‘Vidyo’ Used in Area Skilled Nursing Communities

A technology employed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is breaking barriers for Nebraskans who live in skilled nursing communities and are in need of mental health services.

Vidyo, a videoconferencing system used in 12 skilled nursing communities across Nebraska – including several in Northeast Nebraska – eliminates the need to transport skilled nursing residents to another location or city to receive mental health services. The system also saves on staff and transportation costs.
Skilled nursing communities using Vidyo are those in Burwell, Cambridge, Harvard, Lincoln, Loup City, Mullen, Newman Grove, Omaha, St. Edward, Stuart, Verdigre and York.

But most psychiatrists in Nebraska practice in Omaha and Lincoln and only about 10 are board certified in geriatric psychiatry, said Tom Magnuson, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “We had a patient years ago who would come to Omaha the day before an appointment and stay overnight,” Magnuson said. “I realized it was ridiculously inconvenient and wondered if there was an easier way. Vidyo enables us to see patients in their environment, where they are less likely to be anxious, fatigued or confused.”

The system, which uses desktop or mobile devices and Internet access, provides live, high-definition and secure video communications – similar to how Skype, a popular video communication application, works.
Before using Vidyo, Magnuson provided services at a distance solely via the Nebraska Statewide Telehealth Network, which necessitates transportation of patients to the nearest hospital conference room with a connection.

New technology and an increase in Internet bandwidth has made communication tools like Vidyo affordable to smaller organizations and individuals, said Rod Markin, chief technology officer for the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Vidyo became available in 2010 and went into use at UNMC in 2011.

“The nice thing about Vidyo is the patient can be anywhere there’s a sizeable Internet connection,” Markin said. “This is a way to get needed health services to folks more conveniently, not only for patients and families, but also for health professionals. Practically speaking, to solve the severe access problems we have in behavioral health services, telemedicine is the perfect solution.”

Eydie Schrad, Director of Nursing at Cloverlodge Care Center in St. Edward, said Vidyo eliminated the need for two health professionals to drive 80 miles a month transporting patients to and from appointments. Cost of the transportation was borne by the resident.

“It was an all-afternoon event,” Schrad said. “The first time patients used the system they were a little leery, but they got so involved in the conversation with the doctor that they never even thought of the fact that they were communicating through technology. Now we just wheel the equipment to the resident’s room and turn it on. The fact that the doctor is seeing our resident in their own environment makes a world of difference. They’re more comfortable. It’s wonderful.”

Norfolk Daily News
Thursday June 20, 2013