October 30, 2014

Call Quality in a Cloud-based, Mobile World

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As we all know, the business world is experiencing some seismic shifts when it comes to technology and communications.  A corporate world once dominated by enterprise applications on dedicated servers and people talking on deskphones via landlines, is now firmly entrenched in a cloud-based, wireless, mobility-centric reality.  And when it comes to unified communications between business people, the options for businesses have exploded.  One thing that hasn’t changed however, is the need for interpersonal collaboration.  Whether it is via voice or video calls, business people need and expect to connect and communicate wherever and whenever they want, on whatever device they have handy and in the manner they prefer.  And, oh yeah, they expect it to sound perfect, every time.

Call Quality Challenges Facing Businesses and End Users

Quality Headsets Voice QualitySince we were little, we’ve all learned to expect flawless sounding phone calls – and more and more we expect seamless video calls as well.  However, the trends towards cloud and mobility can cause challenges for businesses looking delivering this experience for colleagues, customers and partners.   

We’ve talked about the network challenges here in the past, but add on the fact that there are more cloud and software based voice and video solutions on the market, and the workforce has become virtual with teleworking on the rise (see this post on the rise in At-home Call Center Agents) .  Smart phones and tablets are becoming the devices of choice of a mobile workforce, and the trend towards PC-based softphones continues.  But one thing hasn’t changed is that voice is still the dominant communications method, whether it’s a one-on-one phone call, conference call, webinar or videoconference.

All of these changes are driving the need for reliable, high quality voice and audio endpoints, both headsets and speakerphones.  To get into more detail on why voice endpoints have taken on even more significance, we caught up with Urban Gillis, the Vice President of Sales at Carousel partner Jabra.

Voice and  Audio Endpoints Needs to Perform

“With the challenges of being on the road, connecting from an airport parking lot, or even as a home-based contact center rep connecting through your computer, the need for a high quality audio endpoint has never been greater,” says Gillis.  “We’ve all experienced call jitter as the move towards IP phones and video calls has accelerated and these seem to be increasing as we’ve all been connecting through different types of networks.  Eliminating the possibility of poor quality originating from your headset or mobile speakerphone just makes sense.”

Devices that incorporate technology that support a professional experience can make all the difference.  For example, noise cancelling technology to minimize the impact of that dog barking in the yard next door, or wind noise protection for that sales person on the road.  “Having software-centric products so that adjustments can be made as environments change provides real benefits to a mobile workforce.  The endpoints businesses and their employees choose can deliver tangible results.  There are few pieces of technology that you use as often as your voice endpoint and it needs to deliver and perform for you.”

We couldn’t agree more.  Stay tuned for upcoming information on Jabra’s new Jabra Express solution that allows IT managers to manage all voice endpoints in the enterprise from one location, push updates to devices to streamline workflow, ensure compliance, manage roaming areas and more.

 

 

3 Use Cases For Video in Today’s Healthcare Environments

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We touched previously on some of the changes coming down the pike with respect to how healthcare providers are reimbursed for the treatment they provide to patients and how those changes are driving the need for more video in healthcare environments.

The changes are outlined in an new e-book from Carousel titled, “Video in Healthcare: Preventive Medicine or the Cure for ROI? In this post, we’re going to delve deeper into some of the use cases that highlight the positive change video is bringing to healthcare.

Video Use Case #1 – Enhanced Trauma Care

Video Conferencing, Telemedicine, Video in HealthcareImagine there’s an accident resulting in serious injury. An ambulance arrives to tend to the injured. During the ride to the hospital, an EMT establishes a video connection to the hospital emergency room where the patient is headed.

Via video, the ER staff can get an early sense for the extent of the injury they’ll soon be dealing with. Depending on the patient’s condition, they may even be able to ask some questions to find out what happened and the extent of the patient’s injury.

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Dig Deeper:  Download the Video in Healthcare eBook Now!

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Such a scenario is no longer the stuff of imagination. As the e-book points out:

These on-the-scene video capabilities are enabling ER staff everywhere to treat trauma patients more efficiently and effectively once they reach the ER. The time-savings generated through video can literally mean the difference between life and death for the patient, not to mention significant savings in ER treatment for hospitals.

