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WebRTC Will Drive Telemedicine

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WebRTC Will Drive Telemedicine

June 18, 2014
By Erik Linask
Group Editorial Director

The big question with any new technology is always, “That’s great, but what’s the use case?”  The fledgling WebRTC industry, in particular, seems to have found itself in somewhat of a holding pattern, as use cases around browser-based communications are developed.  The consensus seems to be that customer service and healthcare industries bear the low-hanging fruit and will see the greatest initial adoption.

At WebRTC Expo this morning, the latter was in focus, with multiple panels discussing the potential for enhanced patient care with WebRTC-based applications, given the expected exponential growth in telehealth investment over the next several years.

What’s important to understand is WebRTC is an enhancement, not a replacement – this holds for the technology overall, not only in telemedicine.  In-person care will remain a key part of the patient care mix, but telehealth provides significant opportunity to supplement and enhance care services and provide a better overall patient experience.

Furthermore, as Jim Donovan, director of product management at Oracle (News - Alert), notes, WebRTC in healthcare should be thought of as much more than just voice and video with a doctor.  Rather, it can lay the groundwork for an enhanced long-term care experience.

Bruce Marler, director of sales engineering at CafeX Communications, agrees, noting that, “You have to augment and enhance current capabilities with the things people want from their healthcare providers: availability, competence, efficiency.  It’s an area ripe for innovation.”

Among the factors likely to drive the innovation and adoption will be an increased demand for collaboration between all stakeholders in the patient care lifecycle.  Multiple challenges will contribute to that need, including rising patient volumes; an aging population with a growing rate of chronic disease; a shortage of qualified medical professionals; and escalating costs of service delivery.  Collectively, they provide a clear path for development of new care models, including telehealth options.

Potential implementations include (but certainly aren’t limited to):

  • Click-to-call from a patient portal (which can be integrated into existing UC infrastructures)
  • Click-to-video for escalation or enhanced consultation
  • Remote video consultation for remote regions
  • Remote rounds in healthcare facilities
  • Specialist consultations
  • Nurse-call buttons
  • Patient-family collaboration
  • Extended care check-ins

The key to success will be the integration of personal, contextual data, which will allow healthcare providers to efficiently deliver enhanced care services, both short and long term.

According to Donovan, it’s a no-brainer: “The bottom line is WebRTC technology is better than its telemedicine predecessors, mainly because it’s so much easier to deploy.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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