HIMSS16: Cable companies are a 'huge resource' for healthcare

The emphasis on interoperability has many companies outside the standard range of vendors playing a role. Several of the nation's top cable companies and the industry’s marketing organization, Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), have a strong presence at HIMSS16, showcasing the latest in telecommunications technology that addresses healthcare’s connectivity needs.

CTAM’s slogan is “cable keeps healthcare connected,” said Todd Esenwein, senior director of CTAM, in an interview with Clinical Innovation + Technology. The slogan is fitting, he said, because “it’s the starting point for any type of discussion on cable’s capabilities, which are vast. Our member companies are a huge resource.”

CTAM will be participating in the Interoperability Showcase and the Innovation Pavilion. In CTAM’s booth, quizzes and videos will “help stimulate the learning of what cable can do in healthcare that people might not be attuned to.”

That includes a very deep infrastructure of fiber optic networks serving communities, which contain hospitals, physician practices, radiologists, labs and data centers.

"Cable can be the provider for voice," said Esenwein. A technology some hospitals are using is SIP trunking, Esenwein explained, which uses data connections provided by cable companies to transmit voice communications.

Several hospitals are using video on demand and advanced cable services in patient rooms for customized education. A growing component in hospitals, he said, is managed services. “It’s becoming more and more important to hospitals and the healthcare industry because their IT budgets and staff are tighter. Cable is filling that gap by providing managed services, such as managed wifi,” explained Esenwein. In focus groups with CIOs, one participant said by 9 a.m. his organization had 5,000 mobile devices on its network. "The need for bandwidth in hospital is just continuous."

Marc Siry, vice president of strategic development and head of the new Comcast Connected Health initiative, also spoke with Clinical Innovation + Technology and said the initiative is looking at ways to use Comcast connectivity, technology and media to improve connectivity between providers, payers and the consumers they’re trying to reach. "We see a great opportunity to use the connectivity we provide to create a layer or an app that adds value to that connectivity," he said. "That really allows these businesses to effectively engage patients in the place they’re most likely to be open and engaged—the comfort of their own home.”

Coming from the NBC side after the companies merged in 2011, Siry said his background will help Comcast apply the product development mindset to a field with growing consumer engagement and interest. Comcast also can reach into its family of companies to continually produce new content.

In its booth and in the Connected Health Pavilion, Comcast is demonstrating the initial prototype of its patient engagement platform, which allows healthcare providers and payers to deliver content to all the platforms and streams consumers already are accessing for information and content, including their TVs. Despite the proliferation of mobile tools, Siry said, “TV still demands the greatest amount of time and attention when they’re in their home. We saw a great opportunity to deliver content in an immersive and high-quality fashion and allow them to access and interact with this content through their remote control.”

The prototype launched through a partnership with Kaiser Permanente that “has a really great integrated delivery network that brings together a range of services in a unique way," said Siry. "They were looking to extend to the consumers’ home.” They started with a maternity-focused app called My Pregnancy, which was first available to members in the Pacific Northwest. Visitors will see an interactive TV app that delivers content appropriate to different phases of pregnancy. They can see segments that include nationally syndicated TV talent like Meredith Vieira, as well as interactive elements that allow mothers-to-be and their caregivers to complete surveys and set preferences straight through their TV.

There were two interesting findings from the trial, Siry said. First, the conversion rate—people both signing up and accessing the service was higher than expected which they attributed to the innovative nature of the program and little competition for such personalized information in a TV setting. Second, repeat viewership was higher than seen on the web and mobile platform. “We think that’s because on a typical phone, any app is fighting for space and attention so it’s hard to get people to launch apps over and over. With TV, people sit down to watch and channel surf so it’s a great place to drive access to this content.”