Telemedicine & WebRTC: Enterprise Comms Missing Out?
Only one of a dozen-plus telemedicine solutions providers I recently checked out hails from the traditional communications industry.
In attending the HIMSS Connected Health Conference in Washington, D.C., last November, I was surprised to find 29 telemedicine solutions on the exhibit floor -- 14 of which are using WebRTC and all but one of the others planning to include support for the real-time communications protocol in their next releases. Among them, most readers will likely only find one -- Qualcomm -- a familiar name. Such is the state of the emerging telemedicine solutions market.
Besides Qualcomm, the exhibiting companies offering WebRTC solutions were AMD, BePatient, DaVincian Healthcare, Everbridge, Healthcare Anywhere, Healthchat, HealthGrid (mobile health services and solutions), HealthGrid (healthcare technology solutions provider), Infinite Convergence, Medicast, myEmerg, SnapMD, and iTutela.
Interesting is that none of the traditional enterprise telecommunications manufacturers exhibited at the conference even though each, I believe, offers communications and collaboration products for the healthcare industry. I take their collective absence as a sign that they are stuck with marketing mindsets causing them to ignore healthcare-specific conferences, even the largest. And this, in turn, has allowed the growth of an ecosystem of telemedicine solutions.
Google recently announced that it is tracking more than 800 companies offering WebRTC solutions. Certainly, all of the traditional enterprise telecommunications companies are among these 800. What is different between them and this new breed is that the latter adds communications to context, not the other way around -- and whether traditional enterprise communications players will be able to compete in this developing ecosystem will come down to their agility.
The value of telemedicine products is in how well they integrate with the context that supports daily work and decision processes in healthcare. This includes access to clinical standards, patient health history, claims history, claims documentation, disease specific playbooks, and record keeping. Context, in this industry, goes well beyond text, calendar, file sharing, and e-mail integration.
As I was wandering the Connected Health exhibit hall, I noticed that many telehealth solutions target specific diseases, injuries, or conditions -- a sort of vertical approach within the industry. Diabetes, obesity, and heart conditions were high on the list.
iTutela, for example, has developed a telehealth solution aimed at improving hospital-to-home transitions for the acutely ill. The technology supports video consultation for patients who cannot advocate for themselves; infants as well as pediatric transplant, brain injury, dementia, and Alzheimer's patients fit this profile. The importance of successful hospital-to-home transitions is now vital for providers since Medicare will no longer reimburse for readmissions.
iTutela started with the neonatal environment via NICULink, an interactive patient engagement solution that supports integration with all major clinical information systems in support of health record keeping, claims data collection, and hospital performance metrics. Further, the application compiles directories for hospital employees, non-hospital care providers, and family members. The simplest NICULink use case is in offering family members the ability to consult with medical providers while being able to see the baby and care team. The average connection time for a consultation is 4.2 minutes, which indicates that the quality of communications is at least average.
WebRTC at Enterprise Connect
Enterprise Connect Advance Rate ends Friday, Jan. 8!
Register for an entire event pass or Tuesday through Thursday conference pass to save an additional $200 off the advance rate. This special discount, available using the code NJPOST, represents a total savings of $900 off the onsite price! Plus, register three or more attendees from your company for even bigger savings.
iTutela is just one of the telehealth solution providers poised to carve out a place in the communications industry. It has a startup's cost infrastructure, and was able to make the switch from SIP to WebRTC in a matter of months.
Many industries are information-driven and heavily contextual today. Yet participants only need to engage in communications when they face a mismatch between context and reality. This means that customers rarely communicate with sellers. Healthcare is much different; once engaged, the care process is one of constant collaboration -- sometimes hour by hour, other times year to year. The shorter the cycle time, the greater the need for collaboration technologies.
Insurers and government agencies are imposing the need for virtualization and automation in the healthcare industry. They have traditionally denied telehealth reimbursements, but this is changing rapidly state by state. The question for the traditional enterprise telecom players is whether they will participate in this premium market sector or not.