Telehealth

Vecna Board Names Dwight Moore CEO of VGo Subsidiary

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 22, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Vecna Technologies, parent company of VGo Communications, has selected Dwight Moore as VGo’s new Chief Executive Officer. The appointment of Moore to this position follows a strategic decision to make the VGo product line a subsidiary company under the Vecna umbrella and focus its mission on immersive and affordable telepresence.

“Dwight’s experience in growing organizations, his passion for delivering value to consumers worldwide, and his accessible leadership style make him an extraordinary fit for our team,” said Vecna co-founder and president Deborah Theobald. “We’re looking forward to Dwight’s contributions to the growing VGo brand providing exceptional value to home consumers, students and educators, as well as healthcare and business professionals.”

“I am delighted to join VGo,” said Moore. “Vecna as a whole, and specifically the VGo team, have a rare combination of an incredibly loyal customer base, an unparalleled product, talented people, and a commitment to leaving a lasting, positive impact on the world. As we move forward in bringing new features to current users and a broader market, our mission remains focused on improving the quality of interpersonal communication.”

Moore has spent his career building enterprise value for public and private companies in a number of industries, including the telecommunications and consumer electronics sectors in both domestic and international settings. He also brings extensive experience in operational management in innovative environments. In the past, Moore has served as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at NTS (National Technical Solutions) as well as leadership positions for NCR and Lockheed Martin. Most recently, Moore served as President of Echelon Partners, a private equity company focused on growing small business.

About VGo
VGo is a robotic telepresence solution that allows a person to have a presence in a distant location, including the freedom to see, hear, talk, and move around as if he were physically there. VGo is a flexible tool that can be applied to organizational challenges in healthcare, education and business. VGo’s mission is to improve the quality of interpersonal connection for professionals and individuals. VGo became part of Vecna’s family of automation solutions in 2015 and proudly develops and manufactures its products in Massachusetts.

Learn more at www.vecna.com/vgo-telepresence/

About Vecna
Vecna was established in 1999 to empower humanity through transformative technology. Vecna’s portfolio of solutions includes automation solutions for healthcare, business, education, and material handling.  Learn more at Vecna.com.

Upstream Change, Downstream Value: see you at HIMSS!

The time between setting an appointment and arriving in the exam room is the most important for influencing immediate and downstream revenue capture, patient readiness and satisfaction.

Vecna’s patient self-service solution is a digital platform that automates routine registration and billing tasks through one cohesive workflow for patients and staff.

Our customers have:

  • cut patient waittimes by 12 minutes,
  • reduced bad debt by 52%,
  • increased patient satisfaction scores by 5%,
  • increased staff efficiency by 15%, and
  • increased payments collected at the point of service by 30%.

Stop by booth 5279 during exhibit hall hours to learn how digitizing your front office can impact your back office operations downstream.

Vecna has also attained DIACAP Accreditation and ATO issued by the Department of Defense’s Defense Health Agency. DoD customers can now purchase and securely use Vecna’s patient check-in system on the DoD network.

And test drive a VGo telepresence robot in our booth and at Verizon’s booth 761. VGo helps give clinical experts instant access to the patient unit, to the rehab facility, or to the home, improving the connection with face-to-face interaction, from anywhere.

Monday, February 20 10:00 am-6:00 pm
Tuesday, February 21 9:30 am-6:00 pm
Wednesday, February 22 9:30 am-4:00 pm

8 Best Practices in Implementing Telehealth

By Daniel Theobald and Amanda Baldi, The Doctor Weighs In

Research shows that patients and physicians are ready for telehealth—and improved outcomes are being realized by healthcare facilities around the country. Physicians are leading the charge, but it’s time for executives and leaders of healthcare organizations to recognize the power of telehealth and to go all in.

So, what’s holding healthcare leaders back from mass adoption of telehealth solutions? As with any new technology, the challenges include influencing large-scale change, financing the effort, end-user patient adoption, and concerns over security and IT resourcing, and having enough focus to scale the initiative.

8 best practices

Like any other venture worth doing, the most important thing is just to start. Here are 8 best practices to lower barriers to taking the first step and scaling up your telehealth programs.

