While America continues to untangle its complicated healthcare options, telehealth has emerged as a viable option for affordable and accessible coverage. What started out as virtual house calls to conveniently diagnose simple maladies has expanded to providing digital care to people with complex and chronic diseases. This emerging technology allows patients to consult with primary care physicians or specialists—often out of their reach or budget— using video conferencing on their laptops or mobile devices.
Telehealth is primed to take the health care industry by storm and is already being adopted by some of the larger insurers such as Aetna and WellPoint, who are increasingly looking to cut costs by allowing millions of patients to participate in initial physician visits online, reports Bloomberg. Just this month, WellPoint gave four million patients the option of having telehealth visits with physicians while Aetna says it plans to increase access to online health care services to eight million people next year.
With doctors being just a click away, web conferencing makes connecting with healthcare professionals easier than ever. By using an existing network infrastructure and a conventional Internet connection, these conference tools are simple to set up and extremely cost-effective. In addition to diagnosis, videoconferencing can be applied to a wide range of medical needs such as the sharing of expertise, monitoring a chronic condition, annual wellness visits and even psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.
But connecting effectively goes beyond just access to a broadband connection and computer. A blurry image or distorted audio could mean the difference between misdiagnosing a mole for skin cancer or hearing dysphagia instead of dysphasia. As webcams continue to play a crucial role in the quality of telehealth care provided, here are some important features to ensure a good user experience.
“The clarity of the picture has direct impact on the ability of our doctors to make the right diagnosis,” summarizes Dr. Schleicher, Head of the Department of Surgery at the Feinberg School in Chicago. For example, examining the finer details of a skin condition or studying the face of a psychiatric patient can be crucial when it comes to making an accurate diagnosis. Specs wise, the basic criteria for image quality are:
—A frequency of 25 frames per second minimum, ideally 30. Below, the movements are not fluid.
—A minimum resolution of 1280×720 pixels, ideally full HD (1920×1080 pixels).
—And the most important, accurate colorimetry detection, which is particularly important for diagnosis.
If all the drugs on the market today seem to sound the same, that’s probably because they do. Same goes for many medical terms and conditions, so sound quality is just as important as imaging when it when it comes to webcams.
Instead of relying upon the low quality of internal microphones in computers, webcams offer an external microphone or even multi-directional microphones – such as the Logitech BCC950 ConferenceCam. Ideally, you want to look for a model that has a noise cancellation system and a stereo microphone that will avoid misinterpretations or misunderstandings among doctors and patients.
Access and Usability
When it comes to setting up a telehealth system, it’s important to choose the right tools and hardware that are easy to install without using an IT service and don’t require intensive training to use. This applies to both medical practitioners and patients, who do not necessarily have the skills or the ability to use a third party to install a videoconferencing station on their computer.
With access and usability in mind, take a look at theLogitech Webcam C930e, Logitech’s most advanced HD webcam yet. With an extended view of 90 degrees, the C930e frees up PC bandwidth by putting video processing within the camera, adjusting dynamically to the available bitstream.
Since video usually requires large amounts of bandwidth to function, installing video compression equipment can not only relieve the central processor of a computer but also help with telemedicine projects that are deployed in rural areas, where bandwidth is lower.
At a time when crowded doctors’ offices, inaccessibility and expensive health care loom large, telehealth has become an exciting and attainable new prospect for the medical industry at large.