US Medical IT is an IT project management firm that helps medical practices implement technology solutions, such as electronic medical records and telemedicine services. The firm helps practices upgrade legacy technology so that doctors can provide
the best possible care for their patients. Because technology upgrades can be complicated and expensive, US Medical IT believes that cloud services are a viable answer for many medical practices. Most recently, the firm helped one medical practice, Dallas
Neurosurgical & Spine (DNS), to implement a telemedicine solution using Microsoft Lync Online, a cloud-based collaboration service offered as part of Microsoft Office 365. US Medical IT believes that Lync Online can help DNS provide more immediate care for
remote patients, build a network of medical experts, and collaborate more effectively, at a lower cost than an on-premises solution.
US Medical IT is a boutique IT services and project management firm based in Dallas, Texas, that helps medical practices implement technology solutions, such as electronic medical records (EMR) and telemedicine services. The firm also provides comprehensive
IT services based on Microsoft Online Services.
One of the medical practices that US Medical IT provides support for is Dallas Neurosurgical & Spine (DNS), a private neurosurgical specialty practice group in North Texas. DNS has six full-time physicians and five nurse practitioners supported by a small
staff that provides care for nearly 6,000 patients, not just from North Texas but from around the country and as far away as Saudi Arabia and Peru.
||Through Lync Online, we can provide a telemedicine solution that reduces the time it takes for patients to access specialists. That is good for both doctors and patients.
| Stephen Cracknell
Managing Partner, US Medical IT
Several years ago, a pipe burst at the main DNS office, which compromised expensive equipment and displaced the practice for a number of weeks while repairs were completed. At that point, DNS knew that it needed to find a more secure location to house its critical
technology. As a result of the experience, the practice enlisted US Medical IT to move key services onto the Microsoft Online Services platform. US Medical IT is also helping the practice convert from paper to electronic medical records.
More recently, US Medical IT was helping DNS find a high-fidelity diagnostic tool to help the physicians collaborate with their colleagues. “Occasionally, images can be shared between practices if they belong to the same diagnostics network,” says Stephen
Cracknell, Managing Partner at US Medical IT. “But frequently, images are transferred on a disc.”
DNS was also interested in developing a telemedicine solution so that it could offer follow-up care to patients who are recovering from surgery and live in rural areas far outside city limits. In the past, rural post-surgery patients would have to visit
a facility that provides magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) service, and then bring the images on a disc to the specialists at DNS offices. “Patients—and routinely their care givers—live as far as 100 miles away, so that means they would have to take a half-day
or a day to travel to Dallas to see the DNS specialist for a follow-up visit,” explains Cracknell. DNS wanted to enable patients to visit their local primary-care physician’s office for follow-up appointments, but it also wanted a better way to collaborate
with patients’ regular physicians. Through telemedicine, DNS specialists would be available through videoconferencing to discuss the progress of recovery and ongoing care with both the patient and the doctor.
With a telemedicine solution, DNS believed it could reduce the amount of travel required by both the patients and the physicians while continuing to provide timely, high-quality care. Through this service, the primary-care physicians can offer the patient
the best of both worlds: high-quality specialty care in a familiar environment close to home.
As a Microsoft Certified Partner, US Medical IT reached out to Microsoft to see if, together, they could provide the technology platform DNS needed to deliver a telemedicine solution. That was how it learned about the high-fidelity features built into Microsoft
Office 365, which brings together cloud-based versions of the popular Microsoft Office communication and collaboration applications.
DNS had no in-house IT staff to manage an on-premises solution, but it still needed a robust communication solution that would enable it to hold audio and video conferences and share high-fidelity medical images in an interactive setting. To meet these requirements,
US Medical IT determined that Microsoft Lync Online, part of the Office 365 online services, was the answer. “Because their staff is small, an on-premises deployment of Lync would have been too robust and too difficult to manage,” explains Cracknell. “The
main reason we went with Lync Online was the simplicity of the solution.”
|Specialist at DNS examining a high-resolution MRI image through Lync Online
It constructed the solution by using off-the-shelf hardware, including a high-end IP security camera from Axis Communications. With the security camera, the specialists can use a joystick to control their field of view in the exam room. US Medical IT also deployed
the solution with Lync-optimized equipment to provide the best voice and video quality.
