Cisco Systems is teaming with UnitedHealth Group to create a network that will enable doctors to reach patients virtually.
The "Connected Care" program will rely on Cisco's networking and collaboration capabilities to help give physicians and other health care professionals the ability to reach into rural and underserved areas, according to the two companies.
The telehealth network will essentially bring health clinics not only to these areas, but also into the workplace.
The goal of the program, introduced July 15, is to bring the same level of care that patients receive through in-person doctor visits to the virtual health network, according to Kaveh Safavi, vice president of Cisco's Global Healthcare Practice.
"In developing advanced telemedicine technologies, we're unlocking new possibilities for how patients can interact with doctors and the medical staff," Safavi said in a statement. "The in-person visit with a doctor is no longer the sole -gold standard' method for delivering high-quality health care services. Instead, we've now introduced a new care-at-a-distance health care delivery model that better connects people, information and processes into one continuum of care."
Cisco's HealthPresence collaboration platform will be a key technology in the Connected Care strategy. It will help combine audio and visual capabilities with medical information to create an experience similar to that of an in-person visit, according to Cisco officials.
The two companies made the announcement in Washington, D.C., when they demonstrated the UnitedHealth Group Connected Care mobile clinic containing the technology.
The program will use an open network that will incorporate third-party technologies and electronic health care records, and will enable real-time connectivity between patients and health care providers.
Cisco and UnitedHealth Group-which includes a network of 590,000 health care providers and more than 4,900 hospitals-conducted a seven-month pilot of the program with Cisco employees in San Jose, Calif. UnitedHealth Group also is putting tens of millions of dollars into the initiative.
There also were two other pilot programs run by Cisco, with the other two in Scotland and New Zealand. Currently, there are six Connected Care programs being developed in the United States.
Cisco is continuing to expand the reach of its networking and collaboration technologies into various industries, part of what CEO John Chambers referred to during the Cisco Live 2009 event in June as the more than 30 "adjacencies" Cisco is targeting. Health care is one area, with education and energy being among the other areas.