“Video conferencing on steroids.” That’s how Terriance Moody, CEO of Dream Systems, describes telepresence, a simulation technology that enables the next-generation of face-to-face video meetings. Moody’s Nashville, Tennessee-based company uses robotics, high-definition video screens, and precise audio and video technologies to help healthcare professionals quickly communicate their expertise across the country and around the world.
Dream System’s telepresence technology simplifies collaboration between long-distance participants by creating the illusion that everyone in the videoconference is in the same room. The technology enables content to be shared across multiple displays and walls-sized canvases, with flexible screen configurations that aid in decision-making at meetings such as tumor review boards. With a screencast application, a participant’s screen can be shared wirelessly with the entire group, and graphics and PDFs can be added to a workspace before and during the meeting to allow for presentations and documents to be viewed. To facilitate real-time collaboration, remote presenters can connect their laptop or iPad to a Dream System robot—called a “Double”—and project their faces on the robot’s screen and maneuver it remotely.
“When some people hear the word robot, they think of a sci-fi device that’s scary and hard to use—and one that takes the job of a real person,” Moody remarks. “But artificial intelligence is not about eliminating the need for people. Our robots give physicians and clinicians the opportunity to provide more care. We help as a force multiplier; in other words, we help multiply physicians’ capabilities, so that they can turn around and give additional time and better care to more patients.”
Dream Systems’ robots are particularly helpful for physicians who are traveling and specialists who need to communicate with patients in rural hospitals. Each robot can easily be driven in and out of meeting rooms and along hospital floors, helping physicians make decisions and collaborate with other clinicians. By enabling health records and images to be viewed remotely and securely, the technology allows oncologists, radiologists and others to treat more patients in less time.
The technology can also be adapted to a hospital’s surgical suite. Its surgical presence suites provide real-time, virtual, secure communication to and from specialists and administrators, no matter their location. A specialist in New York City can “scrub in” virtually to a procedure taking place in Denver.
Dream Systems was awarded a HealthTrust contract after presenting its solutions at the 2017 HealthTrust Innovation Summit, an annual gathering of decision-makers who vet healthcare technology.
The Evolving Dream
Moody, who studied engineering and artificial intelligence in graduate school, began his career as a NASA researcher looking at how the international space station could collaborate with earth-based scientists using virtual technologies. He realized that these communication tools could be used to spread life-saving health information worldwide.
He began making those connections right around the time his wife, a Ph.D. in molecular biology, was researching Chagas disease, an illness caused by a parasite that can lead to severe digestive and cardiac problems and even sudden death.
“It affects 30 million people a year, particularly those in low-income areas with no healthcare access, yet it is 100 percent curable,” Moody says. “Education is the key to prevention. The challenge for public health professionals was getting this vital information to the people who needed it.”
Learning about Chagas disease lit a spark that inspired him to create Dream Systems in 1999.
The name’s origin comes from Moody’s dream to connect people—especially those in dire need—to the help, expertise and information they require. “Our solutions facilitate global communication, but more important, they can be used to help save lives.”
Tailoring the Technology
As his company has grown, Moody has traveled the globe studying healthcare systems and how telepresence technology could solve cost and personnel challenges.
“Every country’s system has either a challenge with cost or capacity—either there’s enough doctors but not enough money or enough money but not enough doctors,” he explains. “Our solution could help countries experiencing a physician shortage by leveraging the expertise they do have.”
Moody acknowledges that cultural adoption of these technologies is happening faster in consumer companies than in healthcare. “We want to help clinicians and patients by providing an easy user interface with simplified and beautiful design,” he says.
Accordingly, Dream Systems trains hospital staff—virtually and in-person—on how to operate its robots and provides a back-office team to handle implementation, support and continuous remote monitoring. Its system can be customized to a client’s specific goals, budget, space limitations and IT infrastructure specifications.