Staying connected. It is one of the greatest challenges for VNH; as a home health agency, VNH caregivers are much more present out in communities, serving thousands of Vermont and New Hampshire residents, than in any one office building.
“We’re pretty unique in our coverage area. Not many agencies cover 4,000 square miles across two states,” said VNH Information Services Director Justin Bell. “We had the desire to connect remote staff with each other and their managers by more than just the phone. We wanted face-to-face video capabilities.”
Earlier this year, VNH implemented a version of video conferencing, called Blue Jeans (bluejeans.com). Because it is completely cloud-based, Blue Jeans enables up to 25 VNH employees to join in a single live conversation, using laptops and mobile devices, such as smart phones or tablets, from remote sites. The result is instant, face-to-face interaction with no additional computers or other hardware needed. By streamlining internal staff communications processes, VNH caregivers have more time to provide better quality care to patients.
Since July, VNH staff has been meeting, training, and sharing documents through Blue Jeans. VNH Long Term Care Director Rita Laferriere uses the video conferencing technology regularly to meet with her teams. Laferriere heads up the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), a grant-funded program that provides home health care for low-income new mothers in Vermont. The NFP grant requires weekly team meetings and weekly one-on-one meetings with Laferriere and her nurses.
“My team is located all over the VNH service area,” she said. “Blue Jeans helps us stay in compliance with the program, but it also lets us use the time we would spend traveling to and from meetings for visiting new moms at home instead.
IS Director Bell said he is looking into more ways that VNH can use Blue Jeans, possibly for meeting with patients who live in very rural areas. More and more people are managing doctors’ visits through emerging Telehealth technologies, which include video conferencing, the internet, and wireless communications, to create virtual, face-to-face doctor-patient consultations. “Technology continues to evolve for home health care, and we are always looking ahead. Perhaps soon people will be able to access their doctors without ever leaving home.”