  1. Start small: Identify the biggest areas of constrained resources, with the largest proponents of live video consult. Application areas might include video rounds for traveling physicians or remote specialists, rural hospital consultations, skilled nursing care, rapid second opinions in ICU or ED, interpreter services, medical training, tele-sitting, or long-stay pediatrics. Start small. Choose one area where you can make the biggest impact and then build on your experience to scale to other areas of your practice.
  2. Identify critical features: Telehealth solutions run the gamut from something as basic as iPhone’s FaceTime to cumbersome, expensive telepresence devices. Seek out a simple and affordable solution that offers the ability for physicians to move around, zoom in, and snap photos that can then be uploaded to a patient’s health record. Some telepresence solutions also have a USB port for high powered auxiliary cameras for remote dermatological or wound care consultations. This solution should also allow a physician to log in without requiring a resource at the other end to receive the call so as to avoid the need for an additional person to schedule the use of the device or manage its logistics.
  3. Account for all costs: As mentioned above, telehealth solutions can be as basic or expensive as you’d like. However, to ensure the best ROI, ensure that the solution you choose includes the cost of the device, subscriptions, warranty, and support. This way, you won’t encounter any surprises down the line.
  4. Make good on reimbursements: Many states have restrictions on telehealth reimbursement policies, such as patient setting or origination site, technology type, geography, and provider type. Start with a small application that is certainly covered by reimbursements and then use the reimbursement from that application to scale up and purchase additional devices or licenses. And don’t forget about patient satisfaction—see #7 on how to education your patient population!
  5. Minimize reliance on your IT staff: We know that this is a time when hospital IT systems are proliferating, putting a big strain on IT departments. Reduce the workload for your staff by using an encrypted solution that connects simply over pre-existing WiFi networks.
  6. Turn clinical early adopters into solution champions: Look to your early adopter physicians and clinicians and turn them into promoters. The key here is making sure the solution is easy to learn, easy to use, and device agnostic. However, once those features are secured, those physicians on your staff who are already using telehealth technologies will be your best resources and advocates in scaling up your telehealth program across departments.
  7. Increase patient adoption through marketing: While most patients, especially those age 35 and younger, are ready for telehealth, a survey of 1,200 consumers found that 41% had never heard of telemedicine, indicating that public awareness of telehealth technologies may lag behind availability. ROI can only be achieved if you have a solution that is used and accepted by physicians and patients. As we’ve seen with patient self-service solutions, any technology that’s used for patient-facing communication must be well marketed. Use digital signage in waiting rooms, email marketing, and patient portals to educate patients about telehealth.
  8. Appoint a telehealth expert: To take their telehealth programs to scale, some early adopters of telehealth are creating a new role for a telehealth expert and advocate. By committing a resource to coordinating telehealth services, you are making a value statement and demonstrating to your patients and physicians that you’re serious about supporting improved patient satisfaction, reducing physician fatigue, and improving outcomes. For example, VUMC hired Liza Weavind, MBBCh, MMHC, professor of Anesthesiology and Surgery, to set up a teleICU system with partner systems. Her experience in the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System in Houston as the fourth teleICU medical director in North America in 2003 was the impetus for her recruitment to VUMC in 2007 to initiate a similar care paradigm. She is focused on setting up a nights and weekends model.

These eights steps can help your organization to reduce physician burnout, extend physician reach, improve outcomes, and gain a competitive edge in offering outstanding compassionate care.

New Connections Speed Up Care

By Joanne Kaldy, an excerpt from Provider Magazine

Energizing Elders And Their Loved Ones

No matter how much planning goes into telemedicine programs or how much is invested in the technology, it won’t be effective if patients aren’t energized and engaged.

To get elders involved, according to Easton-Garrett, “you need technology that is easy to understand and use. Make sure that the contrast of the screen is appropriate for aging eyes; have the ability to change the font size. Some items may need Braille or voice prompts.”

To help residents embrace telemedicine, she suggests having focus groups and involving resident leaders in the community. Take the intimidation out of the technology.

“Have someone who can introduce it in a way they will understand. Be prepared to address their objections. For example, if they say that they’re too old to learn something new, remind them about what changes they’ve been able to manage. Make them feel empowered.”