Video Use Case #2 – Video Supports Remote Patient Assessments & Diagnostics

Video, via telemedicine, is also enabling physicians to essentially be in two places at once, making them far more productive and enabling more patients to benefit from their expertise. Consider the typical routine for a surgeon. On days procedures are scheduled, the surgeon generally spends most or all of the day in the hospital, leaving little to no time to examine patients back in the primary office.

Should a patient call in with a complaint, video enables the doctor to assess the situation via a smartphone or tablet. Or perhaps a more junior doctor back at the office could assess the patient, send any relevant test results to the surgeon and the three of them could have a videoconference to discuss a recommended treatment. There’s no need to wait a day or more until the surgeon is back in the office.

The e-book sums up the benefits of such a scenario:

The ability to share digitized medical information, visually assess the patient while performing a quick interview, and collaborate with another physician – is enabling doctors to more accurately diagnose and treat patients everywhere. In turn, these efficiencies are saving hospitals and members of the medical community significant time and expense.

Video Use Case #3 – Video as a Healthcare Teaching Tool

We’ve all probably seen television shows depicting harried first-year hospital residents who spend long shifts in the hospital seeing patients and are also expected to somehow work in training opportunities. It doesn’t end there, of course, as keeping up to speed on the latest techniques and treatments is an ongoing challenge for doctors and nurses.

Visual Communications is helping to address the issue by essentially bringing the classroom to any desktop, laptop or tablet, enabling doctors, nurses and others to access high-def educational video whenever it’s convenient for them. The technology even allows those young doctors to virtually attend “grand rounds,” where they can view live patient assessments via video or at least view pre-recorded content.

Carousel partners like Juniper and Polycom are helping to make these scenarios and others reality for healthcare organizations. To learn more, download the e-book, “Video in Healthcare: Preventive Medicine or the Cure for ROI?, and feel free to contact Carousel.

Polycom CloudAXIS Suite Makes Enterprise Video Collaboration Simple

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Last week at the Enterprise Connect event, Carousel was demonstrating the new Polycom CloudAXIS Suite in our booth and it was such a hit that we thought we’d delve into the topic a bit more here on the blog. Toward that end, we caught up with Roger Farnsworth, Senior Director of Cloud and Service Provider Solution Marketing at Polycom for this information packed podcast reviewing the new visual communications solution.

He calls the CloudAXIS Suite a game-changing development because it makes video collaboration so much simpler and easier – about as simple as sending a text or email.


Not Your Father’s Video Conferencing Solution

It’s no secret that ease of use has long been a stumbling block to the widespread adoption of video in the enterprise. “People have developed wonderful ways to connect using email, phone and other traditional channels. They can connect with little trouble,” Farnsworth says. “The video channel has often proven difficult because of differences in address methods and connectivity.”Polycom CloudAxis Video Collaboration

Polycom has long been a leader in trying to remedy that situation, helping to drive standards-based video interoperability by working with partners such as Microsoft and IBM as well as with groups such as the Open Visual Collaboration Consortium.

“The real beauty of the RealPresence CloudAXIS Suite is now video communications will be as simple as sending an instant message or an email,” he says. That text or email will include a URL that the recipient simply clicks on to be connected to a video collaboration session. In that way, CloudAXIS closes the “air gap” that has long existed between enterprise video collaboration systems and the widespread availability of a Web environment, he says.


The Engine Behind the CloudAXIS Solution

CloudAXIS is a software-only add-on to the Polycom RealPresence video platform. End users need only a device that’s capable of supporting video and a Web browser, meaning most tablets, laptops, smart phones and video-capable desktops will work just fine. (Polycom will be coming out with a list of hardware and software requirements shortly.)

The first time a recipient gets an invitation to connect to a video session, he will be prompted to download a small plug-in. “It’s our goal to eliminate that plug-in,” Farnsworth says, but for the time being it’s necessary to ensure compatibility. And you only need to download it once; on subsequent sessions users will be able to dive right in.

“The vast majority of folks who receive a text or email with the URL will be up and running in seconds the first time and subsequently even more quickly,” he says.

And because the solution is built on top of the RealPresence platform, it takes advantage of all of its security features. “You can drive video collaboration outside the company borders according to the same type of enterprise policies and postures you currently have in use,” Farnsworth says. He notes that all meetings are invitation-only, meaning participants are “invited guests” who use the same path to collaboration sessions as internal employees. What’s more, meetings rooms are transient and users can mandate use of pass codes and encryption.


