Polycom and the International Virtual e-Hospital (IVeH) have partnered on a new model that enables medical professionals to collaborate via video and share their expertise across 35 healthcare and academic institutions globally, thanks to a Polycom video collaboration program that has helped rebuild Kosovo’s medical system. With its success clearly demonstrated, the model is now being deployed more broadly in new regions outside the Balkans including Africa, the Middle East, South Eastern Europe, and South America.
The world-renowned International Virtual e-Hospital (IVeH) was established in 2001 by Dr. Rifat Latifi (pictured) to create sustainable telemedicine and e-health programs around the world and to rebuild medical systems in developing countries. Launched as the Telemedicine Program of Kosovo (TPK), the program has since connected seven Kosovan hospitals via telemedicine and provided access to an electronic medical library for distance learning with video facilities in Albania, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, UK, and US.
Each telemedicine center in Kosovo contains video collaboration rooms, tele-consultation rooms, and telemedicine training rooms, as well as mobile telepresence units in patient rooms which results in better patient care and improved training and resources for hospital physicians and staff. The video rooms are equipped with a Polycom high-definition room video collaboration system supported by a central Polycom RSS 2000 video recording and streaming solution. The RSS 2000 is a centralised server used by each centre for recording, streaming, and archiving multimedia conferences and training sessions. This saves time and resources while extending communication and enabling knowledge-sharing throughout Kosovo and international medical communities.
“The Polycom video conferencing solution helps us quickly share knowledge, train the next generation of medical providers, and conduct consultations with worldwide experts to ultimately improve patient care,” said Dr. Latifi, IVeH founder. “Thanks to the access to the World Health Organization's (WHO) medical library as well as experts around the world, regional telemedicine centers are now able to develop their own educational programs based on this vast resource; this electronic library logged approximately 54,000 visits within the first three years of operation. The telemedicine centers provide us with a timely, reliable, and accessible way to bring content, experts, and organizations together in a more productive and cost-efficient way.”
The medical infrastructure of Kosovo was left in a poor state by wars, underfunding, and bad management. An entire generation of medical graduates after the Balkan wars of the 1990s had not seen a patient in a clinical environment throughout their entire education, and many medical school classes were held in the basements of homes. Additionally, many older professors, surgeons, and other doctors had not practiced advanced medicine or surgery for more than a decade. For Dr. Latifi, telemedicine and medical distance learning were the only practical solutions for developing countries such as Kosovo.
With government approval in place, as well as backing by the European Agency for Reconstruction (EAR), seven telemedicine centers were established throughout Kosovo with tele-consultation rooms and telemedicine training rooms. Mobile Polycom units are also located at patients’ bedsides to allow real-time collaboration with specialist physicians in other countries. This contributes to better consultations and improved patient care. The IVeH delivers powerful educational tools to medical personnel at the right time. As a result, tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals and IT personnel can be trained on how to use telemedicine and e-health applications through interactive, hands-on lectures. In addition, the telemedicine program introduced life-saving resources and procedures to Kosovo hospitals through external medical libraries and other expert resources.