VeaMea visited the American Telemedicine Association Annual Conference in Tampa this past week. It was an interesting conference with thousands of participants, and hundreds of vendors.
We had some interesting conversations with people who are, or are going to be, practicing Telemedicine as well as a variety of support organizations.
Here are a few highlights:
- Rural Healthcare Telecom Subsidies -- The Universal Services Fund has $400 million in telecom subsidies to give away each year. They have only been able to give away about 1/3rd of this amount and are eager to meet their goal. Funds are available to rural hospitals who want to purchase telecom infrastructure. The funds equalize the rural cost (higher) with what an urban customer would pay (much lower). All one needs is to qualify and apply. More information is available at the USAC website
- Windows Tablet -- With all the fuss about the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Motorola XOOM, and other Android tablets, I have not heard/seen much about Windows-based tablets. iTablet was showing off a 12" ASUS Tablet running Win 7 with an Intel Core i5 processor, Integrated Camera and 2 USB ports (among other nice features). I could start to imagine it as a new model of roving telemedicine workstation.
- Telehealth market segments -- We say telehealth, but the term is really too broad. There are a wide variety of sub-segments like in-home monitoring, outsourced access to specialists, mobile "doctor's office in a bus," telecom infrastructure, regional information clearinghouses, and point solutions for physician consultations, health records, and more
- Rube Goldberg or Best of Breed ? -- There are a lot of solutions in place, providing care to patients. People have cobbled together solutions from various vendors to make something that works. An example is Medtrix; I shared a table with its President Yves Bitton who took the ooVoo video conferencing engine and wrote his own application and security structure around it so they could provide telehealth services to 4 million subscribers of the largest HMO in Israel. Another example was a US Army application that uses a Citrix server side-by-side with a video conferencing station to create desktop sharing + video conferencing. We talked with a variety of other service provides who wanted a stable, secure, video conferencing and collaboration platform to tie into their applications. They recognize that the AV part is "hard" and look for solutions like VeaMea to take away their pain.
- Uncertainty -- There is still plenty of uncertainty about what is, or will be, compliant with standards and rules developed by Government agencies (HHS, CMS, NIST, DISA, etc.) as they evolve
- The world is watching -- I met several people attending form other countries, looking to the US as the cutting edge of what is possible and trying to see how it could fit into their healthcare delivery models.
A question for other attendees, what did you learn at the conference that you found most interesting?
A lot of people have gotten excited by the release of video conferencing on the iPhone 4 with Facetime and Skype. Having used them, I have to say it is a lot of fun.
The excitement has led a lot of video conferencing professionals and prospective clients to ask if VeaMea or other business-class video conferencing and collaboration software runs on Android, or iOS. The short answer is no, not yet. The longer answer requires thinking about what makes sense given today's technology.
What makes Sense on Smart Phones
A one to one call on a smart phone is no doubt a useful feature, but is a small piece of the value of enterprise video conferencing platforms. Some features transfer easily, for example allowing people to be logged in so their presence/status is viewable by colleagues, and engaging in text chat or voice interaction are an obvious place to start. Smartphones can also be brought into a traditional video conference as audio only participants through a SIP Gateway. But what about true multi-point video conferencing ?
Multi-point video conferencing on Smartphones
Should video conferencing vendors develop one to one, "good enough video" applications for smart phones, or remain true to their high quality video roots and stay off these platforms until the platforms are ready to support this level of interaction?
Imagine the image from an iPhone camera projected onto your 60" Polycom OTX HD display. Not a pretty picture I am willing to bet. Or imagine the background noise from your car, airport, internet cafe, etc. being sent back to your colleagues in the board room at headquarters.
Further, if you have a five person call, do you really want to see 5 x 1/2 inch images of your colleagues on your smartphone? If someone wants to share a presentation, spreadsheet or other content, is a 3.5 inch screen really a useful way to view it ?
Finally, does your smart phone have the bandwidth and processing power to handle a multi-party video conference or collaboration session without being overwhelmed ?
The trends are moving in the right directions: more power and bandwidth are available with each new release. The day will come fairly quickly when the smartphone will be able to be a video conferencing endpoint. The lingering question is: do you want it to be?
Tablet Video Conferencing and Collaboration
Tablets like the iPad, Samsung Galaxy and Motorola XOOM offer most of the same challenges in terms of processing power, but cameras on each side are becoming standard and the screen size is improved relative to what a smartphone provides. We see tablets being a much more likely entrypoint into multi-point video conferencing and collaboration.
What do you think the role of smartphones and tablets should be in enterprise video conferencing and collaboration ? Comments Welcome...