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WebRTC Has a Place in Healthcare

November 25, 2014

Of all markets in the world, it is perhaps healthcare that demands the most from communication. Doctors and nurses inside health facilities such as hospitals and urgent care centers are always briskly making tracks from one patient to the next. There never seems to be enough time on the clock.

Muddled communications, in that arena, can have catastrophic effects. As a recent blog post at mHealthNews points out, clinicians such as Jodi Pahl, the chief nursing executive at St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima, Ohio, have had to call out doctors' names down hallways and page them on building-wide intercoms when they need doctors' attention. At Rita's Medical Center, a 419-bed facility, this method simply alerts everyone in the hospital that she is looking for a doctor. It can be effective, but it is no match for multiple-campus facilities it competes against.

“So much of what happens in a hospital … involves communication," Pahl said. “You need to know where this person is right now, or you need to talk to that person. This breaks down those silos and makes connections.”

Larger facilities with multiple campuses cannot take advantage of voices traveling down hallways. It may garner an instant response but its scope is limited and may be jarring or irritating to clinicians and patients alike. Worse yet, it is also unreliable. So what can stand in its place? How about WebRTC.

WebRTC represents the future of business communications by combining voice, video, data transfer, presence, instant messaging, and other capabilities into a single package that can operate via the use of modern Web browsers. Many browsers support the protocol, either natively or with plugins, and it can work on multiple devices, including desktops and mobile phones and tablets.

An example may bring this more to light. When Pahl, for instance, needs to reach the head surgeon at St. Rita's, she may never have the option of just calling him or her from down the hall. This only leaves the intercom, but it is possible that the surgeon may be currently within a surgery. Using WebRTC software, Pahl can simply look at the surgeon's presence status. If he has noted it correctly, the surgeon's online profile will show that he is currently engaged and cannot respond to a call.

In that case, Pahl would not need to worry about whether or not the surgeon heard a page. In a multiple-campus facility, an executive reaching out to a surgeon would not need to guess what building he was in. When the time comes to actually communicate—so when presence shows that the surgeon is free to talk—Pahl or another executive could reach a head surgeon with ease through the choice of voice, video, or text.

WebRTC can make communication instant, informative, and simple. It is definitely a step up from yelling down a hallway. Its ability to take advantage of the universality of Web browsers gives it a spot on any type of device, and its multiple avenues of communication support a number of use cases that, previously, only large enterprise systems could match.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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