They call it the Virtual Exam Room. Oakland, California-based Dictum Health has released a telehealth service designed to replicate a physician office visit, electronically capturing and analyzing patient condition via laptops and tablets. This new player in the remote patient monitoring game also has offices in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Dubai, UAE.
Still another telehealth packaged program? Yes, but this one may be a little different in that it gives people direct access to their physician, particularly helpful to support self-management routines for healthcare at home patients living with multiple chronic conditions who may find it difficult to travel to a doctor's office.
Closing the gap
Dictum Health says that its Virtual Exam Room replicates a clinical examination room, private and up close, using the same medical equipment used in on-site care. Virtual visits are facilitated by a light-weight, FDA-cleared, IDM100 videoconferencing system which provides real-time data streaming through Dictum Health's Care Central software. Data are transmitted between laptops or tablets through a cloud-based, cyber-secure, HIPAA-compliant system.
According to VP Deb Anderson, patient's report that they do not perceive the system as mechanical and impersonal and are not put off when working with it. She attributes this to the system's intuitive, straightforward iconography.
When describing the advantages of the VER, Anderson talks about more than just not being in the hospital but regaining the ability to go about normal daily activities at home, beyond those activities related to chronic disease management.
Managing bad days
Often, living with one or more chronic conditions means having a good day once in a while, sometimes just having a few good hours. Clinicians know that not-so-good days cannot be predicted for people living with such conditions as lupus or fibromyalgia or even multiple sclerosis. A person may want to contact his or her physician even when an appointment -- virtual or in-person -- is not scheduled.
The VER was created to accommodate people on these bad days in a way that traditional vital sign monitors cannot. When a patient enters the virtual exam room, the physician can view current readings, patterns over time, and anomalies and address them in real time.
Longtime readers know of my previously expressed concerns about the usability of in-home technologies. Granted, there are always examples of tech-savvy seniors who take to healthcare devices, and many other gadgets for that matter, with ease. For many, however, even the most intuitive technologies are challenging. Dictum Health began with the premise that their system had to be usable by the latter group.
According to Ms. Anderson, preliminary testing indicated that training on the Virtual Exam Room is virtually unnecessary. She noted that test groups ranging from teenagers to elders in every life experience category to seasoned technology professionals learned the system with minimal training. "The system is quite intuitive," she said. "Large, iconographic buttons for all functions are very clear."
Who knows? A system that helps seniors living with multiple chronic conditions "push all the right buttons" may well also help them stay well and live independently longer.
Audrey Kinsella, MA, MS, is HCTR's telemedicine reporter. She has written on home telehealthcare and new technologies for home care service delivery for 20 years, in 6 books, multiple web sites, and more than 150 published articles. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com