February 6, 2009

Network Computing Services goes extra mile to help patient

Network Computing Services goes extra mile to help patient

Craig Underhill, a network manager with Vanderbilt Medical Center Network Computing Services, explained that video conferencing isn't formally on the books as a service for Vanderbilt University Hospital patients.

A funeral in Cookeville proved to be an exception.

On a road in Murfreesboro last September, a car pulled out in front of a motorcycle ridden by a Cookeville couple. The female rider died and the male came to Vanderbilt's trauma unit, fully conscious, tethered to medical equipment and unable to attend his wife's funeral.

The motorcyclist had a friend with two laptop computers available, one to place in the church to transmit the funeral on the Internet, another to deliver the live transmission to the patient's trauma bed.

Underhill pitched in to make the computer connection work. When he tried a Mac-based video conferencing solution, there was an issue with the firewall at the church. As a last ditch, Underhill tried a freeware video conferencing program called Oovoo. It worked.

“My take is that we saw a way to help somebody,” Underhill said. “We like challenging stuff, and we could help somebody in the process. The patient was able to see his friends and take part in his wife's funeral.

“Everyone was very appreciative. I told the patient that just being able to do that for him was its own reward.”

Underhill said colleagues in Network Computing Services have discussed offering video conferencing to patients as a routine service, but no concrete proposals have yet emerged.