Today I had the honor of being joined by Tim Bickel, Certified TeleHealth Program Manager and Certified Medical Manager of the University of Louisville for our webinar “University of Louisville: Teaching Live Surgery Using BlueJeans”. With the current health crisis creating massive demands on healthcare facilities, hospitals and medical institutes, we wanted to share University of Louisville’s approach to using video conferencing to scale telehealth programs and reduce pressure on their on-site hospital staff. We also discussed an amazing live surgery streaming program from UoL - "Pulse of Surgery". Watch the webinar here!

The University of Louisville is a public research university in Louisville, Kentucky, founded in 1798. The UofL School of Medicine opened as the Louisville Medical Institute in 1837. Currently there are over 1200 students in the medical, nursing, dental and social work schools.

Tim shared how the current pandemic has transformed the University's usual practice of seeing patients in brick and mortar offices to focusing more on Telehealth encounters that keeps patients, providers, and staff safe. Currently, University of Louisville’s 1000 providers in a system of more than 250 clinics, 4 medical centers, and 5 hospitals are equipped to provide care to their patients using BlueJeans Meetings. The amazing Telehealth team who implemented this at UoL consists of providers, clinical and administrative executives, clinic managers and staff, compliance and legal representatives, billing and coding experts, health records managers and network executives.

The video consult is optimized to be efficient and secure for everyone. Each patient is provided their own virtual ‘meeting room’ in BlueJeans - the details of which are never shared with anyone else in order to maintain privacy and security. The providers are given a list of their scheduled telehealth appointments, and at the scheduled time both provider and patient join the meeting for the consultation.

“The transition to widespread telehealth has not been as difficult as it could have been. We were prepared by already having some of our clinics performing telehealth before the pandemic hit,” Tim said. He mentioned that the clinics that were utilizing BlueJeans in their practice were able to transition to remote consultations with little disruption.

For others who are also trying to fast track their telehealth initiatives, Tim had the following recommendations:

  1. Have Executive Administration support of the program.
  2. Know where to gather information – American TeleMedicine Association, HRSA TeleHealth Resource Centers, Center for Connected Health Policy, The Center of TeleHealth and eHealth Law are a few of the national resource offices.
  3. Gather a committee of your organization’s clinicians, staff, administrators representing all areas of the patient/provider experience in order to capture every step of the process.
  4. Be flexible. Things have to adapt depending on requirements and your plan has to include that flexibility.
  5. Keep it simple. If the technology is getting in the way of the patient experience, you are doing it wrong.

In the second half of the webinar, Tim talked about a wonderful program that he has been helping to run to encourage students to consider careers in healthcare – “Pulse of Surgery”. The “Pulse of Surgery” program facilitates a one-of-a-kind experience showing a live open-heart surgery conducted by a medical team at UoL Jewish Hospital, streamed to school students in grades 7-12 via video conferencing. The live stream is sent to the Kentucky Science Center and various schools across the commonwealth of Kentucky as well as facilities in other parts of the country. The program has been providing this unique access to live surgery to young students since 2011.

During a live stream of a surgery, students are connected with video and audio to the Operating Room in the UoL Jewish Hospital. BlueJeans video conferencing enables two-way interaction between the medical team and the students throughout the procedure. Tim shared that the interaction is one of the key parts of the program. Often the surgeons quiz the students about different topics regarding the human anatomy. Students take advantage of talking directly to a surgeon by asking about different aspects of a career in medicine such as the time and effort required to become a doctor, questions about the surgery and so on.

Tim hopes this program can help students get curious and interested in the field of medicine, healthy living, and the human anatomy. Tim and his team have scaled up operations to reduce costs and provide the live stream to more schools without having the students come to a specific site. Schools from other states such as Tennessee and Montana have also participated in this program. With the recent school closures in place, Tim hopes to provide this program remotely so that students can participate from their homes.

Thanks Tim and the University of Louisville Telehealth team for sharing your innovative initiatives with us!

We were also joined by my awesome colleagues Kandasamy Muniasamy, Director of Information Security at BlueJeans and Ted Tracy, VP of Engineering at BlueJeans to answer questions from an engaged audience:

Do you set up a BlueJeans transmission to receive the hospital feeds and feed that to the location where the students are?

Tim Bickel: With BlueJeans since it is a cloud-based system, all the different locations – the operating room, the three viewing rooms in the Kentucky Science Center – call into the cloud for the event. I will sit in my office and monitor in case there are any technical issues. It’s been dependable all these years and we haven’t had too many problems. Occasionally there may be a network issue with a school. Since we have been using BlueJeans, we haven’t needed to have the schools, especially those based in rural Kentucky, drive for hours to come onsite to the Science Center. We just do a test run with these schools prior to the actual live event to make sure it’s all working.

Who had the original idea for this program?

Tim Bickel - I’m not sure! I believe we had a surgeon who had the idea to work with the Science Center. But they didn’t know how to broadcast live surgeries. We have another event where we broadcast a minimally invasive surgery by one of our Ob-Gyns – we actually broadcast that in five continents, in 24 countries to a couple of hundred participants. So, this wasn’t anything really new for me, and it was easy to do with BlueJeans.

Is the resolution for BlueJeans high enough for the live streaming of a surgery? What other features do you wish to see in the future?

Tim Bickel: We will increase access to the program to our students who are now learning from their homes so we will have to scale it up in order to enable a lot more students participating individually.

Ted Tracy: Today our video is oriented around 720p. We are working on some advanced architecture updates to deliver 1080p in the near future, so stay tuned for that.

Have more questions for our team regarding telehealth? Visit our healthcare page. If you want to talk to us for your telehealth requirements, please contact us!