CloudAXIS Changes the Visual Communications Dynamic

“We think this will transform the video collaboration space,” he says, because it will make video so much easier to deploy to thousands of participants.

“Right now we have customers who have built RealPresence platform-based video collaboration solutions that touch hundreds of thousands of users and tens of thousands of participants in calls,” Farnsworth says. Editor’s Note: Personally, I think the real game changer here is going to be the quick three, five, ten person call that eliminates headaches for the invited guests and allows for ubiquitous use of video calling.

On another note, Polycom also has a large number of service providers using its platform to offer hosted video collaboration solutions. “They’re looking forward to getting the service provider version of CloudAXIS Suite later this year to offer their own services.”   As a result, enterprises will have multiple options for how to deploy a video collaboration solution that can incorporate a few, or thousands of participants. “It’s going to continue to transform the way they do business,” he says. “It’s going to allow more remote working, business-to-business and business-to-consumer connectivity in a way we haven’t seen.”

The CloudAXIS Suite will be available next week, on April 1. The base license supports 100 concurrent users and additional increments are available from there.

To learn more, check out the video (of course!) and additional info on Polycom’s site, or simply contact Carousel.

 

 

Role of Video in Helping Healthcare Keep Up with Changing Requirements

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We’ve touched on the topic of video in healthcare environments before on this blog, such as on this post having to do with telemedicine. But now we’re taking things a step further, as Carousel has published an e-book on the topic titled, “Video in Healthcare: Preventive Medicine or the Cure for ROI?”

Impetus Behind Changes in Healthcare

The e-book goes through some of the reasons video is taking off in healthcare, notably elements of the
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) that penalize hospitals if patients they treat have to later be readmitted or hospitalized.

Readmission is a significant – and costly – issue. As the e-book points out:

During 2003 and 2004, almost one-fifth of Medicare beneficiaries – over 2.3 million patients – were re-hospitalized within 30 days of discharge. …estimated that readmissions within 30 days of discharge cost Medicare more than $17 billion dollars annually.

Starting in October 2012, hospitals could be penalized up to 1% of their base Medicare reimbursements if they have high rates of readmission or unnecessary hospitalization of Medicare patients. In 2013, the penalty goes to 2% and then to 3% in 2014.

Among the causes of re-admission that hospitals must address is an inadequate relay of information from hospital discharge planners to patients, caregivers, and post-acute care providers, along with poor patient compliance with care instructions inadequate follow-up care.

Impact of Video in Healthcare

To a large extent, these are preventable circumstances, hence the reason for the penalties for hospitals that fail to deliver on them.

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Dig Deeper:  Download the Video in Healthcare eBook Now!

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More and more, hospitals and other healthcare providers are finding that video is a tool that can help them provide the kind of care that keeps patients from coming back, among other benefits.

As the e-book explains:

…a wide array of video applications enabling Telemedicine are also changing how health care providers collaborate – with their patients, other medical professionals, and other service providers in the medical community. Although these applications are relatively new to the medical scene, their benefits are already making a profound impact. As a result, more and more healthcare providers are recognizing the tremendous opportunity and jumping on the video bandwagon.

Video in the healthcare environment has been shown to:

  • Refine diagnostic processes

  • Enhance patient care and extend access

  • Reduce the number of re-hospitalizations

  • Enable collaboration across the healthcare team for better outcomes and reduced cost

  • Educate and increase productivity of healthcare providers

  • Support prevention and wellness for decreased healthcare costs

  • Improve hospital workflow and operational efficiencies

Video in Practice in Healthcare

In a medical setting, video applications generally fall into four categories:

  • One-to-One: Patient to practitioner, peer to peer, patient to family member

  • One-to-Many: Community health education; specialist to many patients

  • Many-to-Many: Accountable care org meetings, community center to community center, hospital to hospital group meetings

  • AD-HOC: Virtual healthcare teams, workshops, follow-up calls, transition support

For example, imagine if a physician is able to stream video detailing the post-op care plan for an elderly patient to the patient’s adult child or caregiver, even if that person lives hundreds or thousands of miles away. The doctor could show images from an office PC and the patient’s local wellness nurse could also view and participate in the conversation.