Part of the reason the wound care telemedicine program works, says Easton-Garrett, is that the screen is at “conversational height” for people who are seated or in wheelchairs. Because they are comfortable and can easily engage and make eye contact with the nurse, they respond and interact easily.

Easton-Garrett and her team also worked to build excitement about the telemedicine program. “We had posters at the nurses’ stations and in the hallways—‘VGo [the name of the telemedine technology] Is Coming.’” And they asked for suggestions on names for the robot.”

MonTech robot helps Victor kindergartner stay connected

By Perry Backus, Ravalli Republic

VICTOR — “Are you ready Miss Piper?”

The lights on the Vgo robot standing a couple of feet away from Victor Kindergarten teacher Sue Lane blink happily.

“Is your paper folded short and fat or long and skinny?”

“Short and fat,” comes Piper’s response.

On tiny tables surrounded by tiny chairs, the rest of Lane’s kindergarten class finishes folding their own pieces of paper into four little squares.

Math class is set to begin.

On the other side of town – across busy Highway 93 – 6-year-old Piper Heinz is keeping a close eye on her teacher on the electronic tablet that rests on the family’s kitchen table.

She draws the same candy canes, presents and Christmas stars that her classmates at school do as they learn a lesson on how to add and subtract. When her classmates hold up their fingers to show the answer, Piper does the same.

And when the lesson comes to an end, her classmates make a beeline to the robot’s camera to share their work with their friend.

“They all love Piper,” Lane said, with a smile.

***

The sweet little blonde-haired bundle of joy was born with cystic fibrosis.

At first, her parents weren’t sure that she would survive.

“I didn’t know anything about cystic fibrosis back then,” said Piper’s mother, Virginia. “It’s genetic. I had no idea I carried that gene, but now I know so does 80 percent of the population.”

People with cystic fibrosis have a defective gene that causes a buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs.

In the lungs, that mucus can trap bacteria, which can lead to extensive lung damage and respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allows the body to break down food and absorb nutrients.

Before people understood its dangers, children born with the disease often didn’t live to see their first birthday.

“It was called failure to thrive,” Heinz said.

Piper can’t digest food without medication. Her lungs have to be manually cleared by someone carefully pounding on her chest. Whenever she goes out into public, Piper wears a mask to protect herself from germs that might stray her way.

“I suppose in a perfect CF world, a person wouldn’t be around anyone or anything,” Heinz said. “They would be a bubble child. Germs are very dangerous to her.”

But that’s not the life anyone wants for Piper.

She started kindergarten this year and went to school with her mask for the first few weeks until her mother heard the annual flu outbreak had arrived in the area.

Heinz and the school knew the day would come that it wouldn’t be safe for her to be with her classmates.

“When Piper came into the school, we all realized that she was going to have a tough time, medically speaking,” said Victor Superintendent and Elementary Principal Lance Pearson.

Pearson said he didn’t know very much about cystic fibrosis initially. When he began researching the disease, he came across some information about how people were using robots to allow home-bound children to stay connected with their peers.

As a former kindergarten teacher, Pearson said he knows how important it is for children of that age to be able to interact with other kids.

“They want to be able to see their classmates,” Pearson said. “They learn as much from their peers as their teachers. When I saw that robot, the light came on. I thought this is what we could do for her.”

No one knew for sure just how well it might work.

***

Instead of being forced to go out and buy one, the school turned to an organization called MonTech that’s headquartered at the University of Montana.

The organization offers a variety of assistive technology items for people with a variety of disabilities and health conditions.

Two years ago, MonTech purchased two robots that can be controlled over the internet. This year, Piper is using one. The other is being used by a student with a different diagnosis on the other side of the state.

“We’re really happy that we’re having this kind of success with both of them,” said MonTech’s clinical coordinator Julie Doerner.

Initially, Doerner said the robots were designed for tele-health applications to allow physicians to examine patients in isolated communities in a private setting.

“When we first bought the robots, we just wanted to demonstrate how they work,” Doerner said. “We wanted to plant a seed at different conferences.”

Someone had the idea they could be used to keep homebound students connected with their classmates. Last spring, MonTech made its first loan of a robot to a student in the Billings area.

