Videoconferencing tools help to improve the satisfaction of Vidant Health team members, says CIO Donette Herring (left), with Tanya Grilli.

Oct 25 2018
Digital Workspace

Videoconferencing Tools Let Providers Connect Leaders, Staff and Patients

Healthcare organizations enhance collaboration and communication while saving time and reducing employee travel.

Vidant Health serves more than 1.4 million people in 29 counties throughout eastern North Carolina. That reach gives the Greenville-based health system the ability to provide quality care to people in rural areas in the Tar Heel State, but also creates travel challenges for physicians.

For instance, monthly tumor board meetings bring together cancer specialists throughout the organization. But until recently, some physicians were forced to spend up to two and a half hours in their cars each way to attend, cutting into the time they had available to spend with patients in their own clinics.

Today, tumor board meetings are held virtually, with physicians conferencing in from their home sites. Patients also sometimes participate, with the meetings held more frequently if urgent cases come up.

Vidant opened a new, 418,000-square-foot cancer center at its Greenville campus last spring, equipped with state-of-the-art video collaboration solutions, including Cisco’s TelePresence MX700 and MX800 videoconferencing kits and TelePresence Precision 60 conference cameras, all of which have also been deployed at other hospitals in the health system. The cancer center also is outfitted with Cisco’s Webex Room 55 videoconferencing kit and 55-inch LED displays from Panasonic for general telepresence and teleconference needs. Such communication tools contribute greatly to the satisfaction of Vidant Health’s team members, says CIO Donette Herring.

“As with other healthcare systems across the country, we hear about burnout with the increasing shortage of clinical professionals, and that’s a top concern for us,” she says. “It’s hard to put a price tag on the satisfaction of team members.”

Video solutions are making inroads in virtually all industries and are a particular fit for bringing together distributed clinical and business teams in healthcare, fueled by faster connectivity and better technology.

Tap Close Collaboration with Far Away Coworkers

IDC Senior Research Analyst Rich Costello became aware of the power of video collaboration in healthcare when he heard a cardiologist speak about the ability to get on-demand consultations from experts around the world.

“These types of vertical-specific applications are the really compelling drivers for videoconferencing,” Costello says. “If we’re discussing diagnoses, or if I want to share an X-ray, I could try to describe it to you on the phone. But nothing beats an image that all parties can view and provide feedback on.”

At Moorestown, N.J. -based BAYADA Home Health Care, which operates in 22 states and several countries, company leaders meet quarterly, gathering roughly 75 people from thousands of miles away to review company performance, collaborate, share updates and exchange ideas with one another.

The organization experimented with several video solutions that users found to be cumbersome, before settling on a cloud-based video solution from Zoom. Shortly after adoption, a snowstorm forced BAYADA to cancel its quarterly leadership meeting in New Jersey, and executives decided to try holding the meeting via video instead.

“It looked like The Brady Bunch times 10,” CIO Ed Malinowski says of the video interface. “But it didn’t reduce the quality of the interactions. It’s pretty amazing how close you can feel to someone who is so far away.”

From there, Malinowski says, Zoom adoption grew like wildfire across the company, which now has almost 5,000 registered users who log roughly 350,000 minutes of video collaboration per week. BAYADA now holds many of its leadership meetings using Zoom, saving the company around $100,000 per year in travel costs.

“Our people are spread out, and the ability to bring us closer together, as though we were in the same room, is ideal,” Malinowski says.

Video Conferences Give Busy Care Teams Hours Back in Their Day

Even on a smaller scale, the cost and time savings of reduced travel add up quickly. CarePoint Health operates hospitals in Bayonne, Jersey City and Hoboken — all within about 10 miles of each other in New Jersey. Still, business leaders often found themselves wasting hours each day making their way from site to site, sometimes in standstill traffic.


Annual savings in travel costs following the deployment of videoconferencing technology.

Source: BAYDA Home Health Care

“If you have four meetings, and you travel 30 minutes to get to each of them, it’s a waste of a lot of time,” CarePoint CTO Lev Goronshteyn says.

The organization adopted Office 365 several years ago, and business leaders and clinical teams have been using Skype for Business to collaborate with one another without having to jump in the car. For most sessions, employees use their own workstations, but the organization has also equipped a conference room in each hospital with Polycom’s CX5500 Unified Conference Station for larger meetings. While some meetings could have been replaced with voice calls, Goronshteyn says there’s real value in face-to-face interactions.

“There’s a difference between a voice call and a videoconference call,” he says. “It’s more of a human experience. Seeing the person’s emotions and reactions, you have more of a feeling that you’re seeing someone in person. It’s a totally different interaction.”

Despite the potential benefits, Goronshteyn says healthcare organizations must perform due diligence to ensure that their networks and devices are prepared for video collaboration, even for cloud-based solutions.

“We were in the middle of a systemwide network upgrade, and we did a computer refresh six months earlier. Otherwise, we would have had problems,” he says. “People think, ‘It’s in the cloud, why do I need to have anything on-premises?’ Well, you still need good connectivity, and you need good computers with decent video cards, speakers, microphones and a good, stable internet connection.”

Clinician Use Cases for Vdeoconferencing Expands

As organizations roll out video collaboration solutions, they may find their list of potential use cases expanding. At BAYADA, for example, clinicians are beginning to use video collaboration tools to introduce themselves to patients before they leave the hospital. The organization has also found that some states allow Medicaid reimbursements for video sessions between patients and providers for things like behavioral instruction — allowing clinicians to see more patients and spend more time with them.

In addition to tumor boards, Vidant uses its telepresence tools for follow-up sessions between clinicians and patients in remote areas, as well as for team member technology training and orientation.


“There had been some demand for it, and when we were making investments, we saw how there could be value in other areas,” says Tanya Grilli, director of end-user services for Vidant. “There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity that exists with this technology.”

Ease of use is an added bonus. When Vidant used video solutions in the past, IT team members often had to sit in to ensure that they went smoothly.

With the new Cisco TelePresence Touch 10 tool, however, physicians simply touch a button to join the meeting and share their screen content. The initial process was so smooth that users actually requested the ability to use the technology at more sites, more quickly.

They couldn’t get it soon enough,” Grilli says. “We were supposed to have a phased rollout, but they liked it so much that we had to do multiple site installations at the same time, because they didn’t want to wait.”

“We like those kind of problems,” Herring says.

Photography by Geoff Wood

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