One of the major applications of real-time video is delivering expertise at a distance. There are few areas where this is more important than health care. We’ve been finding that quite a few of our customers are using video in health care applications that connect doctors to patients, to other doctors, and to service providers such as interpreters. Not only can this provide more timely delivery of an urgently needed service, but it enables new, more efficient modes of health care that will become increasingly important in the near future.
There are four main areas where we have found health care providers using video in general and VSee in particular:
- Virtual Office Visits and Home Health Monitoring
- Medical Education
General Consultations for Health Providers
Connecting someone to an expert is one of the traditional uses of collaborative systems, and there are many ways systems such as VSee can help:
- Audio and video enable a conversation and establish trust. In the age of automated advice and voice-response systems, video can reassure someone that they are talking to a real, live human.
- Application sharing can be used to allow one person to show another a medical record, x-ray, EKG, or anything else that can be displayed on the screen, while pointing out features or making annotations on the image in real time.
- File sharing can be used to send information, such as lab results.
- Device streaming / USB tunneling can connect a measuring instrument at one end, such as a blood glucose monitor, so analysis software located anywhere on the planet.
VSee integrates all of the above functions into one package that can be easily installed on any standard PC and can run on any network – not just in a large hospital with an IT department but in a small medical practice, at home, on a ship at sea, or in a village in the developing world.
Equally important is what happens before and after the conversation. Using the VSee API, a Web application can be set up to find an expert, set up a call, and log the occurrence of the call for billing and auditing purposes.
A consultation is not necessarily from one desktop to another. Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota uses VSee as part of a mobile platform that can be wheeled into an exam room in any of its affiliated community hospitals so a neurologist can see and converse with a stroke patient, enabling timely treatment even in facilities that do not have a specialist on staff 24×7. You can read their case study here.
Virtual Office Visits
Virtual office visits were the original “telemedicine” but with VSee the patient (or doctor) can be at home or anywhere there is an internet connection. This complements an especially promising trend towards home health monitoring. There are a number of chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure (CHF) and diabetes where careful monitoring of parameters such as weight gain and blood sugar can prevent the need for expensive hospitalization. Heart failure alone accounts for 43% of Medicare spending. A number of companies offer systems which gather data from the patient and transmit it over the Internet to a monitoring center where they are compared against models that identify the need for intervention. Some of these systems include a video link so the patient can communicate with clinician, both for diagnostic purposes and to encourage compliance with treatment.
Video Remote Interpretation
This is an area that is finally becoming practical now that products such as VSee have made video affordable and easy to use. In the US, somewhere between 4.5% and 8.6% of people can be classified as Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and 63% of hospitals encounter LEP patients on a daily or weekly basis. Most of these hospital employ staff interpreters, but doctors, patients, and operating rooms are often kept waiting for an interpreter to arrive. When an in-person interpreter is not available, video is greatly preferred to the telephone, but has only recently become practical. For all but the most common languages, the interpreter is probably not on the premises, especially during evenings and weekends, resulting in delays while a person drives in. Video would seem to be an ideal solution, but it took a product like VSee to provide a secure video link that would work over the Internet to an interpreter calling from home. The National Library of Medicine is using VSee in a study to assess the effectiveness of video in such environments. St. Joseph’s Community Health Foundation has received several awards for its medical interpreter program that utilizes VSee video.
This mirrors the use of video and VSee in education in general. Many educational institutions have made investments in high-end, room-based videoconferencing systems to deliver lectures remotely, but still need a way to handle to much more numerous seminars and one-on-one student/faculty meetings that give higher education its value. The School of Public Health at the University of Texas Medical Center and USC School of Pharmacy are using VSee for just such a purpose.
As the discussion over health care reform continues, approaches like these that provide more efficient and effective ways of keeping people healthy will become increasingly important.