National telehealth network under way
WASHINGTON, D.C. – UnitedHealth
Group and Cisco are partnering to build America’s first national
telehealth network. The system will give patients access to physicians and
specialists when in-person visits are not possible.
The new “Connected Care” program combines audio and video technology and
health resources to signifcantly expand physicians’ reach into rural,
urban and other under-served areas. UnitedHealth Group has committed
tens of millions of dollars toward the new initiative.
UnitedHealth Group’s national care provider network, including 590,000
physicians and care professionals and more than 4,900 hospitals,
combined with Cisco’s industry-leading video conferencing and other
collaborative network technologies, will help connect patients more
easily with primary care physicians, specialists and hospitals.
Connected Care will make clinics available in the workplace, as well as
in rural and retail locations. In-home visits using similar technology
will also be introduced to truly bring care to the patient.
UnitedHealth Group’s diverse health businesses serve more than 70
million Americans and are able to integrate and share health information
to help better co-ordinate patients’ care. The company’s national reach
and deep experience in merging technology with clinical expertise gives
Connected Care the broad scale that other telehealth programs have not
“Connected Care is the house call for the 21st century and is our latest
innovation providing people with greater access to quality care,” said
Stephen J. Hemsley, chief executive officer, UnitedHealth Group. “The
combination of Cisco’s technology and our national healthcare resources
will make it easier for people to receive care where distance has been
Cisco HealthPresence will be one of the principal technologies enabling
Connected Care. It uses video, audio and medical information to create
an experience remarkably similar to an in-person visit with a doctor. To
mark the announcement, the companies unveiled on Capitol Hill the
UnitedHealth Group Connected Care mobile clinic – an 18-wheel clinic
showcasing the technology and connectivity available through the
“In developing advanced telemedicine technologies, we’re unlocking new
possibilities for how patients can interact with doctors and medical
staff. The in-person visit with a doctor is no longer the sole ‘gold
standard’ method for delivering high-quality healthcare services,” said
Dr. Kaveh Safavi, vice president Global Healthcare Practice, Cisco
Systems Inc. “Instead, we’ve now introduced a new care at-a-distance
healthcare delivery model that better connects people, information and
processes into one continuum of care. This new technology-enabled
delivery model will improve productivity and efficiency in healthcare
while at the same time minimizing costs for access to quality care
Connected Care is being built on an open network that will integrate
multiple vendors’ technologies with Electronic Health Records and other
IT platforms. The program will enable real-time connectivity and
consultations among doctors, nurses, and health system professionals
across the country, creating a more connected system of healthcare.
Cisco’s Contact Center facilitates the intelligent routing of caregiver
communications, and its network security technology ensures remote
communications between patients and caregiver staff is safe and secure.
The two companies successfully tested the Connected Care program in a
pilot with Cisco employees in San Jose, California over a recent,
seven-month period. Ninety percent of participants said they would
recommend the program to others. The San Jose telehealth pilot program
is one of three telehealth pilots recently conducted by Cisco. Other
pilots included Aberdeen, Scotland and New Zealand. UnitedHealth Group
employees in Minneapolis are preparing to participate in a similar
There are six Connected Care programs in development that will explore
how this approach is received in communities across the country and
provide valuable insight on using this technology to extend access to
quality care in a more efficient manner.
UnitedHealth Group has signed a partnership with international health
education and humanitarian assistance organization Project HOPE - one of
Connected Care’s first implementations. A Connected Care mobile clinic
will help residents in New Mexico obtain health screenings and
treatment. The program will have a focus on identifying and addressing
diabetes and other chronic diseases.
John P. Howe, III, M.D., president and chief executive officer of
Project HOPE, stated: “The United States is renowned for the latest
advances in health technology and care, but not all Americans have
access to them. This unique partnership will help improve access to care
through initiatives like this. Project HOPE is proud to partner with
UnitedHealth Group to work toward a sustainable approach to overcoming
healthcare disparities in rural and other underserved populations.”
The program will be available to residents in the first quarter 2010 and
will also include a “train-the-trainer” component to advance local
health worker capacity, helping improve care quality in these
communities for the long term.
The Association of American Medical Colleges has estimated that due to
population growth, aging and other factors, the country is facing a
potential shortage of 159,000 primary care physicians by 2025. Moreover,
studies show that inconsistent access to physicians and other care
providers results in poorer health.
“Educating and training more physicians is a long-term solution to
addressing this country’s physician shortage. Through Connected Care, we
can advance access to medicine in America and spread clinical expertise
over greater distances today to people who are suffering from inadequate
access to care,” said Reed V. Tuckson, M.D., executive vice president
and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group.
The initiative will help address these inconsistencies in care by
providing an array of preventive healthcare as well as specialty care
• Treatment of a wide variety of conditions, ranging from common
ailments like colds, flu, fevers, and allergies, to more chronic
conditions like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, which require
• Follow-up exams for those being treated for specific conditions or
• Wellness programs for employees/patients to stay healthy; and Acute
care for the ill.
UnitedHealth Group is a diversified health and well-being company
dedicated to making healthcare work better. Headquartered in
Minneapolis, Minnesota, UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of
products and services through six operating businesses: UnitedHealthcare,
Ovations, AmeriChoice, OptumHealth, Ingenix, and Prescription Solutions.
Through its family of businesses, UnitedHealth Group serves more than 70
million individuals nationwide.
Cisco is a worldwide expert in networking that transforms how people
connect, communicate and collaborate.
Posted Aug. 13/09.