Video can also improve the discharge planning and follow-up process for patients by providing interactive participation between the patient and the caregiver team. Given that video can be viewed on any number of devices from virtually any location, an extended network of caregivers can participate. In short, the patient’s recovery team is better educated on the details of the patient’s care, more connected with the patient and each other, and better positioned to support the patient towards a full recovery. This results in better tracking of medication dosage and scheduling, better understanding of what’s normal and what constitutes a “red flag,” and better record-keeping of recovery milestones and setbacks.

These are just a few examples of how video is changing the way healthcare is delivered and consumed – and the ROI it provides. For more details, download the Video in Healthcare e-book or Contact Carousel.

The Inside Scoop on Carousel’s Company Wide Video Rollout

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In many ways, Carousel Industries is no different from its customers in terms of its IT requirements. Increasingly, one of those requirements is support for video communications.

Carousel is a company with more than 1,000 employees spread among 30 locations across the U.S. Like most companies our size, we’ve had some video capabilities for years. But, given some locations came via acquisition, there was no company wide video standard or strategy.Enterprise-Video-Conferencing

Given the business benefits and ROI potential of enterprise video, we set out to change that and create a video infrastructure that would serve the entire company – while still making use of the various investments we’d already made. To learn more about the project, we spoke with Nick Jarbeau, the Convergence Supervisor on Carousel’s internal IT team.

In the Beginning: Shaping a Video Plan

Carousel wasn’t exactly starting from ground zero. “We had a little bit of video capability,” Jarbeau says. “Some people had one-X Communicator clients that work with the Avaya PBX, some had Microsoft OCS video, but not everybody.”  Some of the remote offices had video codecs, “in various states of working or not,” he says.

As is often the case at Carousel, the company set out to get its video house in order while keeping its customers in mind. “We approached this as a tremendous, real-world learning opportunity.  We wanted to deploy a scenario that was comprehensive and bullet-proof enough that we could then deploy for other large customers like us,” Jarbeau says.

His team surveyed the company landscape and ultimately selected 14 of its larger offices, selected on the basis of expected video utilization, capacity and the market each served.

The end goal was simple: make video as unified as possible, such that no matter what platform an end user is employing – soft client on a PC, a video unit in a conference room, mobile phone or tablet – it is all easy to use and works together seamlessly.  Now, add one more twist to the project:  the need to deploy and integrate the video platforms of Polycom, Avaya and Lifesize (Carousel partners all) and make it work flawlessly, and you can see the scope of the challenge facing the project team.  “We looked at this and said, if we can make this highly complex scenario work here, we can execute for any client.”

Mapping a Video Network and Configuration Strategy for Enterprise Video

With the 14 sites selected, the next step was to determine bandwidth requirements. “We looked at the existing network and thought putting video on it would be A., very expensive and B., very taxing, affecting the performance of everyday voice and video,” Jarbeau says.

The solution was to bring in additional circuits dedicated solely to video communications. “It was more cost-effective to just put T1s in all the offices and route all the video across those and keep it completely separate from data and voice traffic,” he says.

Another design decision was to install a Polycom RMX videoconferencing bridge at Carousel’s headquarters data center in Exeter, R.I. “We’re using the bridge for anything other than a point-to-point call,” Jarbeau says. While some codecs in the branch offices are capable of making multi-point calls, from a bandwidth perspective Carousel determined it was better to have a single fat pipe at just the Exeter location; the pipe is big enough to support video sessions with all 14 locations at once. Without having to support multipoint calls, the remote locations could get by just fine with the T1s, he says.

Calling All End Points and a Final Test

At its various locations, Carousel uses a mix of Polycom and LifeSize videoconferencing equipment, and a slew of clients. Microsoft Lync sees significant usage, as do the Polycom clients for desktops as well as IOS and Android devices.

Ensuring each client type would work reliably required a series of integrations. “In Phase 1, we got the entire Polycom infrastructure up and running,” Jarbeau says. “Then we just kept looking at what else we could make work, like Lync and so forth.”

When all the integrations were complete, it was time for a final test. “We sat in a room and wrote down on a giant white board all the possible scenarios where someone may want to use video,” he says. “iPhone to Lync desktop, Lync to room system or room to Lync, Lync to bridge, video unit to video unit, recording calls; you name it, we thought of it and tried every single one.”

