and seamless to the meeting itself. “If the solution requires doctors to learn to interact through a specific medium, then it will fail,” Tamasi added.

“We need solutions that enable individuals to interact with one another in a way that feels like they are truly in the next chair,” he says.

This conversation was eye-opening, especially to an analyst whose research continues to see video as a game-changing technology capable of overcoming obstacles of time and space. Perhaps Tamasi has done the industry a solid by uncovering the “silver bullet” that will enable video to become more widely adopted by the healthcare vertical – and many others as well. If it can truly be embraced as a trusted medium, think of the possibilities when its truly “rich” across every phone, device, and tablet.

Just think of the world of good that can be achieved.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.