Real Time Communications Featured Article

Enhancing Healthcare with WebRTC

May 01, 2014

The impact technology has had on various industries is almost immeasurable. At least once every day I ask myself, “How did people work before email?” That same mindset can be applied across different industries -- technology tools and applications have become so embedded into various processes that it seems impossible to try and operate without them. Healthcare is one of these industries, but the best is yet to come in the transformation of communication, data transmission and patient-doctor relationships.

One of the most frustrating parts of the healthcare experience today is how time consuming the process is leading to an appointment. Getting to the doctor’s office, filling out paperwork and sitting in the waiting room can add up to an hour, just to finally get called in to speak to a doctor and leave within minutes. Sometimes, these in-person appointments are completely necessary for things such as tests, medications or diagnosis. Often times, however, these appointments could be just as productive over a video or voice call. Luckily, with the growth of secure and fast communications and collaboration solutions over the Internet, the concept of telehealth is becoming more developed and prominent in today’s healthcare organizations.

One technology powering the growth of healthcare trends like telehealth is WebRTC – an open-source technology that brings real-time communications to browsers without any downloads, installations or plugins. With WebRTC, users can chat, video call, audio call, play games, share screens or send files securely, easily and quickly over a browser.

One of the biggest considerations when adopting Internet-based applications in healthcare organizations is regulations. HIPAA compliance protects patient confidentiality, which means these organizations can’t adopt just any communications solution. If a website is HIPAA-compliant, the compliance of WebRTC would be easy to assure with proper integration. Since WebRTC is already built in to browsers, it can allow companies that provide secure and HIPAA-compliant unified communications services to do so at a relatively low cost to a variety of endpoints. 

Another consideration for compliance is insurance companies – are they ready to evaluate WebRTC for compliance? The standard is still developing, and questions like this will need to be considered as it becomes more sophisticated and mainstream. In the meantime, applications need to be secure, encrypted and compliant in order to keep the organization, doctors and patients protected, and there are already WebRTC providers working with HIPAA-compliant solutions, including MediSprout, Net Medical Xpress, SecureVideo and Vidyo.

Because WebRTC uses the browser as its main operating platform, it eliminates the need for healthcare organizations to invest in special equipment; tablets, mobile devices or regular computers have the necessary capabilities for secure, compliant and high-quality communications. These devices also enable doctors and healthcare professionals to be more accessible and mobile, sending and receiving data in real-time while attending to patients.

WebRTC serves as the bridge between the Internet and telecommunications -- developers can create embedded applications that enable click-to-call functionality or social networking capabilities to help enhance the patient experience. These solutions can help modernize healthcare processes and communications while meeting highly stringent compliance regulations and patient privacy considerations at relatively low costs. 

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