Once the Carousel team determined each one worked on a small scale, it enlisted the entire support department to dial in to the Exeter bridge at the same time, along with some remote users. It all worked flawlessly, laying the foundation for a multi-vendor enterprise video reference architecture.

Having performed all these integrations, now Carousel can share its visual communications experience with customers and do the same for them. If you’d like to take advantage of what today’s video technology can do, contact Carousel - we can share some first-hand experience.

The Promise and Problems with Mobile Video

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It’s no secret that employees of all stripes are becoming more mobile, using their tablets and smart phones to make themselves more productive at work. But many companies may not quite understand the true extent of the trend, and the ripple effect it has on areas such as security.

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at a webinar recorded by two Carousel Industries experts earlier this month. Titled “Mobility and Visual Communication – Outside The Conference Room,” the webinar is hosted by Dan Hofferty, National Sales Director for Visual Communications, and Mike Burgess, Director of Presales Engineering. Together, the pair walk through some of the value drivers and applications that are creating demand for mobile visual applications as well as the IT security challenges mobility brings.

Value Drivers of Mobile Communications

The first driver is the sheer number of mobile devices deployed. Users own some 64 million tablets today, a number expected to reach 320 million by 2015, Hofferty says. And in many cases, they’re being used for video.

Members of the so-called Gen Y don’t use email anymore, they text and use video, often from a tablet or smartphone, Burgess says. As a result, they expect to have the same capabilities on the job.

It’s not just video conferencing, either; some 3 billion videos are viewed daily on YouTube. Video is expected to account for two-thirds of all mobile traffic in 2015, Hofferty says.

Video, of course, takes significant bandwidth, but network capacity has largely kept pace with demand. Carriers are shifting from 3G to 4G cellular networks, and WiFi is becoming ever more ubiquitous.

Burgess calls wireless “the new access layer,” with LAN-based speed, reliability and performance. The current 802.11n wireless standard supports speeds of 300M bps, while the forthcoming 802.11ac spec will offer gigabit speeds amongst other benefits.

Bevy of Applications Driving Mobile Video

Applications are likewise cropping up to make use of all the mobile infrastructure. One is simply enabling road warriors to stay connected, Hofferty says. He tells the story of Carousel partner Polycom’s CEO, who likes to hold video meetings with customers, partners and colleagues around the globe. Maybe it’s a breakfast meeting with a client in AsiaPac, lunch with someone in a European country and late afternoon meeting with a partner in the U.S. – all in the same day.

“If he’s on the road, it doesn’t matter,” Hofferty says. Armed with his iPad, the meetings can go on.

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Dig Deeper: Watch the whole Mobility and Visual Communication – Outside The Conference Room webinar now!
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Service calls are another popular application for video. Technicians in the field can use a tablet to make a video call to a service center and show colleagues exactly the issue they’re dealing with. That saves time in terms of repairs, and often obviates the need for the technician to return two or three times.

Health care is another big user of video, for applications such as remote patient monitoring and home health care. It helps hospitals cut down on the number of patient return visits, for example.

Interpreters also find video to be valuable. Even if they’re not on site, an interpreter can see the person for whom they’re translating, which greatly helps them with accuracy.

Counting Up the Mobile Threats

As the number of mobile devices grows, however, so does the threat of security breaches. To date, most attacks have been targeted at Windows systems, especially XP, Burgess says – simply because it was the most popular platform.

“The challenge we’ll see this year is a shift, where attackers will start writing attacks for mobile devices,” he says. The end goal may be to steal data from the device itself, or perhaps use it as an entry point to the back end servers the devices connect to.

IT Security threats are part of the ripple effect of the mobility and BYOD movements. To fight back, customers need a whole host of security solutions. They range from penetration testing and next-generation firewalls to network access control, malware protection, intrusion prevention systems and security information and event management (SIEM) tools.

Carousel, with its partners such as Juniper, Fortinet, and Forescout , are in position to help. Users can choose from managed security services, security scanning services, outsourced IT and consulting or even secure private cloud solutions.

To learn more about the mobile video trends, check out the webinar. And to learn more about how to protect yourself, contact Carousel.

