So why consider using video in healthcare? Is there a danger that it simply becomes a “nice toy” but fails to deliver any real benefit to a health system struggling with huge pressures?
All across the Western World, healthcare systems are under intense pressure to deliver more with less.
Historically, healthcare models have evolved relatively slowly in response to the changing lifestyles of patients and clinicians and ongoing improvements in medication and technology. However, many Western countries are experiencing aging populations, a rise in levels of obesity and related long-term chronic conditions and, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, ever-increasing financial constraints . Gradual evolution of healthcare models can no longer deliver change quickly enough to adequately respond to these pressures.
At the same time, video communications technology has moved from being a “problem child” – expensive, difficult to use and maintain and consequently occupying something of a niche - into a mainstream tool familiar to millions of everyday smartphone users, in all age groups. A high definition video and audio stream no longer requires a high quality dedicated network but can be delivered over the internet and especially mobile networks. Moreover, many of the familiar features used over the last 30 years by business phone system users are at last available to manage video calls, dramatically improving the efficiency and scalability of video-based healthcare solutions. All this means that a face-to-face consultation no longer needs to depend on clinician and patient being physically present together in a consulting room; “Virtual healthcare” is now a real possibility.
Clearly, a video consultation cannot support hands-on diagnosis or treatment. But video consultations can generate mutual confidence and trust through conveying visual signals which a phone call simply cannot do. Consequently, video communications can greatly assist triage, diagnosis and treatment through the clinician being able to see the patient as they talk, as well as examine the visual manifestations of their condition. GPs widely report that more than 80% of their day-to-day consultations do not require hands-on examination; in the UK, more than 40% of emergency department cases require no physical intervention. Thus, in many cases in many settings, video could deliver the same outcomes but without the many disadvantages, such as the inconvenience of travel, the cost of providing physical consulting rooms and the risk of infection, to name just a few. Indeed, both clinician and patient can stay at home – even if they reside in different countries, in different time zones.
In broad terms there are 3 principal ways in which video can be applied to help transform healthcare systems:
Use video to provide remote triage, diagnosis and treatment functions; the aim should be to deal accurately with as many cases as possible without further referral to other, hands-on diagnostic and treatment services;
Create a pool of specialist resource which can be accessed remotely by other clinicians using video call centre technology; the larger the pool, the more efficiently the resource can be provided.
Provide clinical resources with a better work-life balance and less stressful working conditions, again using video call centre and remote working technologies; this enlarges the pool of available resources to include many who would not otherwise be available.
It may not be immediately obvious why these three mechanisms would help in your setting. Contact us and we will show you how.
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