“Our loans do have a time limit,” she said. “Unfortunately, the robots are expensive. This does give school districts and others an idea about whether they are worth the investment.”

“So far, we’re hearing that kids love them,” Doerner said. “There are so many things that kids miss out on if they have to rely on other people.”

***

Pearson said it’s been a great learning experience for everyone.

“Even the kids in class are getting something out of it,” he said. “Most importantly, it’s been a neat tool for Piper to be able to interact with her peers.”

The school is looking for a way to purchase its own robot for Piper.

“It’s one of those things that we need to do,” Pearson said. “We all love Piper. We want the best possible education for her.”

Once the danger of the flu season has passed, Heinz said her daughter will return to school with her mask on.

“She knows the flu would wipe her out,” Heinz said. “It could be life ending. She’s also very social. She wants to be with her friends.”

Heinz has been thankful for the school’s efforts to help her daughter.

“Actually I bawled my eyes out when I heard the school was willing to do this,” she said. “People have gone out of their way to do wonderful things for her.”

Piper’s teacher knows how important it is for Piper to stay in touch for her classmates. It’s not only Piper that benefits.

She sees it every day when the robot suddenly comes to life and starts moving across the classroom.

That’s always followed with excited shouts: “Piper is here!”

“Socialization and friendship is what kindergarten is really all about,” Lane said. “They always get excited – sometimes too excited – when she comes in.”

Everyone knows that there will be other times in Piper’s life when she can’t physically be there in the classroom, but the robot will still allow her to be with her friends.

“It’s going to be a great thing for her to have when they all get in middle school,” Lane said. “She will be able to go into the girl’s bathroom and talk. These will always be her people.”

Inside Advanced Manufacturing: This Is Vecna’s Robot-Filled Campus in Cambridge

By Olivia Vanni, staff writer, BostInno

Right across the street from Alewife Station in Cambridge sits a campus sprinkled with autonomous vehicles, like a converted 1967 VW Bus and a tricycle. 35 Cambridge Park Drive is home to Vecna Technologies, a company where watching robots wander about on their own is business as usual.

Vecna, a robot logistics company, started as a government contractor. Over time, it has taken the innovations it has developed for the public sector and translated them to make commercial products. Its robots range from the “BEAR” (or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot) to the QCBot, which you may have recently seen is being used by Dana-Farber to deliver medication to patients, to VGo, the telepresence robot technology Vecna acquired last year.

What you may not know is that every product that Vecna offers is made on its Cambridge campus.

“Building things is what it’s been about from the start,” Daniel Theobald, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Vecna, said. “Robotics has been our focus since the beginning.”

So it would only make sense for Vecna to take on all of the prototyping and assembly operations itself, rather than outsourcing them. Theobald says making everything onsite allows the company to accelerate the engineering and manufacturing processes. He told us, “In today’s economy, agility and speed are key to getting to market. The old way, going back and forth, will put you behind.”

“Manufacturing here is flexible and fast,” Anton Richardson, a mechanical engineer at Vecna, said. “Engineers can walk over to the shop and they can all sit down to figure something out instantly instead of sending emails back-and-forth for weeks.”

“It was a different transition for us,” Bob Stocks, Vecna’s Prototype Machine Shop Manager, told us. “We converted to verbal instruction and the turnaround time has become faster.”

The manufacturing facility on campus has grown over the years, as the company gradually acquired different equipment as needed. At first, Vecna had outsourced all of its shop work. Theobald said he was becoming increasingly frustrated by issues, such as a snag with turnaround time.

When Theobald met Stocks, who previously owned a machine shop dedicated to R&D up in Wilmington, Mass., they decided to merge their two businesses. Theobald told us, “I said, ‘You know what, we really need to bring this equipment in-house. We can’t spend a week waiting every time we need brackets.”

Stocks added, “He turned to me and said, ‘I’ll take everything.’”

Since then, Vecna has personally invested in getting the latest and greatest machinery needed for prototyping, including a large-scale 3D printer that runs 24/7 and a laser cutter that wouldn’t fit in many Boston one-beds. There’s a separate building on-campus where they can handle a large volume of assembling. The space is configured based on the task at hand, making for a “flexible assembly line.”

