Time Warner Cable to Conduct Its First ‘Virtual Visit’ Telemedicine Trial

Time Warner Cable Business Class recently announced the start of a trial of its “Virtual Visit” telemedicine program. Virtual Visit will allow Cleveland Clinic’s healthcare providers to deliver care remotely to patients via video conferencing technology. Patients will be able to interact with healthcare providers via an encrypted two-way video without leaving their home. The Time Warner Virtual Visit product will be offered as a bundled service consisting of connectivity installation, customer premises equipment (modems and video conferencing equipment), and technical support in patients’ homes.

The Virtual Visit trial is being conducted with Cleveland Clinics’ Center for Connected Care, which consists of about 500 healthcare professionals serving approximately 3,500 patients. As part of the trial, TWC will measure the cost savings realized by the Cleveland Clinic. You’d have to be on another planet not to realize that healthcare costs are rising rapidly in this nation, and any cost efficiencies realized by the increased use of telemedicine are likely to spur its adoption by healthcare providers. Of course, getting started is the hard part, and the cable provider is supplying a lot of the upfront costs, at least in the trial.

TWC is of course not the first cable provider to get into the telemedicine field. Cox and Comcast, like Time Warner, have been quickly expanding their business customer divisions, which include hospitals, and their success stories are not just limited to urban areas. This story discusses a rural Oklahoma hospital that serves patients via a broadband-enabled video conferencing service over a Cox broadband connection.

Interestingly, that same story also notes how cable providers are working to persuade businesses to switch from phone companies in part by partnering with technology companies. This allows them to add advanced applications on top of their broadband networks. Time Warner Cable for example offers a home health monitoring service that sends patients’ vital statistics to an app viewed by their doctor. TWC uses a cloud-based storage company NaviSite Inc., which it acquired last year, to store the data.

As my New Edge colleague Jesse Ward wrote a few years ago, “[t]elecommunications providers are at the heart of the remote monitoring value chain, providing the connectivity for the device, the trusted link between the patient and his caregiver. Perhaps there is a role for rural telcos in the remote monitoring marketplace, beyond providing broadband connectivity and patent device support.” Data storage centers, technical support and perhaps fully integrated, bundled services of the kind discussed above are just some examples of services beyond just basic connectivity. With universal service support decreasing at both the state and federal level, rural carriers’ entry into the telemedicine market is not only critical to the health of rural consumers, but to the health of the rural carriers that serve them as well.

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