Vivid Solutions has rolled out a pilot to trial videophones in the home to meet the World Health Organisation requirement that sufferers of tuberculosis - a highly communicable disease - must be observed taking their medication.
Vivid Solutions, a national provider of managed video conferencing solutions, morphed out of the New Zealand Telepaediatric Service in 2008. NZTS was a charitable trust; Vivid is a limited liability company that now has contracts with all the district health boards, bar Wairarapa, which uses technology from Gen-i, says Vivid chief executive Simon Hayden.
"People want to do more and more with video," he says. "That led us to deploying VC Anywhere. And last year we integrated iPads into the national health network."
Vivid's technology is based on the Polycom platform.
"We also do a lot of teaching and can record a teaching session for later replay," says Hayden, stressing the significant savings made against travel costs.
Waiaa Saweirs is a consultant nephrologist in the renal unit at Whangarei Hospital, which has two satellite centres, at Kawakawa and Kaitaia. These are manned by generalists rather than specialists. The renal unit began using Vivid Solutions' network in 2010.
"Every Wednesday we link to both centres to relay any issues and discuss them as a team. We can formulate a plan or trouble shoot," Saweirs says. "We also use the system to assess dialysis on a monthly basis and for teaching nurses."
It saves dialysis patients having to travel to Whangarei and removes the need for nurses to physically attend for teaching purposes.
"There are estimated cost savings of $8,500 a month, plus we can handle an additional 30 patient visits a month," he says. "We also have a link to the transplant centre in Auckland.
"But the non-quantifiable benefits far outweigh the quantifiable ones, simply through improvements."
Saweirs says the hospital's cardiology and orthopaedics departments are also about to use the service.
However Saweirs says an obstacle to wider use of the technology is "shortsightedness" by the Ministry of Health. "They're not really there with electronic prescribing. They want doctors' signatures on prescribing. They're still working in the dark ages."