There are times when Vecna is almost exclusively doing prototyping and focusing on innovating. Other times, the company dedicates much of its resources to assembling products.

Vecna doesn’t just manufacture its own products. Its shop services members of the community. For instance, it’s currently working with Massachusetts General Hospital on a portable MRI machine.

“We’re trying to be partners in the innovation process,” Theobald said. “That’s key. We have excess capacity and we can share with the community. We can provide value in collaboration.”

Vecna currently has about 160 employees, with numerous PhDs working in the engineering group. Their backgrounds include advanced degrees from schools like MIT and Carnegie Mellon. And some team members even have Mars rover development under their belts.

That said, having an impressive resume and a PhD doesn’t make you a shoo-in hire at this advanced manufacturing company. In addition to those ever-coveted STEM skills, Vecna looks for candidates with soft skills, which Theobald says are crucial as well.

“We have seen amazing resumes incapable of being part of the team here,” he said. “They’re accomplished, but communication skills are necessary to do product turnarounds like we do.

Using mHealth to Tackle the Concussion Conundrum

By Eric Wicklund, mHealth Intelligence

mHealth tools, ranging from apps to headgear the occasional robot, are changing the way schools and youth sports leagues check for concussions in their athletes.

It’s not uncommon these days for a high school or college physical trainer to have a tablet stowed alongside the bandages, water bottles and aspirin. When an athlete suffers a hard hit to the head, the trainer can call up an app that helps measure visual processing, cognitive perception, coordination and memory.

“Professional athletes have doctors on the sideline to test them for concussion symptoms, but students and amateur athletes don’t have that luxury,” says David Eagleman, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine who founded the mHealth company BrainCheck in 2014. “BrainCheck makes it easy for them to measure their cognitive function on a normal day and then measure changes after an incident or blow to the head. It’s a tremendous tool for athletes and trainers to be aware of these changes that are often subtle and can be missed.”

High-profile concussion cases in professional sports, especially the NFL and NHL, have raised awareness of the devastating health effects of hard and repeated hits to the head. But schools and youth leagues are feeling the pressure as well. The American Journal of Sports Medicine reports that one in five high school athletes sustains a concussion each year – and almost 40 percent of them continue to play after that hit. And a 2013 study estimated that high school football players are twice as likely to sustain a concussion as a college or professional player.

That makes inexpensive and easy-to-use mobile health tools all the more valuable. Sometimes all that’s needed is a good video link to a doctor at the nearest hospital.

In Mississippi, roughly a dozen high schools are partnering with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to provide concussion evaluation services on the sidelines during football games. High school staff (only three of the schools have a trainer) are equipped with a tablet and video-conferencing app that links them to UMMC’s doctors.

“To diagnose a concussion is based mainly on talking to the player and seeing how they’re acting,” Brian Tolleson, MD, one of the doctors at the other end of the video link, told MSNewsNow during a 2015 interview. “It’s not necessarily a physical exam where you need to put your hands on the player.”

“You’ll never prevent a concussion,” Lee Jenkins, executive director of the Mississippi Brain Injury Association, added. “But the thing is you can prevent a second concussion which is when the real danger comes in.”

For more advanced concussion testing, BrainCheck is one of several mHealth companies developing online platforms that test cognitive function. Vizzario, Oculogica and SyncThink are developing or using eye-tracking technology to assess visual attention following a concussive hit. Sonde Health uses audio analysis technology developed at MIT to develop “vocal biomarkers” of mental health disorders, including the lasting effects of a concussion. And imPACT Applications markets a pair of devices, called imPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) and imPACT Pediatric, that test reaction time, word recognition and non-verbal problem solving in adults and children who have suffered hits to the head.

imPACT is now partnering with the Dignity Health Foundation, Dignity Health’s Barrow Neurological Institute, the California Interscholastic Foundation and the San Francisco 49ers to launch a mHealth-based concussion testing program in five pilot schools in the San Francisco area. Another 20 area high schools will be using the Dignity Health Concussion Network’s online and app-based educational tools to educate students, coaches, staff and parents on the effects of a concussion.