Polycom Adoption Services: Ensuring your Videoconferencing Project Pays Off

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We’ve all seen this situation: A technology project is successfully implemented but users never take advantage of it. As a result, the company gets little to no return on its investment – and IT gets a black eye.

Empty Video Conferencing Room

Don’t Let This Happen To You

Carousel Industries’ partner Polycom has developed a 5-step plan to ensure that doesn’t happen when customers

implement its videoconferencing solutions. Launched in September, the Adoption Services program is meeting with impressive results, says Sara Adams, Senior Channel Marketing Manager with Polycom. One customer, for example, saw videoconferencing use soar from 2,600 minutes per month to 4,700 minutes – with the trend still on an upward path.

Phase 1: Adoption Consulting

In the first phase, Polycom consults with the customer to find out why they’re interested in videoconferencing, which is usually for one of four reasons:

  • To reduce costs, such as for travel
  • Improve productivity
  • Improve collaboration
  • Reduce carbon footprint, such as by reducing travel

Polycom will discuss with the customer the sorts of applications for which they want to use video and create an implementation strategy. At the end of this phase, the customer will have an adoption strategy articulated in a document and can then either implement it themselves or get help from a partner such as Carousel.

Phase 2: Implementation and Optimization

For new video customers, then next step is implementation based on the document outlined in phase 1. This phase includes integration with existing technology, meaning with tools such as Microsoft Lync. This phase also includes optimization, which involves updating existing software and optimizing it for the specific applications for which it will be used.

Phase 3: Educating

One big reason that videoconferencing systems lay dormant is that employees don’t know how to use them. Polycom is out to change that with its Adoption Portal, a web site chock full of video tutorials, how-to’s, FAQs, blogs and other content to help educate users on how to use their videoconferencing tools. The portal can be customized to reflect a customer’s brand and main objectives and is offered based on a yearly subscription for each employee, Adams says.

Phase 4: Promotion

Polycom has conducted surveys for a couple of customers on employee use of videoconferencing systems. “We’ve found that about 30% of employees didn’t know videoconferencing was available to them, or they thought it was only for use by executives,” she says. “Another 30% knew it was available but weren’t quite sure how to use it.”  That adds up to 60% of the organization that will simply not use video. Not a good way to get ROI on a video project.

The promotion phase is intended to fix those numbers. Adams describes it a “marketing campaign in a box.” It includes freestanding banners, wall posters and email templates. The idea is to blanket employees with messaging about the video systems. Maybe the banner gets placed in the building lobby so employees see every time they walk in or out of the building. Wall posters may be placed in the break room and the CEO can send emails talking about why the new videoconferencing tools are important, all to raise awareness and interest in video.

Phase 5: Analytics

The final phase is all about measuring usage. It includes a year’s subscription to Polycom’s cloud-based tool that measures the utilization rate of every videoconferencing end point. With the tools, customers can see the exact number of minutes per day a given room-based system is being used or even a particular employee’s desktop or tablet-based system. The idea is to develop quantitative data that proves the ROI of a videoconferencing project. In phase 1, Polycom will establish the current level of usage. In this phase, you’ll see how much usage has gone up as a result of the adoption program – and it will likely show a clear ROI.

If you’re concerned that employees aren’t taking advantage of your videoconferencing solution, or you’re in the market for a new one, talk to Carousel – we’ll help put you on the road to success with Polycom’s Adoption Services.

Juniper and Polycom Stand Ready to Deliver Robust Solutions for Telemedicine

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“Elections have consequences,” as one former president said, and one consequence of Barack Obama’s re-election as president of the U.S. is likely to be increased use of telemedicine technology. That’s because his re-election assures that the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, will push ahead toward full implementation, bringing with it significant changes in the way healthcare organizations get reimbursed for providing care.

Carousel Industries’ partners Juniper and Polycom are ready to help, with a video conferencing telemedicine offering suitable for even the most critical care applications, says Ryan Witt, the the Global Managing Director, Healthcare and Pharmaceutical at Juniper Networks.

Shift from Service Model to Results Model Changes the Healthcare Picture

Today’s health care model is very much service-based, Witt says, meaning doctors and hospitals are reimbursed for the services they perform. Under that kind of model, doctors have an incentive to encourage patients to come to their office for treatment. It’s there that doctors can conduct exams, run tests, do blood work, prescribe medicine and deliver all the rest of the services for which they insurance companies reimburse them.

