Videoconferencing on the agenda

In the fifteen years since The Telework Association was founded, teleworking has been through a number of incarnations. Initially it was often centred on telecottages as they provided what was then very expensive technology in the form of computers, printers etc. After that it was more widely adopted by individuals working at or from home and also some forward thinking large corporate organisations like BT who could see the business benefits of having a flexible workforce.
In 2003 legislation, giving parents of young children the ‘right to request’ flexible working, including home working, seemed to categorise teleworking as being about carers and family friendly policies. Whilst this has perhaps obscured the fact that flexible and remote working can be a real bottom line business benefit, the legislation has at least put teleworking on the agenda for many more organisations.
More recently teleworking has at last been recognised as a means, not just of improving the work life balance of individuals, and the profitability of organisations, but also as a way of reducing pollution and congestion. If people travel less to work, to meetings and to conferences then their effectiveness improves, their stress levels drop and the environment benefits. Substituting video conferencing for travel has been adopted by many organisations in both the public and private sector as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. In the health sector it is also a way to share scarce resources and specialists across a wider area. In recognition of this The Telework Association is pleased to contribute the following article, written by Sarah Joyce of the DRV Group, who provides insights into the many ways that the health sector is using video conferencing:

Developing training
The last few years have seen significant changes in the development of medical education and training. The advances in videoconferencing technology together with the widespread availability of broadband and networks, changes in government policy, and the requirement to reduce training costs whilst sharing educational resources across an ever widening footprint are all factors in increasing demand for telemedicine applications.
Video communications and virtual meetings have become mission-critical business tools for organisations with dispersed working teams and regional or global offices. In the same way that these companies must make decisions swiftly, be aware of the financial and operational costs of travelling to meetings and the negative environmental impact of flights and cars, the medical arena faces similar challenges and the desire to make the most effective use of budgets.
Video communications are widely used within the health sector for education, patient care, remote training, multi-disciplinary groups, meetings and surgical procedures.

Benefits in telemedicine
The benefits of videoconferencing in telemedicine are significant and can be measured in many more ways than just saving time on travel and maximising the use of restricted budgets.

  • A videoconferencing network within a region can enable scarce on-the-ground specialists to spend less time travelling within a region and more time on individual patient treatment and inter-disciplinary teamwork.
  • A videoconferencing network within a Trust can bring key multidisciplinary groups and specialists to work together more frequently than is possible by travelling within a region. This is particularly prevalent in the field of cancer treatment when cancer specialists, pathologists, radiologist, surgeons and palliative care professionals are able to hold patient conferences more frequently by using video communications to share and view documents, X-Rays and biopsy results and thus speed decision making and ultimately patient care and treatment.
  • An interactive teaching network enables true distance learning and real-time collaboration and interactivity between the lecturer(s) and students at dispersed locations within a region, the UK and indeed worldwide.
  • The environmental benefits of working, training and meeting by videoconference cannot be ignored. With greater pressure on Trusts to monitor their carbon reporting, reducing the number of unnecessary journeys by health care professionals leads to an improvement in the measurement and  reporting of CO2 reductions and less unproductive time for the professionals.
  • Reducing unnecessary travel to conferences, lectures and meetings reduces stress and improves the work life balance of healthcare professionals.
  • The use of video communications in rural medicine embraces patient care, significantly reduces any feelings of isolation and enables a wider group of professionals to collaborate on patient care.

True distance teaching technologies differ from videoconferencing technology in that they offer real-time multi-stream interactivity, allowing the distribution of both lecturer and teaching materials to multiple sites at high definition resolution.
Interactive teaching systems allow students at remote sites to actively take part in lectures by viewing both the lecturer, teaching materials and video images in high resolution, as well as through question and answer sessions where questions from students taking part are relayed to all locations.
It also allows for contributory lectures, thereby enabling any number of lecturers to be teaching from any of the interactive sites. In this way, trainees are provided with access to a wide range of lecturers and experienced medical staff.

Simulation centres and skills
Full immersion simulation involves the recreation of any suitable environment such as A&E, theatres, or roadside incident, with the associated equipment, personnel and the all-important patient simulator substituting the need for a real patient. Trainee healthcare personnel are immersed into the artificially created environment and expected to assess and treat the patient accordingly. These advanced facilities allow remote control of the simulation facilities and covert talkback to individuals taking part, thereby allowing facilitators and faculty to interact in “real time” with those role-playing in scenarios.
All trainees not actively involved in the scenario can observe it unfold from a separate debrief room, with the aid of advanced AV systems, which allow the streaming, recording and archiving of multi camera feeds and other important data such as ECG, BP, ultrasound and other patient parameters.
The use of live AV links introduces the unique benefit of trainees being able to observe and decide treatment options as a group without the stress associated with active involvement, their observations can then be used in the subsequent debrief session.
After each scenario all trainees are involved in the debrief session where the use of specific recorded events allow the previously active trainees to reflect on their performance. This begins the enormously powerful process of introspection and self-critique, widely acclaimed as the single most powerful aspect of modern day adult education.
The focus of such sessions is generally on human factors (non-technical skills such as communication, behaviours, attitudes etc) rather than the technical skills of cannulation and intubation etc, which, without the use of audio-visual links and recordings, would not be possible.

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