“This program is necessary to help correct major misunderstandings that most of the population has about concussions,” Jávier Cardenas, MD, director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center in Phoenix, said in a release announcing the partnership. “For example, many people believe that a head injury is only a concussion if there is a loss of consciousness, but 90 percent of concussions do not present with that symptom at all. This program empowers athletic directors and coaches to take an injured player out of the game and gives athletes the tools to speak up when something doesn’t feel quite right.”

Robotics companies, meanwhile, are marketing their telemedicine platforms to high schools, colleges and professional sports teams looking for a real-time link to a specialist on the sidelines. Northern Arizona University deploys Vecna’s four-foot-tall VGo robot on the sidelines during football games to provide an instant link to neurologists at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

“Through those two seasons there were 11 players who had suspected concussions and were assessed on-site as well as remotely, using standardized tools,” Mayo neurologist Amaal Starling, MD, said in a story prepared by Vecna. Of those 11 players, she said, nine were diagnosed with a concussion.

“I do see this as a huge tool and advancement for the smaller colleges as well as the high schools,” Starling added. “I think it’s important that every high school have a dedicated athletic trainer who has easy access to a neurologist who can evaluate brain dysfunction.”

In a nod to patient engagement, there’s a fashion element as well. Sports apparel manufacturers like Nike, UnderArmour and Reebok have been or are working on headgear, such as skullcaps and headbands, that can measure the concussive impact to a user’s head or even analyze biometric data and a user’s moods to check for erratic behavior.

Then there’s BioDirection, an Arizona startup that is developing the Tbit, a mobile device that tests a drop of a user’s blood for protein biomarkers released into the bloodstream following a concussion. The company envisions a day when a player can be tested for a concussion in 90 seconds – as easily as a diabetic pricks his or finger to test blood-glucose levels.

“We are addressing an enormous, global unmet medical need with a truly amazing technical platform,” Brian McGlynn, the company’s founding executive vice president and CTO, said in press release announcing the company’s filing of pre-submission information with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Tbit’s ability to quantitatively measure protein biomarkers associated with brain injury at ng/mL concentrations offers the potential to aid in concussion prognosis and unbiased return to play/activity decision making. Tbit is the first step in rapid and affordable, real-time data to improve diagnosis and patient safety.”

Some healthcare providers are gathering data from concussion patients to study side effects and ongoing health issues.

“Concussion is experienced by more than 4 million Americans each year,” says Laura Balcer, MD, the co-director of NYU Langone’s Concussion Center and co-principal investigator in a study, launched last December, that is gathering data from concussion patients using the Concussion Tracker app and Apple’s ResearchKit platform. “Using new technologies, we can now evaluate a potentially large percentage of this population across the country to gain daily insights about concussion, and employ data in ways we previously could not. For instance, this data could enable us to understand daily symptom profiles for patients for the first time.”

The NFL also recognizes the value of mHealth in its efforts to deal with concussions. The NFL Players Association and Harvard University are using ResearchKit in TeamStudy, an app-based study designed to measure the short- and long-term effects faced by NFL athletes.

“Traditionally, we study participants in one location, failing to capture their real-life, day-to-day experience — for example, understanding things like pain and daily activity,” Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, chief of cognitive neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and principal investigator in the study, said in a release issued by the NFL. “Using ResearchKit, we will be able to quickly identify patterns that could lead to treatments for health conditions faced by former NFL players.”

Neurological testing remains one of the hot topics in mHealth innovation and contests across the country. Among the winners of the 2016 Cleveland Medical Hackathon was Reflexion Interactie Technologies, a startup developed by three Case Western Reserve University students that uses a mobile-optimized online screening program to help non-professional athletes and athletic programs to conduct weekly screening programs.

mHealth experts say these platforms have applications far beyond the sports field. They could be adapted to test cognitive function in people dealing with many types of neurological issues, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke and dementia.

“Concussion and dementia are massive problems in desperate need of better solutions,” says George McLendon, former provost at Rice University and an early investor in BrainCheck, which recently secured $3 million in funding to expand its platform to senior care.

