The H1N1 pandemic created a tremendous need to pass critical and timely information throughout the public health system and to partner with response agencies and entities. To accomplish this goal, NC Division of Public Health used a video-conferencing system that allowed for studio-quality video conferencing with call-in and e-mail question capacity, remote presentations, and the ability to project slides with written information and graphics
Using the North Carolina Agency for Public Telecommunications, the H1N1 videoconference was web-streamed from the NC Division of Public Health for simultaneous viewing on a weekly, then bi-weekly, basis. The videoconferences served as a key method of connecting with local health department staff, who viewed the videoconferences from their desktops or congregated in central conference rooms where the videoconference was projected on a screen. Most also invited local response partners including Emergency Management, hospitals, EMS, and other government and non-government entities. This provided opportunities for discussions and planning meetings before or after the teleconference.
Other communication systems, such as standard teleconferencing, had presented several challenges, including difficulty with telephone lines, bandwidth, and costs arising from the large number of participants. The videoconferencing format had several advantages over these systems. Not only was it more cost effective, but it also enabled the department to share a lot of crucial information on H1N1 response through high quality and dynamic presentations. While difficulties arose at some of the viewing locations because of local firewall settings prohibiting web-streaming, this was overcome by making prior accommodations with IT agencies. All video conferences were also archived for easy viewing access at a later time.