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IS TELEMEDICINE TECHNOLOGY TOO HARD TO USE?

polycom web site photo for Scotts articleHuman Factors – Intersecting Humans with Communication Technology

Is telemedicine technology too complicated? As communication technologies continue to advance, more and more tasks can be completed online via computers, or mobile devices. Visiting your doctor can be a very personal and somewhat intimate experience. Imagine the day when the best suited doctor will be able to see a patient, provide a diagnosis, or perform procedures using video conference over the internet. With the right technology, these advanced techniques are happening today and are saving time and money!

The trend began with telemedicine. This allowed doctors, and other medical professionals, to provide healthcare in emergency situations to areas that were otherwise too remote to reach in person in time to provide assistance. Then, telemedicine gave way to telehealth. Telehealth expanded the concept of remote healthcare, connecting medical professionals all over the globe. This allowed anyone to provide assistance to anyone else, anywhere in the world.

Telehealth AV technology can include everything from video teleconferences to emergency messaging systems, and much more. Through the use of telehealth, doctors are able to not only consult with one another digitally, but to monitor patients, provide training, and even perform surgery via robotic linkup.

The Human Factor
On the surface, it seems like healthcare AV technology is the best thing to happen to since the invention of penicillin. But it does raise some important questions: Is this technology reliable? Can you really trust the diagnosis from a doctor halfway across the globe? The AV technology itself is state of the art and proven to be dependable. The medical field has very high standards, as their tools must often be used in life or death situations. The AV technology used for telehealth in medical facilities is therefore rigorously tested before use, to make sure it’s reliable. But what about the human factor?

A doctor may know medicine better than anyone on the planet. But do they know AV technology well enough to use Telehealth effectively in an emergency situation? Is it too complicated to use reliably? Could pressing the wrong button at the wrong time result in a lapse in patient care? Telehealth can provide tremendous benefits to the medical world, it’s true. But if the technology is too difficult to use, then there is also the potential for tremendous detriment. Is it really worth the risk?

Simplifying Telehealth AV Technology
Any kind of digital technology can be intimidating to those unfamiliar with it. AV technology developers recognize that everyone has different levels of digital functionality. And a patient’s life shouldn’t be dependent on whether or not their doctor knows how to operate a software based piece of medical hardware. It is my firm belief that telehealth systems need to meet two critical criteria. First, they need to be able to be operated with only a very basic knowledge of standardized controls (limited special knowledge and training required). Consider the automobile industry. Regardless of the type of vehicle, the steering wheel, gas pedal, and brake are always in the same place. Second, they need to be compatible with multiple technology platforms. What good is an AV telehealth cart when the first time you try to use it you find out that the doctor on the far end is using an iPad, or mac, and those formats can’t connect with that cart? Unfortunately, some of the manufacturers of these technologies today are developing their own hardware and software but haven’t considered compatibility with other devices and technologies. This is where consulting with strong technology partners is so critical.

When it comes to medicine and patient health, you can’t take any chances. That’s why telehealth AV technology developers work hard to create systems that anyone can use to the fullest potential. That way, the human factor is eliminated, and doctors can focus on what they do best: providing quality medical care to those who need it most, wherever they may be.

Bob Higginbotham

About Bob Higginbotham

Bob Higginbotham, CTS-I, CTS-D, is the Avidex National Manager of Healthcare AV. Bob has spent his 30 year career in leadership positions in the AV industry including extensive design and build work in healthcare facilities. He owned and operated a successful AV business in Texas with multiple offices in several cities where he managed a staff of over 100 employees. Bob has served as a technical consultant for a major AV manufacturer, led the technical sales team for a national video conferencing provider and provided technology auditing services for several private education facilities. He has a unique working knowledge of audiovisual technology as well as multiple certifications in audio engineering, acoustics, AV design, CQT system commissioning and video transmission systems. Bob holds a BA in communications and has recently served as board chair for a large private school. He brings his years of technical knowledge and leadership experience to Avidex where he leads the national healthcare AV team. Contact Bob at bobh@avidexav.com

The Portable AV Meeting Room

Hospitals everywhere continue to look for ways to maximize profits by cutting costs, increasing flexibility and enhancing their return on investment (ROI) when planning technology upgrades. Not every organization has the budget to equip each existing meeting space or training room with a fully integrated presentation and/or videoconferencing solution. A low risk/high reward move many hospitals are making is transitioning to “AV systems on wheels” or portable audio visual (AV) systems that can be used in many rooms if desired.

Portable AV systems can fulfill the need for presentation, white-boarding, annotating, videoconferencing and/or recording for most small to medium sized rooms. Power and data connections are required at each location where the system will be used, but everything else can be contained on the cart to maximize portability and efficiency in operation. Portable systems can be designed to support a variety of applications in different locations throughout a Hospital, Clinic or Medical Office Building. Whether your need is to host a training session, give a presentation, consult with clinicians at other locations, or interact with patients remotely, these mobile solutions maximize equipment utilization and positively impact the bottom line.

Historically, portable AV systems have been limited in the applications they supported. The more full featured carts were difficult to move and were obtrusive. Cart manufacturers have improved their products and are now making elegant and robust carts that are easy to operate and maneuver. Portable AV carts are now capable of supporting a wide range of products and solutions, making them a smart alternative to traditionally installed AV systems. They can be as simple as a flat panel display on a rolling stand with computer connection cords, or as complex as multiple monitor systems with fully integrated control, switching and videoconferencing.

Utilizing portable audio visual systems reduces capital investments by eliminating costly labor needed for cable pulling, conduit, floor cores, wall backing and power in the walls behind wall mounted displays. Maintenance costs are lower when compared to installed AV systems. Portability reduces the total number of systems your facility needs to purchase. Project turnaround time is usually faster with portable systems. When multiple carts are involved, an economy of scale is leveraged to further reduce costs. A standardized push button control pad is provided on each cart which provides a simple and familiar user experience, particularly for users who need to use the portable carts in various locations.

As you consider installing AV systems in your facility, consider the benefits of portable systems: reduced initial investment, flexibility and lower infrastructure and reoccurring maintenance costs when compared with permanently installed integrated AV systems.

Jeff Miller

About Jeff Miller

Jeff has been working in the professional AV integration industry for over twenty years. During that time he has served as Designer, Project Manager and/or Account Executive for hundreds of projects. As an Account Executive at Avidex, he specializes in Medical, Education, and Control Rooms. He can be reached at jmiller@avidex.com