High-Tech House Call

By Val Prevish | Photos by Gary Kessler for Episcopal Retirement Homes Linkage

Residents at Marjorie P. Lee and Deupree Cottages may notice a new “face” in the halls—a robotic face, that is. Episcopal Retirement Homes (ERH) is piloting a VGo robot that enables physicians and family members to interact with patients remotely to enhance care and improve communication. (more…)

Rapid Growth of Telemedicine Initiatives at Vanderbilt Providing Patients Care Closer to Home

Originally posted on Newswise

Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute cardiologist Allen Naftilan, M.D., Ph.D., puts a stethoscope to his ears and listens to the heartbeats of patients more than 90 miles away.

Telemedicine makes it possible for him to identify a heart’s galloping rhythm or a whooshing murmur even though he’s in Nashville and the patients on this day are in Winchester, Tenn.

Cardiology is one of 17 service lines now participating in telemedicine initiatives at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), a 240 percent rise from the prior fiscal year. Patient encounters using telemedicine have grown 261 percent over the same time frame.

Telemedicine is helping VUMC condense time to operate more efficiently and bridge distances to better collaborate with partner providers. It has proven to be a key connector within the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network, a collaboration of 56 hospitals, 12 health systems and more than 4,000 physicians aimed at improving the delivery of health care in a five-state region.

“Now that we have one of the nation’s largest affiliate groups, telemedicine is an essential element of that being successful,” said Amber Humphrey, MBA, assistant director of Telemedicine. “It is a key element in being able to elevate the level of specialty care in community settings.”

Telemedicine has also helped VUMC improve efficiencies.

Now, outpatient pharmacists are speeding up the discharge process by using iPads to do consultations with patients — instead of bedside visits — allowing patients to leave the hospital more quickly with their medicines.

Telemedicine technology can vary according to the medical application. Naftilan utilizes a Littmann TeleSteth System stethoscope, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing and a high definition camera.

“Patients love it,” Naftilan said. “They can see me. They can talk to me. They can ask questions.”

His patients, many of whom are elderly, prefer video conferencing to driving in Nashville traffic or relying on family members to get them to his office, he said.

So far, Naftilan has limited telemedicine to follow-up consultations, but said he would consider it if a patient needed to be seen quickly for an initial consultation.

Telemedicine can also help hospital staff make decisions quickly in intensive care units.

Liza Weavind, MBBCh, MMHC, professor of Anesthesiology and Surgery, is working with partner hospitals to set up a teleICU system. Her experience in the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System in Houston as the fourth teleICU medical director in North America in 2003 was the impetus for her recruitment to VUMC in 2007 to initiate a similar care paradigm. She is focused on setting up a nights and weekends model.

“Our affiliated hospitals have reached out to request help with patient care overnight and on the weekends when their physicians are not in the hospital,” Weavind said. “This will provide a dual benefit of monitoring patients to improve patient safety and outcomes, but also to give physicians down time and decrease burnout.”

One scenario: a VUMC physician via teleICU could monitor a patient who might have worsening sepsis with low blood pressure and oxygenation and order a timely intervention (supplemental oxygen, fluid resuscitation and antibiotics), which prevents further clinical deterioration and escalation of care through a transfer to VUMC. The virtual intensivist would use a VGo, a small mobile robot that provides two-way audiovisual communication at the patients bedside to discuss care plans with the nurse and family, while placing orders into the partner hospital’s electronic medical records to facilitate immediate care.

“VUMC is providing a real service to its network of hospitals and clinicians, but mostly it is a service to the patients in our community who need real time assessment and intervention to have the best chance of timely recovery,” Weavind said. “This tool will also help VUMC to appropriately help community hospitals care for their patients in the community and identify patients who need a higher level of care and facilitate timely transfers to Vanderbilt as needed for patients to get these services — both surgical and medical.”

VUMC leadership recognized that telemedicine would be integral to the affiliate network, helping doctors and hospitals provide timely expert care to patients in a more efficient manner, said David Charles, M.D., professor of Neurology and medical director for Telemedicine.

“The promise for telemedicine is it can elevate the level of specialty care in community settings, keeping the patients closest to their homes and families and also in the most cost-efficient environment,” Charles said. “It is one of the key elements for how the network will be successful. As we increasingly project our specialists into community settings through the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network, we will broaden the scope of patient access to specialty services in community settings and also better identify patients needing transfer to a higher level of care.”

