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Medical video technology becomes vital to health care organizations

Medical video technology is gaining adoption in health care as more organizations use video conferencing and streaming video to improve patient care.

Although video streaming services and video conferencing may have had slow starts across several other vertical markets, the health care industry is adopting medical video technology for unified communications (UC) at a steadily growing clip.

Driving this growth is a shift in how health care organizations use video. Five years ago, they used traditional video conferencing to improve collaboration between physicians and staff located in geographically different areas. Now, health care organizations use video conferencing to connect physicians with patients in remote medical facilities and locations.

The use of video streaming services for real-time and prerecorded media has also grown, with many YouTube-like applications springing up on hospital organizations' and medical centers' websites.  

"Video technology is helping medical facilities share information and expertise, through both video conferencing and video streaming services," said Ira Weinstein, partner and senior analyst at Wainhouse Research.

Medical video technology improves internal communications

Many health care facilities are deploying medical video technology to not only improve internal communications, but also to bolster the learning experience for young medical professionals.

The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Fla., is using Cisco Systems' Pulse video search engine for its medical research and learning practices, said John Maass, manager of conferencing technology systems and support at the cancer hospital.

The Moffitt Cancer Center has been leveraging video since its start 25 years ago. Prior to implementing Cisco's technology, Moffitt had developed its own application, similar to YouTube, for physicians and other internal employees to view video recordings of lectures, grand rounds and medical procedures, Maass said.

Unlike the legacy, user-unfriendly video search engine, Cisco Pulse uses voice recognition software to automatically tag all uploaded content by topic, keyword phrases and speaker, noted David Stringfellow, systems engineer at Moffitt Cancer Center. Thanks to these improvements, the medical video technology enjoys a 95% adoption rate among Moffitt's 4,500 research and medical staff employees, he said.

"After bringing [Cisco Pulse] in-house and customizing the searchable vocabulary, user feedback has been phenomenal," Stringfellow said.

Medical video technology: Spreading healthcare expertise

Medical video technology is not only becoming vital for internal communications, but also for communicating with patients outside of the organization.

The Moffitt Cancer Center's UC pros are taking their video initiative one step further with the development of a video search engine for external users and patients. The application, also built with Cisco's Pulse technology, is expected to go live on the hospital's website next fall, Maass said.

Video conferencing is also crucial to operations and patient care at My Weight Doctor, a diet center based in Washington, D.C, said Josh Goldman, the center's executive vice president.

The diet center first employed its video conferencing platform from LifeSize as a way to unify physicians -- spread out across the center's five locations -- for weekly meetings. It soon saw a need to extend its use of the technology to conferencing with patients.

"Patients can come into any of the five clinics and video conference live with any physician, located in any of the centers," Goldman said.

Goldman attributes a recent increase in its patient count to the decision to expand its physician coverage via video conferencing.

Meanwhile, medical video technology can also translate into cost savings for health care organizations that can use video to extend care to multiple facilities with fewer physicians.

"Video technology is bringing higher-quality care to more people and more locations while lowering costs," said Wainhouse's Weinstein, noting that medical video technology is also enabling more urgent care facilities and medical centers in remote locations to tap the expertise of physicians located in different geographic areas.

"One physician could potentially cover hundreds of square miles," he said.

Healthcare organizations must look at technology, not vendors

As more health care organizations look to video to improve communication, supplement patient care and bolster research methods, UC pros should evaluate products based on technical requirements and capabilities -- not on vendor name recognition, Weinstein noted.

Many video vendors on the market have products built or modified for the health care industry, from Cisco's collaboration video platforms to Vidyo's tablet- and mobile-device-based video conferencing applications.

When evaluating medical video technology, UC pros in the health care industry must ensure that any new deployments don't violate regulatory compliance requirements and safeguard patient privacy.

"The health information must be protected, and that is up to the healthcare organization -- not the technology," Weinstein said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer.

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