Cisco Announces HealthPresence Platform

Cisco Systems is integrating its TelePresence video collaboration technology and its unified communications products to create a health care platform designed to improve patient care in virtual physician visits. The platform, which will launch later in March, will allow more collaboration between doctors and patients, Cisco says.

Cisco Systems is bringing together its TelePresence video collaboration technology and unified communications products to create a platform to enable better patient care in virtual settings.

Cisco announced its HealthPresence platform March 1 at the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) event in Atlanta.

The platform is designed to enable greater doctor-patient interaction when face-to-face meetings aren't possible. In some cases, these immersive video collaboration sessions can be preferable to face-to-face meetings, as when it is necessary to bring in specialists from varying locations to consult on a case, according to Cisco officials.

It also is intended to aid patients in rural and underserved areas where medical attention or particular expertise is scarce.

"Health systems globally are challenged to meet increasing demand for quality services," Kaveh Safavi, vice president and global lead of Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group Healthcare Practice, said in a statement. "Patients often have limited access to health care, particularly when they require specialty services or need care for chronic illness, in both urban and rural settings."

The Cisco HealthPresence platform gives physicians and patients a way to "meet" in a secure environment so patients can "receive some of the best care possible regardless of location," Safavi said.

This is the latest effort by Cisco to use its collaboration and communications products to expand the reach of health care experts.

For example, Cisco and UnitedHealth Group announced that they were collaborating to create a network that would enable doctors to meet with patients virtually. The Connected Care telehealth network was designed to bring the same level of care to these virtual visits that the patient would receive by seeing the doctor in person.

Cisco's HealthPresence program, which began trials in 2008, is an effort to take the idea of giving patients physical access to health care a step further by addressing such areas as collaboration with multiple doctors and experts, and increasing the patient's ability to share and view information.

Cisco plans to launch the program in March. The platform supplies health care providers with Cisco Vitals Software and other tools, physiological data and streaming high-definition video feeds, TelePresence units in clinical and patient locations, and integrated voice, video and data technologies that can take patient data and send it to multiple physicians, or just between a doctor and physician, before, during and after the session.

Cisco's software encrypts the data to ensure privacy.

The vendor also will supply medical devices at the patient's end, including a general camera for external observation, an ear-nose-throat camera, a digital stethoscope and a device for taking vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate and blood oxygen levels.

Cisco cited several successful pilot programs in California, including Cisco's corporate headquarters in San Jose; Aberdeen, Scotland; France; England; South Africa; and China.