With this setup, the specialist can view and manipulate MRI images on the remote computer and use the camera to conduct an examination all while discussing the observations with the patient and the remote physician. “In the past, we’ve tried to do these
telemedicine solutions with other technologies, but they couldn’t provide the necessary fidelity,” explains Dr. J. Michael Desaloms of Dallas Neurosurgical & Spine. “What we found when we started to test Lync Online was that the high-definition application
sharing provided a near duplicate image of what was actually showing on the host machine.”
To use the system, the local physician schedules a consultation with the specialist, and the patient brings the MRI images to the local office. Both the specialist and the local physician log on to their Lync Online accounts, which are provisioned by US Medical
IT. The local physician can then simply share the desktop and allow the specialist to manipulate the patient’s MRI images, while simultaneously sharing high-definition video through the IP camera. All communication happens over a secure line to comply with
the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
In fact, US Medical IT only faced one challenge while deploying the pilot solution: Internet bandwidth. “Many medical practices are still relying on T1 connections, but an online solution requires a faster connection,” explains Cracknell. To work around
the problem, US Medical IT used a 4G wireless network card from Verizon.
US Medical IT sees this model as a scalable telemedicine solution that could help doctors nationally—and even internationally—provide high-quality care through collaborative efforts. US Medical IT configures and manages the hardware and the Lync Online accounts;
the physicians pay a monthly fee for the equipment and support. Doctors who have Lync Online or Lync 2010—for example, doctors who work at large hospitals—could use federation to connect with doctors by using telemedicine services through US Medical IT.
|Laptop equipped with IP camera stationed at the remote primary-care unit
Another way US Medical IT sees physicians benefitting from Lync Online is in the area of continuing medical education. “Every year, physicians are required to complete a certain amount of continuing education,” explains Cracknell. “With Lync Online, physicians
would be able to receive training from some of the top specialists in the country right from their own office.”
US Medical IT believes that many physicians can benefit from using cloud services, which offer cutting-edge security, increased uptime, and avoidance of costly hardware investments. It also believes that beyond the management and security benefits, medical
practices can use cloud services to extend the boundaries of care beyond the office walls and help physicians collaborate effectively on patient care.
Provides More Immediate Care
“Through Lync Online, we can provide a telemedicine solution that reduces the time it takes for patients to access specialists,” says Cracknell. “That is good for both doctors and patients.” Through the audio- and videoconferencing and desktop sharing capabilities
in Lync Online, medical practices can provide more immediate care for remote patients who are recovering from surgery or managing chronic conditions. Cracknell continues, “Where traditionally a patient would need to be physically in the room to get benefits
from these specialists, now with Lync Online, we’ve enabled them to share their knowledge regionally and even globally.”
Builds Networks and Encourages Collaboration
Many specialists rely on peer referrals to drive their business. US Medical IT believes that medical specialists who can extend an affordable telemedicine solution as an option for patients can improve patient outcomes by participating in a network of physicians
who collaborate to provide care for the patient. “Our goal is to create an environment where the patient receives a higher level of care in the convenience of their local community,” says Desaloms.
Reduces Patient Costs
While telemedicine offers patients the benefit of having a team of doctors more readily available to them, it also ultimately helps them save money. “Before, patients may have to take a day off work to travel to see a specialist, or if they are very
ill they may need to ask a relative or friend to take off work and drive them to an appointment,” says Cracknell. “Now, they only have to travel to their local physician’s office, which saves them time and money, and they still get to ‘see’ the specialist.”
Provides Cutting-Edge Technology without Need for In-House Technology Expertise
With a telemedicine solution powered by Lync Online, US Medical IT can offer physicians the cutting-edge technology they need to treat patients and expand their businesses without requiring them to become technology experts themselves. “With our telemedicine
solution powered by Microsoft Lync Online, we get cutting-edge communication technology, without worrying about managing a lot of equipment or becoming technology experts ourselves,” says Desaloms.
This scenario was enabled through generous contributions from Verizon, Toshiba, Miller Office Interiors, Quality High-Tech Services, Axis Communications, and Preferred Technology Solutions.
Microsoft Office 365
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Office 365 features robust security, IT-level phone support, geo-redundancy, disaster recovery, and the business-class privacy controls and standards that you expect from a world-class service provider.
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