University of New Mexico Teams With Polycom Inc. to Save Lives by Offering Patient Care to Rural and Underserved Areas
ALBUQUERQUE, NM and PLEASANTON, CA and LAS VEGAS, NV--(Marketwire - April 27, 2009) -
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American Telemedicine Association 14th Annual Meeting & Exposition -- For more than five years, the University of New Mexico's Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (Project ECHO) has linked university healthcare specialists with rural and prison-based clinicians to improve care for patients in underserved areas of the state. The telemedicine program, which uses visual communication solutions from Polycom, Inc. (NASDAQ: PLCM), launched in 2002, initially focusing on the thousands of hepatitis C-infected state residents who could neither afford treatment nor travel to Albuquerque on a monthly basis to see a specialist.
"Polycom visual communication solutions provided a way to extend my knowledge to healthcare providers around the state in an efficient and cost-effective way. Project ECHO made sense because it would allow me to conduct weekly training sessions with healthcare providers around the state that may not otherwise have access to expertise," said program founder, Sanjeev Arora, M.D. "We train primary care providers within our network, and in turn, they use their knowledge to more effectively treat patients in their local communities. It's a win-win situation because they learn to become experts in their field while also using that knowledge to immediately improve patient care."
The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center teamed with Polycom, a number of state healthcare providers, and the New Mexico Corrections Department to deliver telemedicine to these dispersed and hard-to-reach areas. Dr. Arora and his team established several criteria for the Project ECHO program; they would treat diseases that are common, are complex to manage, require evolving types of treatment, and have high social impact. Additionally, Dr. Arora wanted to treat diseases that would have serious outcomes if left untreated as well as diseases that have measurable, improved outcomes as a result of treatment.
With these criteria in mind, the program initially focused on hepatitis C. The state of New Mexico has a very high rate of infection, and left untreated, hepatitis C can cause death due to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. With treatment, however, the disease is often curable. The challenge was that treatment is a complicated process, and developing expertise in the area takes a number of years. Dr. Arora, already an expert in the treatment protocol, would relay his knowledge to caregivers around the state using visual communication, enabling them to then treat infected patients in their local community.
The Polycom solution allowed Dr. Arora and his team to host interactive educational sessions on hepatitis C, which then translated into improved and more informed healthcare for patients around the state. The program has been so successful that today, Dr. Arora has expanded it to cover several more areas of expertise, including cardiovascular risk reduction, childhood obesity, pediatrics, telepsychiatry, chronic pain, high-risk pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, integrated addiction/psychiatry, psychotherapy, pulmonary diseases and rheumatology. Daily video conferences allow for healthcare education that combines both face-to-face communication with interactive content and the ability to stream, record and rebroadcast the information on-demand. This means that a practitioner can not only sit in on a live video discussion of a pathology or treatment plan, but also can view the recorded educational session at a later date if they need to review.
"To date, we've enrolled more than 3,000 patients in our Hepatitis C disease management program -- without Project ECHO, these patients would not have had access to treatment for their condition," added Dr. Arora. "I know that that Project ECHO helps save lives and improves the quality of life for our patients every day. I couldn't be happier with the results."
Expanding the Program
In late 2008, Project ECHO received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. With the grant, Project ECHO leaders will replicate the hepatitis C clinic at the University of Washington. Additionally, the team will increase its focus in six care areas including asthma management, diabetes, high-risk pregnancy, pain management, integrated addictions and psychiatry, and rheumatology. The mission of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is to improve the health and healthcare of all Americans. "We are honored to receive the grant because it validates all of the work we've been doing, and more importantly, it will allow us to expand the existing program and help that many more patients in underserved areas," said Dr. Arora. To learn more about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, visit www.rwjf.org.
The Technology behind the Program
Wesley Pak, systems and programming manager for Project ECHO, has been intimately involved in the technology behind the program. "We're now looking to extend the project both within the state of New Mexico and to other states," said Pak. "Currently, we're working with the state of Washington to implement a similar telemedicine program for their underserved communities, and it's the Polycom solution that makes it all possible."
Pak said he chose Polycom because it offers a complete, integrated solution and because Polycom systems are based on open standards. Project ECHO currently uses more than 40 Polycom VSX® video conferencing systems and a Polycom RMX 2000™ real-time media conferencing platform for multi-site conferences. Leveraging the Polycom RSS™ 2000 recording and streaming server and the Polycom Video Media Center™ (VMC) 1000 video content management solution, the organization is also able to record and stream video conferences to viewers on the Internet and create video content that is made available for on-demand playback.
"There is tremendous value in our ability to stream, record and manage our video content as part of the program," added Pak. "It allows us to extend our resources to broader audiences by turning real-time events into repeatable, educational content."
Most recently, Pak and his team added the Polycom Converged Management Application™ (CMA™) 5000, which simplifies the provisioning and management of visual communication solutions across the entire Project ECHO network. Using CMA Desktop™, practitioners are able to see live video training sessions from anywhere over a VPN connection. CMA Desktop is a highly scalable and cost-effect video collaboration application for personal computers, as a way to increase the number of Project ECHO provider partners. The ability to add providers to the network for very little cost means the program could increase exponentially over the next several months -- training more doctors, nurses and helping more patients. Pak said the addition of CMA has been a huge success. "It's been easy to set up, manage and deploy. And the Desktop users love it," he said.
About Project ECHO
Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) at the University of New Mexico uses technology to bring access to care for chronic complex diseases to rural and underserved populations. The project builds knowledge networks based on best practice protocols and case based learning. To learn more about Project ECHO, visit http://echo.unm.edu/.
Polycom, Inc. (NASDAQ: PLCM) is the global leader in telepresence, video, and voice solutions and a visionary in communications that empower people to connect and collaborate everywhere. Please visit www.polycom.com for more information.
Polycom reserves the right to modify future product plans at any time. Products and/or related specifications referenced in this press release are not guaranteed, and will be delivered on a when and if available basis.
Polycom, the Polycom logo and VSX are registered trademarks and Converged Management Application, CMA, CMA Desktop, RMX 2000, RSS and Video Media Center are trademarks of Polycom in the U.S. and various countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2008, Polycom, Inc. All rights reserved.