A statewide telehealth organization in California expects to broaden and mobilize its reach by partnering with videoconferencing technology company Vidyo and cloud networking provider Arkadin to offer secure, Web-based videoconferencing to hundreds of sites in medically underserved communities.
The California Telehealth Network (CTN), an independent, not-for-profit membership organization, announced Friday that it will deploy the service, called CTN Connect, to nearly 800 hospitals, clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers and other safety-net and rural providers across the state. CTN Connect, which is capable of carrying high-definition video over the Internet, will facilitate remote consultations, virtual patient visits and nonclinical activities, including training and staff meetings, organizers say.
"We view this as a displacement technology," CTN's chief technology officer, Gary Lindgren, tells MobiHealthNews in a video interview conducted on the Vidyo platform.
"It allows us to extend to people who don't have MPLS circuits into CTN," says Lindgren, using a term for a high-speed telecommunications routing. "It opens up the entire state."
Most academic medical centers in the state, including all of those in the University of California system, are plugged into CTN, Lindgren says. The network also works with the California Telehealth Resource Center, which is tied to UC-Davis, to offer training and support for CTN members, providing an opportunity for UC-Davis to extend its expertise and its brand. Physicians do get reimbursed for their time spent in video consults, according to Lindgren.
CTN Connect, an encrypted, medical-grade network, is accessible through a Web browser or native iOS and Android mobile apps, according to Amnon Gavish, senior VP of vertical markets at Hackensack, N.J.-based Vidyo. As with any other Vidyo service, users can share files, including medical images. Vidyo also offers its customers an application programming interface for building additional apps, Gavish says. (Correction: Vidyo said some APIs are free and some are paid. An earlier version of this article stated the API was free.)
Arkadin, of Atlanta, essentially is acting as a software-as-a-service provider, with the service being Vidyo software in the cloud, says Gregory Batchelor, Arkadin's marketing director for North America.
CTN's mission is to help underserved populations across California. It originally was conceived as a way to aid rural communities, but Lindgren says 55 percent of its members are in urban areas that lack many medical services. Interestingly, the first site to go live on CTN Connect, according to Lindgren, is in Tarzana, a rather affluent part of Los Angeles.
CTN is providing one CTN Connect license to each of its members, and during a pilot phase, many users have employed the technology in ways the Sacramento-based network hadn't counted on. "We thought docs would be the first to grab it, but a lot of executives are doing so to communicate with their sites," Lindgren reports.
CTN expects its members to continue to discover new uses for the network. "It's one of those things that candidly, the more than you use it, the more capabilities that you find," Lindgren says.
The network already is proving its worth among veterans returning from overseas combat deployments, Lindgren says. Veterans – particularly those in small communities where they are well-known – still worry about being stigmatized if they seek treatment for mental health issues. "With this technology, we can meet those veterans in their homes," Lindgren explains.
In the future, Lindgren foresees CTN Connect becoming more mobile. "We see it as moving into a home healthcare type of product," he says, with mobile telehealth substituting for expensive, risky transports of elderly patients.