“That will change over the next decade with the Affordable Care Act,” Witt says. “It will transform to an outcome-based model.”

Rather than get reimbursed for every service they perform, doctors will be reimbursed for improving outcomes. “Doctors will have to demonstrate improvements in patient conditions to get reimbursed,” he says.

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Dig Deeper:  Register for the Live Webinar Healthcare Industry Trends and How Patient Care is Being Transformed – November 28 at 2PM ET.
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New Incentives for Telemedicine

Under the service-based model, there’s little incentive to pursue the use of telemedicine because there’s limited reimbursement for treatments offered using the technology. “Less than 10% of telemedicine treatment is currently eligible for reimbursement,” Witt says.

As a result, it’s used mainly in special, non-critical care situations such as for dermatology and psychiatry – situations where there’s not a lot of stress to provide a bulletproof network to support the application. Tele-dermatology, for example, doesn’t really even require a live connection. Rather, sending photos back and forth can often work just fine.

The shift to results-based reimbursement will dramatically change that dynamic, however. Suddenly there will be more incentive to have experts remotely consult on cases and those experts will be more than willing to use telemedicine to share their knowledge because they will get reimbursed accordingly.

Critical Care Requires a Robust, Trustworthy Network

The more doctors come to rely on telemedicine, however, the more they will need a robust, high-performance and highly reliable infrastructure to deliver it. That’s where Juniper and Polycom come in.

Juniper has worked to integrate the Session and Resource Control (SRC) software that runs on its switches with the Polycom RealPresence Virtualization Manager (DMA), an integral component of the Polycom RealPresence video platform. The SRC is a policy engine that dictates the level of service each call gets. That enables critical telemedicine sessions to get a guaranteed level of service.

“We’ve both done development and written code to maximize uptime,” Witt says.  “We can now get to a point with Polycom that we can guarantee uptime of the video linkages for the duration of the consultation. We can now say to a hospital or caregiver, ‘You can deploy this against your most acute care scenarios.’”

The Juniper/Polycom solution is robust enough that it can be used, for example, to enable a faraway surgeon to guide another surgeon through an operation he’s never performed before, enabling experts at elite hospitals to work with others in more rural settings.

“Your talent can be made available globally,” Witt says. That’s important because the world is facing a shortage of doctors that is only projected to get worse, he notes. “Specialty care practices will become more refined and shareable across a region or nation.”

It’s an exciting time in the healthcare field and Carousel is proud to be working alongside partners like Juniper and Polycom to help make it happen. For more details on implementing a telemedicine solution in your healthcare organization, Contact Carousel today.

Polycom Offers Up a Bevy of New and Enhanced Video Tools

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The industry is fairly buzzing over the announcements last week from Carousel Industry’s partner Polycom of a slew of new and enhanced video products, and with good reason. Polycom’s announcements are another step toward improving the quality and ubiquity of video, all the while making it easier to use.

Polycom Extends the Reach of Enterprise Video

First up is the Polycom RealPresence CloudAXIS suite, an extension that lets RealPresence customers extend enterprise video collaboration sessions to users who are employing video tools such as Skype, Facebook and GoogleTalk. As ZDNet reports:

Essentially, RealPresence CloudAXIS brings contacts from the user’s video presence-based apps into a global directory. From there, participants’ contact files can be dragged and dropped into a Polycom video collaboration session so that anyone inside or outside of the organization can securely join the conference from a browser window without having to install additional software.

That browser part is important – it means the remote users doesn’t need any special software to participate in the video conference, just a simple plug-in. Yet it’s still a secure session. Pretty cool.

Polycom Adopts Standards-based SVC Technology in RealPresence

Polycom also announced it is adopting the open, standards-based Scalable Video Coding (SVC) in RealPresence, which will foster greater interoperability with various video-capable devices – a crucial development in the BYOD era.  Jim Kruger, senior vice president of Global Solutions Marketing at Polycom, explained it this way to The Var Guy:

“This is different than anything else on the market because ours is open standards — it’s free and natively interoperable with open standards technology. Plus, users get three times the call capacity with their existing software,” Kruger said. “That means they can support up to three times more endpoints without having to buy an upgrade to the system.”

