This post initially appeared on the Microsoft in Health blog as a contributed entry by Polycom's Robert Birch.
Healthcare is changing across the board. Improving wellness is top of mind for most providers in the industry, but because the average person aged 24 to 54 years of age spends 77 percent of their time at home or at work, it’s a challenge to monitor and mentor good wellness practices.
Although wellness care will reduce the number of crisis events and improve the overall health of the population, the population is both growing and aging. In the United States, Medicare enrollment is growing by 10,000 people daily. The availability of experts in various medical disciplines involved in treating this growing and aging population is not increasing fast enough to meet the demand. The shortage in medical experts will be more acute in future years as the population matures.
Where we live and work is changing too. By 2050 nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in an urban environment. Cities will become crowded and the strain on resources will grow not only for transportation infrastructure, schools, utilities, and police and fire services, but also for hospitals and other care organizations.
To support healthcare providers in extending their reach for both wellness and acute care scenarios, Polycom and Microsoft are working together to help improve communication and collaboration. Our combined solutions promote rich communication between care teams, doctors, and patients, as well as the delivery of diagnosis by skilled experts through these collaborative technologies. This means that patients can receive care where they spend the majority of their time-at home or at work. It also allows care organizations to spread the workload among a team of caregivers providing the right mix of general practitioners, specialty doctors, and clerical and administrative support staff. The ability to easily call in a specialist to remotely provide a diagnosis and treatment plan is a simple click away for many medical disciplines.
We have created a proactive model that focuses on more than just a patient’s current state of illness, one that will provide better outcomes and reduce cost. The expansion of this technology to include consumer-based solutions like Skype supports additional opportunities to remotely treat stroke, skin disorders, obesity, psychological disorders, and other chronic illnesses.
Providing care to people in their homes and workplaces will have a substantial impact on our future living environment. Polycom and Microsoft work together through the Microsoft CityNext program to ensure that cities have holistic plans to take advantage of technology to improve life in the urban environment. Reductions in carbon emissions, reduced water and power consumption, integrated public safety, better education opportunities, and better wellness and healthcare are all fundamental outcomes of implementing Microsoft CityNext solutions.
Unified communications and video collaboration can significantly affect a population’s health through three major healthcare trends: care coordination, wellness and prevention, and telehealth.
Healthcare providers can coordinate with caretakers, in-home nurses, and patients to create better outcomes after hospital discharge. This includes discharge planning, medication management, care support teams, and multidisciplinary support teams.
Wellness and prevention is about educating patients on ways to avoid getting chronic diseases by living healthier lives. Globally, healthy patients spend on average 3.5 times less money on health expenses than those with chronic diseases and illnesses. This initiative helps people change behaviors as a population.
We are currently seeing an inadequate distribution of healthcare professionals, with a shortage in many rural areas. Telehealth will increase access to healthcare across the board, because doctors will be able to assess patients over video no matter where they are located.
Training is also a key application of collaborative and video solutions. For example, Operation Smile, a joint Microsoft and Polycom customer, is a nonprofit organization supported by volunteer medical professionals. Operation Smile uses our combined video and collaborative technologies to train medical staff in developing countries to repair facial deformities where the skills required to perform these procedures are not available.
Increasingly, as our technology and healthcare needs grow and transform, more and more professionals will see the need for change and will evolve their practices to focus more on creating a healthier population rather than simply treating the sick.
At HIMSS 2015, being held in Chicago this week, we are demonstrating several technologies that illustrate how better communication and collaboration can result in a more efficient, collaborative, healthcare delivery experience. Visit Polycom booth (#7227 North Hall) to take part in these interactive demonstrations.