Healthcare ripe for videoconferencing

By Bernie Monegain
10:14 AM

Reduced prices and improved quality are boosting the adoption of telemedicine videoconferencing systems, according to new analysis from research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

The practice of telemedicine has been undergoing significant evolution paralleled by technological advancements in the world of videoconferencing, according to the report "Visual Collaboration Applications in Healthcare." These changes open new opportunities for videoconferencing service providers as they continue to address a market that remains highly under-penetrated. Hence, 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.

The cost of telemedicine videoconferencing systems and transmission service are not a major barrier to their deployments anymore, says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Iwona Petruczynik. 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.

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Visual collaboration vendors 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, Petruczynik said. Visual collaboration vendors need to add value to certain vertical markets to avoid commoditization in the increasingly competitive marketplace.

As set forth in the report, the most significant benefits of telemedicine is its ability to extend the geographic reach of medical care and provide access to medical specialists in remote and rural areas. 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 such as resistance from traditional healthcare facilities that are unfamiliar with new technologies, Petruczynik said. In addition, many potential adopters of telemedicine are witnessing objections from their medical staff members who fear they will be replaced by new and more efficient practices.

On the technology side, there are concerns related to the integration of telemedicine with electronic medical records and resolving system interoperability issues. Moreover, medical staff will have to be trained to coordinate remote care, as well as cope with legal liability, accreditation and licensing issues.

Once these obstacles are overcome, there exists sizeable potential for growth, Petruczynik concluded. Enabling a significant level of customization in the solutions for healthcare institutions will determine the success of videoconferencing in the telemedicine environment in the future.

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