Coinciding with the SVC announcement, Polycom announced a software-based multipoint control unit (MCU) that runs on industry standard x86 servers. The Collaboration Server 800s, Virtual Edition is great for mid-sized enterprises because, being software-based, it offers a much lower total cost of ownership. As Computerworld explains:

Traditional MCUs are appliances with large numbers of DSPs (digital signal processors) to convert the video. Software-based MCUs can run on standard x86 servers and be moved around in virtualized environments, [said Rick] Levenson [Polycom's group vice president of Unified Communications Endpoints].

Moving away from expensive, dedicated MCUs should help enterprises and service providers to scale up their videoconferencing systems more efficiently, [said Ira] Weinstein [an analyst at Wainhouse Research]. “This thing is chewing on video all day long, for every participant,” Weinstein said.

Polycom Improves, Unifies User Interface

Polycom also announced user interface improvements throughout its product line. Part of the idea is to make the UI consistent no matter what client device a user may be employing. That’s a nod to the need for simplicity in video solutions, and should be a welcome development for folks who may be at their desk one day but on the road the next.

Those are just some of the highlights of the Polycom announcement, which the company is calling the biggest in its history. Check out the whole story here or check out the webcast from the announcement here.

Of course, if you’d prefer to call Carousel, the Polycom’s Integrator of the Year, for our take on what it all means for you and the visual communications space, feel free.

 

Remote Medicine: Coming to a Pharmacy Near You

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You may have noticed recently, as a way to add additional revenue and fill a gap in the healthcare system, a number of pharmacy store chains have been offering walk-in clinics where patients can receive immediate care for a range of maladies. I was in one a few Sunday’s ago when we thought my son had strep throat and there was no way I was waiting in line at the emergency room for 3 hours to get a rapid strep test (his doctor was off enjoying her weekend).

While the clinics are convenient and useful for patients, they are costly for the chains to provide. Each one must be retrofit into the store, requiring expensive construction – especially given the need to protect patient privacy and comply with HIPAA regulations.  And each clinic must be staffed with one or more qualified medical professionals, which further drives up costs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average salary for a physician’s assistant in 2010 was $86,410.

For all these reasons, it becomes difficult for the pharmacies to scale the walk-in clinic model beyond a few hundred stores – leaving thousands more out of the picture.

Health Care by Hi Def Video – a Scalable Model

The healthcare solutions group at Carousel Industries has come up with a solution to the scalability problem: the high definition video diagnostic kiosk. Recent advances in high-def videoconferencing, along with the availability of fast data networks and secure unified communications platforms make it possible for healthcare professionals to treat patients remotely, via video.

In a relatively small enclosed kiosk, not much bigger than a photo booth or the space currently devoted to blood pressure testing machines, patients sit on front of a video conferencing screen and speak with a qualified medical professional. HD cameras, screens and integrated diagnostic equipment enable the remote professional to diagnose issues and decide on the best course of action. If necessary, the doctor can write a prescription, which the patient can have filled at the pharmacy desk a few feet away. Never has a trip to the doctor been so quick or convenient.

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Dig Deeper:  Read the Free Whitepaper - Tomorrow’s Pharmacy: How eHealth and HD Video Telepresence Will Transform In-Store Pharmacy Care.

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Healthcare Kiosks Benefit Patients and Pharmacies Alike

Clearly the kiosk solution holds many benefits for patients. They get their issue addressed quickly by a qualified expert on a one-to-one basis, with all the same privacy as a doctor’s office. They get prescriptions fulfilled on the spot, without having to make an extra stop. In many cases, no appointment is required and visits may be outside normal doctor’s hours.

Pharmacies, too, realize  many benefits. For one, they can put the kiosks in lots more locations without incurring all the costs of a walk-in clinic. A single physician or physician’s assistant can handle multiple kiosks, dramatically reducing personnel costs. If they centralize the service delivery from a single remote video call center, pharmacies can use existing contact center technologies to ensure they are properly staffed at all times. They can also take advantage of advanced performance reporting and analytics features to track statistics and ensure cost controls. In short, the kiosks are a great opportunity for pharmacies to develop a new revenue stream with relatively low cost..

To learn more about the Carousel eHealth platform, check out the white paper, “Tomorrow’s Pharmacy: How eHealth and HD Video Telepresence Will Transform In-Store Pharmacy Care.