Video conferencing uses two-way interactive audio-video technology to connect users when a live, face-to-face interaction is necessary.
Video devices can include videoconferencing units, peripheral cameras, videoscopes, or web cameras. Display devices include computer monitors, plasma/LED TV, LCD projectors, And even tablet computers. Live video conferencing has historically been the most common application of telemedicine/telehealth care, and is an effective health care and consultation tool for a variety of applications, including:
Emergency Room/Intensive Care Unit Support
- Video conferencing connects emergency providers with medical specialists who otherwise would not be available for consults;
- Remote ICU monitoring programs at hospitals provide 24-hour backup, supervision, and support to ICU medical staffs by utilizing a combination of real-time video to observe patients, interactive video communications with on-site ICU providers, and digital patient monitoring equipment.
- Primary care providers can consult with medical specialists who are not available locally;
- Providers can discuss patient cases, regardless of location, and without the need for travel;
- Medical specialists can examine patients in remote locations when distance is a barrier, as is the case when patients live in rural and underserved urban areas. This includes situations where the physician needs to directly observe the patient;
- Video conferencing can provide cost-effective access to care for patients who are institutionalized or incarcerated;
- Video conferencing can facilitate care for patients in need of psychiatric services, who may otherwise be reluctant to keep appointments in person at a psychiatric provider's office;
- Patients with limited mobility can receive medical consultations at home, or in their local primary care provider's office;
- Language translators can provide video interpretation services to multiple locations, a cost-effective expansion of these programs.
- Video conferencing allows health care professionals to conduct continuing education programs with attendees in multiple locations;
- Patients can use these technologies to take disease management courses or receive other important health information.
Video Conferencing Successes
Recent studies have shown that video conferencing directly improves access to health care, and can improve the quality of care that could lead to improved health outcomes. These technologies also have the potential to make the health care system more cost effective. For example:
A 2008 study examined stroke patient consults between emergency physicians at four community hospitals and stroke specialists at a separate location. It compared patient assessments conducted by telephone with assessments conducted via a telehealth stroke consult program, which included video conferencing and store and forward images of CT brain scans. More than 98 percent of patients in the telehealth program received correct treatment decisions, compared to 82 percent of patients in the telephone-only assessment. The timely use of optimal treatments can mean the difference between a stroke patient's substantial recovery, and death or long-term disability.
A 2007 study found that patients in a medically underserved rural area who received psychiatric services via video conference had clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction levels that were equal to patients who received face-to-face services. In addition, video conferencing services were 10% less expensive per patient than in-person services.
More articles regarding strokes and telehealth:
Cost-effectiveness of hub-and-spoke telestroke networks for the management of acute ischemic stroke from the hospitals' perspectives, Georgia Health Sciences University. Jan. 2013.
The cost-effectiveness of telestroke in the treatment of acute ischemic stroke. VA Salt Lake City Health Care System. Sep. 2011.
Outcomes of 98,609 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs patients enrolled in telemental health services, 2006-2010. Yale School of Medicine. April 2012.
Telestroke-guided intravenous tissue-type plasminogen activator treatment achieves a similar clinical outcome as thrombolysis at a comprehensive stroke center. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Stroke Institute. Nov. 2011.