What is an online video conference


Nothing quite takes the place of a doctor's reassuring bedside manner. There was a time when doctors actually went from house to house treating patients in the comfort of their own homes. Unfortunately, house calls are all but almost extinct, especially by specialists like cardiologists.

Online video conference

Although technology cannot take the place of a visit to the family doctor, web and video conferencing are emerging as powerful components in telemedicine and telehealth initiatives worldwide. The integration of video conferencing into these programs has been able to help many patients, and has enabled doctors to communicate with specialists in order to make critical diagnoses faster.

Telemedicine is the use of medical information that is exchanged from one treatment site to another via electronic communications. The term telehealth is closely related to telemedicine. It describes remote healthcare that may or may not include clinical services. Both telemedicine and telehealth may comprise videoconferencing, transmission of still images, document sharing, e-health (patient portals for example), remote monitoring of vital signs, and some of the application areas noted below. Many medical specialty areas have taken advantage of telemedicine including: dermatology, ophthalmology, mental health, cardiology and pathology to name a few. According to some reports and studies, almost 50 different medical subspecialties have successfully used telemedicine.

The advancement of IP-based videoconferencing has helped to empower the growth and evolution of telemedicine and telehealth. According to The Association of Telehealth Service Providers (ATSP), in the next 10 years virtually all telehealth transmissions will occur using Internet Protocol, whether or not the transmissions happen over the Public Internet. As Internet capacity continues to grow, the ATSP expects that nearly all telehealth transactions will be accomplished via the Internet. It is especially important to both fields because it provides the real-time communication and interaction required in a doctor, or health provider and patient relationship. Some of the services that telemedicine enable or facilitate are:

  • Continuing medical education for health professionals and special medication education seminars for individuals and groups in remote locations.
  • Nursing call centers for referrals and patient services.
  • Patient consultations: Audio, video, and data are shared between a patient and physician for the purpose of rendering a diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan.
  • Remote patient monitoring uses special devices to remotely collect and send data to a monitoring station for interpretation. This could include checking vital signs, such as blood glucose or heart ECG. This is usually accomplished with specialty hardware devices and with integrated/fixed communications capabilities.
  • Specialist referral services usually involve a specialist assisting a general practitioner in rendering a diagnosis. Videoconferencing enables the patient to see a specialist during a remote consultation accomplished in real-time, or the transmission of images, such as x-rays, along with patient data for later viewing. This is especially important for patients living in rural areas, or who are too ill to travel great distances to visit a specialist or clinic.
  • Disease management is a relatively new telemedicine application. It refers to the on-going consultations between a patient and two or more multi-disciplinary practitioners whose intent is the treatment and management of long-term disease. This often involves interaction between medical, pharmaceutical and behavioral professionals on a single case. With the increasing aged population and subsequent increase in certain diseases such as type II diabetes, HIV, etc,, the disease management umbrella is expanding.
  • Support services in campus facilities and remote offices. Healthcare is often rendered in a distributed office environment, and almost every process falls under privacy and other regulatory requirements. As such, nursing and support services are often the first to adopt secure telemedicine and communications-related technologies in order to reduce inter-office delays, improve the patient experience, and to reduce operational costs.

It should be noted here that telesurgery is an entirely separate subject that will not be addressed in this article. Telesurgery allows surgical procedures to be carried out without geographic constraints, and is reliant on specially-designed robotics and other computer hardware technology.