Polycom Employee

In honor of our 25th anniversary, Industry perspectives @25 will, for 25 days, take a celebratory look at how Polycom has transformed industries and business functions.

These blogs are a variety of retrospective, current and visionary perspectives with the common thread of Unleashing the power of human collaboration.

Follow the hashtag #Polycom25 on Twitter for tweets about this significant anniversary in our history.


A bit of history

It wasn’t so long ago, perhaps twelve or fourteen years, that to receive the best possible medical treatment and advice from a consultant or specialist meant travelling to a major metropolitan hospital.  At that time in England, to get an appointment see an oncologist after being referred by your GP (the family doctor) who suspected you might have the symptoms of cancer would mean waiting for anything upto eight months. This state of affairs was true across many other European countries, but not all.  Then the UK government stepped in and had a whole system review from root to branch of how healthcare services, particularly oncology, were delivered.


The use of technology in healthcare is nothing new.  When Polycom produced the first conference phone, often referred to in many hospitals as the Star Phone, healthcare professionals leapt at the chance to improve call quality.  When Polycom introduced videoconferencing technology, the same was true – healthcare professionals quickly adopted new means of working together on patient cases by sharing data, images and advice.


Over the last 25 years we have seen medical science improve dramatically, helping citizens live longer, better lives than ever before. 


Industry can learn a lot about collaborative working from healthcare professionals


If you have never been involved in an oncology multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meeting before, then allow me to briefly describe what happens.  An MDT is when groups of oncology specialists all get together to discuss individual cases to decide the best possible course of treatment for that patient.  An MDT often has a central specialist oncology centre as the host, which could be in a major metropolitan area.  The specialist centre receives referred cases from other hospitals that aren’t able to treat that patient.  The hospitals that refer those cases to the specialist centre have a duty to take part in case meetings – the MDT.  The MDT always happens once a week, so imagine the whole care team involved the treatment of that patient having to travel from a rural hospital to a major hospital – every week!  Not practical and not sustainable.  So compromises crept into the system, and only the referring doctor would often travel for the MDT.  Now think about complications that might arise; missing information, old or out of date images or even travel problems.  Oncology treatment had to change.  In England and Wales, this change was brought about by the Calman Hine Report.


Industry can learn a lot from how oncology services were modernised in a few short years by using collaborative technology.  By organising multiple disciplines within the care team such as specialist cancer nurses, radiologists, histopathologists and surgeons, they are able to collectively agree the best course of treatment for a patient.  An oncology MDT might involve as many as fifty or sixty people across four or five hospital sites, all observing or providing advice and making decisions on the treatment for the patient.  Unlike industry, the decisions made are not about a product, but about saving a life.


The hospital of the future

Along with new drugs and new treatments, communication technology that allows MDT working has been at the core in the improvement of oncology services.  Using collaborative practises has saved time, helped educate more specialists and in the long run, help reduce the patient waiting time from months down to a couple of weeks.  Some would argue the hospital of the future is already here and is always advancing.  MDT collaborative practices have been adopted in other specialist areas such as cardiology, and are having just as dramatic an impact as in oncology.  In early 2015, you may have noticed that Polycom hosted the world’s first 3D videoconference.  It was spectacular and I was there to witness it first hand, along with a few thousand other people.  Not long after, I was contacted by a specialist surgeon in a hospital in The Netherlands who was keen to use 3D to broadcast a surgical procedure, so that it would enhance the learning experience of the master class.


What will the hospital of the future look like?

To the citizen (or if you live outside Europe, the customer), it’s not hard to imagine how the hospital of the future will look like.  For a start, I expect it to have less beds.  More citizens will be treated at home or in the community in which they live, taking care directly to the point of need.  More consultations will occur between the patient and the hospital staff live across the internet.  Patient vital signs will be read across simple smartphone apps and inexpensive devices.  I already have one – it’s called the Scanadu Scout.  It cost less than $100.00 and wirelessly sends several vital signs data such as blood pressure, temperature, oximetry, ECG and heart rate variability to a cloud service.  The patient will become more informed about their own health and take responsibility before becoming an acute case.


In the hospital of the future, it will be routine for a single specialist based in one location to simultaneously manage several patient cases at once.  One such area could be in the direction of specialist surgical procedures.  Imagine one surgeon mentoring or guiding remote colleagues rather like an air traffic control.


As Polycom creates new technology and advances towards the next 25 years, healthcare will continue to be an early adopter of the next great thing.


For more inspirational stories of how institutions have revolutionized healthcare, read these customer stories:

AZ Sint Jan Brugge Hospital
Evelina London Hospital
Greater Midlands Cancer Network
Xuanwu Hospital

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