When you’re faced with a number of telemedicine products, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
You could try consulting the government; according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the defining feature of telemedicine is real-time video communication. This means that a doctor talking on any video conferencing software can be considered “telemedicine.” