Real Time Communications Featured Article

Will Real Time Communications Improve Healthcare?

February 04, 2015

The introduction of HIPAA in the healthcare world brought some assurances that our private information would be protected. At the same time, it created an environment where we are more of a number than a name. While that may not have been the original intention behind the privacy initiative, it does point to the importance of real-time communications between the doctor and the patient so as to preserve the concept that we are not just numbers.

This importance carries over into the latest innovations in this space that allow for remote and/or virtual healthcare. Even when the care is delivered in person, communication is still lacking. According to reports conducted by the Joint Commission, more than 70 percent of serious adverse health outcomes in hospitals are a result of breakdowns in healthcare communication. Doctors must be able to effectively listen and communicate and patients need to demonstrate that they understand what they are being told.

As a way to combat such staggering statistics and ensure better care for patients, a number of providers are making investments in home care reporting. When icons are used on platforms for real-time communications, such as text messaging, language barriers are removed, key metric data is captured quickly and information sharing improved.  

Such communication is really just the beginning of the potential in virtual care, a segment of the industry that is set to explode in 2015 and beyond, according to a Computer World post. Patients want the opportunity to leverage real-time communications with their physicians without needing to set foot in the medical office or hospital. Billable service revenues from virtual care services in 2014 nearly doubled revenue from 2013, which growth projected for 2015 at 73 percent.

For patients, virtual or remote care offers them the opportunity to stay connected with their medical care providers on a level that was once unattainable. They can also receive an improved level of care, more focused attention and clarification on issues or procedures that aren’t as easy to understand or implement. The real challenge, however, is whether or not current IT infrastructures can handle the influx of traffic and new applications put in place support provider and patient initiatives.

This is critical in the real-time communication space where interactive applications demand considerable bandwidth. Any latency or software glitches can render the interaction ineffective for both the provider and the patient, while wasting considerable time. If access to health data is limited or presents problems during the call, providers aren’t likely to be able to deliver any value. At the same time, doctors are sure to resist the use of a system that is plagued with problems as it keeps them away from patients who are in the office.

The use of a real-time location system (RTLS) can help as it allows providers to make connections regardless of their location and objective and passive data collection is automated. Proven systems will capture raw data and turn it into useful information so the healthcare provider can improve processes. The helps improve staff productivity and make the use of real-time communications a better return on investment.

While this segment of the market is expected to grow in 2015, the true opportunity is in internal processes for healthcare providers as they aim to improve their systems, streamline communications and deliver better care whether virtually or in person. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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