How Google Talk can streamline caregiving

While we've previously written about Dr. Andrew Barbash and his experiences using Google Talk for patient care and collaboration, last week Barbash spoke at length and in depth in a Fierce telemedicine webinar focusing on how such technology can help caregivers. 

"The most important thing is, one does not have to be a technology wizard in order to figure out how to do these things," said Barbash, the neurosciences director at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. "We are using very consumerized, customized, customer-centric tools."

Barbash also touted the ability to get a second opinion on a patient almost instantaneously. Rather than having to wait on hold on a phone while one doctor is dragged out of bed, Barbash said, he instead has access to a whole network of physicians--some of whom may be available, and others who may not be--with the click of a mouse, or better yet, a tap of his finger. "If I were sitting on my Droid phone right now, I could literally click a button, update the message under my name that says ‘I'm in a movie for two hours, please call Dr. Smith,' and anybody in the emergency room at our hospital," he said. "And others who would embrace the same concept would literally, instantaneously know exactly what the availability is of the particular specialist you were looking for for a particular scenario."

To further prove his point about accessibility, Barbash talked about a case in which a stroke patient moved from Maryland to Michigan, but still obtained care and analysis from hundreds of miles away. 

"The nurses who took care of the person in the ICU and our nurse practitioner were all able to sit in a room; [the patient] was in Michigan; I was in the office [in Maryland]; and someone else was in Chicago," Barbash said. "We basically were able to do a quick screen share look at the CT scans and go over the most recent scan [the patient] did because he had it on a CD. 

The ability to quickly find each other and drop in is what makes these tools potentially much more scalable and applicable to environments, he said.

Barbash also discussed some issues surrounding HIPAA compliance that come with using tools such as Google Talk. He pointed out that Google Talk itself is an encrypted, relationship-based process in which content can be copied and pasted for use in electronic records. 

"I do not profess to be a HIPAA guru, but HIPAA is primarily focused around privacy," Barbash said. "One can use methods to validate who one's communicating with, and I would argue that a lot of what we do by faxing and getting on the telephone with people whose identity we have not verified is not terribly HIPAA compliant, either." 

To hear more from Barbash and other telemedicine experts:
- here's the full webinar (reg. required)