High-Tech House Call

By Val Prevish | Photos by Gary Kessler for Episcopal Retirement Homes Linkage

Residents at Marjorie P. Lee and Deupree Cottages may notice a new “face” in the halls—a robotic face, that is. Episcopal Retirement Homes (ERH) is piloting a VGo robot that enables physicians and family members to interact with patients remotely to enhance care and improve communication. (more…)

5 Disruptors You’ve Never Heard Of

By Leia Ruseva, Excerpt from Beantown Innovation

A sneak peek into the future would be incomplete without an army of robots. No, not the evil Terminator-like destroyers, but the ones that promise to propel humanity forward. Deriving its name from the Czech ‘vecny’ (meaning ‘eternal’), Vecna provides solutions for enterprise, healthcare, education and government, focusing its core research on enabling machines to independently navigate through unstructured environments, recognize human movements, faces and gestures, as well as specific objects. Their coolest projects include a telepresence robot for managing remote teams and VGo, a solution that helps kids transition back to the classroom after short- and long-term absences.

Starlight and Astellas USA Foundation Bring VGo Robots to MassGeneral Hospital for Children

Connecting patients, families and communities through innovative robot technology

BOSTON – Starlight Children’s Foundation and Astellas USA Foundation are partnering to advance children’s health and education through technology with the placement of three VGo robots at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. Hospital staff and representatives from Astellas USA Foundation and Starlight gathered at the facility today to unveil and celebrate the new technology.

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VGo Robot Helping to Extend Reach of Care for Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation

By Andrew Rowe, nwindianalife.com

Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation is extending their reach of care with their new VGo robot technology that they received as part of a generous donation by the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

The VGo telepresence robot is a versatile tool that Jacob’s Ladder is using in a number of ways including virtual visits. If a child is going through treatments at Riley’s, for instance, this VGo robot can go to school for them. Through an app on a laptop or tablet they can log in to the robot and control it and the camera, which has 360 degree views.

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Organization donates robots to help hospitalized children in Oklahoma with education

By Danielle Dunn for The Oklahoman

BETHANY — The Starlight Children’s Foundation and Astellas USA Foundation are partnering to help children’s health and education by placing VGo robots at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital, 6800 NW 39 Expressway.

The robots offer hospitalized children the ability to telecommute to a school or health care setting, giving students with injuries, extended illness or other physical challenges a way to get back in the classroom. The robots also will allow doctors, nurses and staff members the ability to care for patients over long distances.
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VGo Robot Helping to Extend Reach of Care for Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation

By Andrew Rowe, Valpolife.com

Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation is extending their reach of care with their new VGo robot technology that they received as part of a generous donation by the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

The VGo telepresence robot is a versatile tool that Jacob’s Ladder is using in a number of ways including virtual visits. If a child is going through treatments at Riley’s, for instance, this VGo robot can go to school for them. Through an app on a laptop or tablet they can log in to the robot and control it and the camera, which has 360 degree views.

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Starlight Children’s Foundation and Astellas USA Foundation Bring VGo Robots to The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital

OKLAHOMA CITY, June 15, 2016 /3BL Media/ — Starlight Children’s Foundation and Astellas USA Foundation are partnering to advance children’s health and education through technology with the placement of two VGo robots at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany, Oklahoma. Patients and staff gathered at the facility today to unveil and celebrate the new technology.

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Starlight Children’s Foundation and Astellas USA Foundation Bring VGo Robots to Rush Children’s Hospital

CHICAGO, May 10, 2016 /3BL Media/ — Starlight Children’s Foundation and Astellas USA Foundation are partnering to advance children’s health and education through technology with the placement of two VGo robots at Rush Children’s Hospital at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Patients, staff and representatives from Astellas USA Foundation gathered at the facility today to officially unveil and celebrate the new technology.

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Editorial: A future shock awaits economy

Appears in Concord Monitor

The more complex and threatening the problem, the longer it takes for society to recognize and act on it. Take climate change. That danger has long been almost universally recognized but the nation has done little, save for executive action by President Obama, to combat it. Another threat, almost as profound, has received even less attention.

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