Lower cost draws healthcare to videoconferencing market

Reduced prices and improved quality are boosting the adoption of telemedicine videoconferencing systems, according to a new Frost & Sullivan report titled Visual Collaboration Applications in Healthcare.

The practice of telemedicine has been undergoing significant evolution paralleled by technological advancements in the world of videoconferencing, Frost & Sullivan researchers note. These changes open new opportunities for videoconferencing service providers as they continue to address a market that remains highly under-penetrated.

Healthcare practitioners are increasingly adopting interactive video or videoconferencing applications for providing enhanced access to healthcare as well as improving the quality of such services at lower prices across the globe, according to the report.

[See also: Video conferencing: ready for its close-up.]

"The costs of telemedicine videoconferencing systems and transmission service are not a major barrier to their deployments any more," says Iwona Petruczynik, Frost & Sullivan research analyst. "In the last two years, there has been a significant reduction in prices of equipment and a substantial improvement in endpoint functionality, especially video quality."

Vendors of visual collaboration technology can make an entry in the healthcare market by offering "off-the-shelf" videoconferencing products. These are cost effective and easier to use options for healthcare professionals, as they are not purchasing dedicated carts, but standard videoconferencing systems.

"This will represent a 'foot in the door' for visual collaboration manufacturers because they are not only familiarizing healthcare professionals with videoconferencing, but also introducing their dedicated pieces of equipment," says Petruczynik. "Visual collaboration vendors need to add value to certain vertical markets to avoid commoditization in the increasingly competitive marketplace."

[See also: Sprint, BL Healthcare add power to remote care.]

The most significant benefit of telemedicine is its ability to extend the geographic reach of medical care and provide access to medical specialists in remote and rural areas, according to the report. Telemedicine technology also offers training and educational benefits to medical professionals at reduced costs. However, restrictive reimbursements and legislative policies are limiting the reach of existing telemedicine programs.

"There are also other obstacles to use of telemedicine technologies like resistance from traditional healthcare facilities that are unfamiliar with new technologies," says Petruczynik. "In addition, many potential adopters of telemedicine are witnessing objections from their medical staff that fears that they will be replaced by new and more efficient practices brought by telemedicine programs.”

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