DHW Q&A: The Future of Telehealth With BlueJeans

BlueJeans by Verizon
Image Credit: BlueJeans by Verizon

With Krish Ramakrishnan
BlueJeans by Verizon, Co-Founder and Chief of Innovation

Virtual health continues to be one of the most rapidly evolving landscapes in all of healthcare, with the second year of the pandemic bringing a new set of opportunities and challenges for patients and providers alike.

In this Digital Health Wire Q&A we sat down with the co-founder and chief of innovation at BlueJeans by Verizon, Krish Ramakrishnan, to discuss the changing role of telehealth and the areas where the technology offers the most potential going forward.

BlueJeans was early to the video software space, what led you to found the company?

It’s fair to say that the idea began over ten years ago when we started seeing video overtaking telephony as the future of communication. We saw cloud-based software as a way to democratize video communications back in 2010, allowing us to provide access to anybody, anywhere, at any time.

This was the principle reason behind founding the company and naming it BlueJeans. It’s a universal fabric. Anyone can use it and feel comfortable.

Can you tell us a little bit about BlueJeans and its value proposition?

BlueJeans is a collaboration platform. It enables users to have engaging and secure conversations remotely. Anything you would need from a collaboration platform you can find in BlueJeans: note taking, recording, messaging, and so forth.

The telehealth platform is built on the same BlueJeans architecture. It’s in the cloud, secure, and has all the same fundamentals – but it is purpose built for healthcare. 

What are some features of the telehealth platform that set it apart from a general meetings solution?

Videoconferencing was designed for general meetings, not telehealth specifically, so the original experience was not great in that situation. One of the issues was that you had to download an app. Another was that there was no concept of a virtual “waiting room.” 

When you go to a doctor’s office there’s a waiting room with a check-in and an intake form that allows you to share information and notify the medical staff. All of these things make the experience great, and none of these things are in a “meetings” product.

We saw this as an opportunity. After we eliminated the need to download an app and made sure everything was secure and HIPAA compliant, the next thing we did was build a virtual waiting room.

BlueJeans waiting rooms have all of the features I mentioned that make a good experience. They allow hospitals to customize the look and feel to make sure it’s how they want it, with the right patient education resources readily available.

After that, patients have access to interpreter services, closed captioning, and transcription, all integrated directly into the call.

What are some of the constraints currently holding back telehealth adoption?

One of the biggest constraints is that it’s a new experience, and I’ll give you an example: the introduction of ATM machines.

Banks introduced ATM machines to save time for tellers and provide access to withdrawals 24/7. Now fast forward to today, people rarely go to the bank. Nearly all of the banking that you want to do you can do remotely. This would have been inconceivable back then.

People did not trust ATM machines originally. They wanted to go into the bank and talk to a teller, and to see their withdrawals in person. There was more comfort in the old way of doing things. These days, you only go to the bank if you’re forced to go to the bank. The pendulum has swung the other way.

That’s the journey we’re on with telehealth. Some people will adapt quickly, but some will long for the brick-and-mortar visit. But over time, as technology improves, and more remote patient monitoring gets integrated into care, the need to go to the hospital will diminish. Similar to how the need to go to the bank diminished.

Everything is building towards a telehealth future, and it is going to be the norm, not the exception. 

BlueJeans was acquired by Verizon in 2020, can you share a little about the acquisition? 

We saw an opportunity by partnering with Verizon to make video permeate through more applications outside of meetings. Telehealth was one, education was another, but you need scale to make these use cases a reality.

Verizon brings something that no other partner does: the network. Video requires a network that’s high speed, high capacity, and low latency. With Verizon investing so much in 5G, we thought that a marriage between a video provider, BlueJeans, and a network provider, Verizon, would be a great combination that would enable a better experience.

5G also has certain characteristics that make it useful for telehealth and medical care more broadly. It enables very low latency between action and reaction, and also has very high bandwidth.

I’m really excited to see where this can have an impact in rural health. In these areas, access to expertise isn’t easily available. If we can provide both telehealth and a secure broadband connection, patients will be able to access not only generalists, but also specialists. 5G helps with scarcity, and will help level the playing field between the medical care available in urban areas and rural locations.

How do you see the telehealth space evolving over the next few years?

One area that I think is going to get a lot of attention is elder care and assisted living. The senior demographic is already very large, and is only going to continue growing. Telehealth is going to make it more convenient to provide quality healthcare to seniors, many of whom lack mobility or transportation. It will also help to keep them healthier, because if seniors have to visit a clinic in-person, then their chances of getting an infection are higher.

Our priority at BlueJeans and Verizon is to expand the reach of telehealth. Whether that’s to rural areas or senior communities, many people stand to benefit, and the technology is still in its early stages.

Five years from now, we won’t even call it telehealth, we’ll just call it a doctor’s appointment.

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