A Nice Thanksgiving Thought

Statistics such as sales, ROI and market share are worthy of note; but, in the final analysis, the most important thing is the number of people who benefit from a technology. On this score, unified communications in general – and telemedicine in particular – has quite an impressive record.

By Carl Weinschenk | Posted Nov 22, 2010
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It's easy for people to miss the forest for the trees when they follow a particular topic very closely. This is true of unified communications. And that's a shame. UC platforms, in very real sense, have the ability to help a lot of people. They do so in distance education, when they enable first responders to react more quickly and armed with more comprehensive information and when they help medical professionals help more people.

The statistics sometimes are rewarding, and shouldn't be ignored. And, on this count, UC is making a comeback. Last week, Dell'Oro Group said that the market expanded by 7 percent compared to its second quarter size. The UC sector, at least according to the firm's definition, ended at its highest level since 2008.

But this post isn't about statistics; it's about people. American Medical News posted a story today that peeled back the statistics and painted a picture of how telemedicine really makes a difference in their lives. In many ways, telemedicine is the poster child for UC and Nebraska – the state that is discussed at the beginning of the story – is the poster child for telemedicine. The state is big, the number of people few, and those that are there are aging and less able to cover hundreds of miles for treatment. At least some of this population's medical needs can be done via teleconferencing.

While telemedicine has been around for decades, it clearly is getting more sophisticated. Wrote Carolyne Krupa:

Telemedicine ranges from patient consults by phone, e-mail or interactive video to surgeons using remote-controlled robots to operate on patients thousands of miles away. "Whether the doctor's in the next room or 3,000 miles away is irrelevant," said Gary Capistrant, senior director of public policy for the American Telemedicine Assn.

The same advantages are available in Douglas, a town of 11,500 in rural Georgia. The story says that about 1,000 people a month use The Coffee Regional Medical Center Walk-In Clinic. Now, however, they can get other treatment via teleconferencing. This is a good thing, said Dr. Debra Lister, the clinic director:

Some of these people just can't travel – some of our elderly and poor people couldn't have made the trip. An awful lot of them would not have received care.

The story goes on, describing how the University of Mississippi Medical Center's TelEmergency serves 13 rural hospitals and the important services rendered by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Instead of thinking about these things, vendors, service providers and bloggers spend a bit too much time talking about ROI, market share, capex and other sterile statistics. There is nothing wrong with that, but we should periodically look at the real people – the stroke victim miles from a hospital in Ohio, the type 2 diabetes patients who need counseling to better manage their diets and scores of others – that teleconferencing helps. It's a good Thanksgiving thought.
 

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