Over the last few weeks, we’ve used this blog to shine a light on some organizations that are on the video conferencing vanguard, and today we’ll continue our series of profiles by spotlighting North Country HealthCare (NCHC), a healthcare center with 14 locations across 13 communities in Northern Arizona. As the only publicly supported healthcare center in that part of the state, NCHC takes their commitment to their community very seriously, and the organization is always looking for new ways to better serve the public. That’s why, in 2009, they started utilizing video conferencing technology, to care for remotely-located patients who might otherwise go without desperately needed medical attention.
Many of NCHC’s patients live in low-income rural communities, and often have limited access to medical services. For years, the healthcare provider tried to find physicians who would live in these remote communities – some of which were as far as 600 miles apart – and often with little success. North Country HealthCare realized that telemedicine was the only solution to this problem, as it would allow patients to enjoy a genuine face-to-face interaction with a remotely-located physician with minimal logistical issues.
After testing the waters by placing a third-party legacy solution at all 14 of their clinics, NCHC decided that what they really needed was a system that worked wirelessly, with PCs, and on smartphones and tablets – one that could be deployed wherever it was needed, instead of being anchored to existing clinics.
“In order for our clinics to be able to connect to remote care providers and offer the kind of treatment we believe in, I knew we needed a future-proofed video conferencing solution that could work with mobile devices of any kind, as well as laptops and desktop PCs,” explained NCHC Telehealth Manager Greg Hales. “LifeSize ClearSea provided great image quality, even over wireless networks, and offered the security we needed to use it in a medical environment.”
Not only has LifeSize replaced the existing legacy solution at all of NCHC’s clinics, but the healthcare provider has also deployed the system in a mobile capacity, providing primary care, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, behavioral health, and even dermatological services to communities that otherwise would be dangerously under-served. And thanks to the quality of the high-definition video image, patients are able to converse with their physician exactly as they would at an in-person check-up.
“With telemedicine, you used to only have two options,” said Hales. “First, you could have a real-time patient encounter, and second, you could have an asynchronous medical encounter where pictures are sent to a physician to evaluate at their convenience. NCHC’s model is to combine the two. Using an H.323 endpoint and LifeSize ClearSea, doctors are able to meet with patients in real-time while evaluating supplementary information sent synchronously via the technology. It really is the best of both worlds.”
Now, thanks to LifeSize, NCHC is able to provide better care to more patients than ever before. They’ve turned an RV into a mobile clinic, which visits local schools and businesses in the Flagstaff area, and thanks to wall-mounted iPads, students and employees are able to communicate directly with doctors in both English and Spanish.
“For us, it’s all about convenience and accessibility,” concluded Hales. “Our goal is to provide primary care services to anyone, regardless of where they may be. That’s the future of healthcare as I see it, and I am confident that LifeSize ClearSea will help get us there.”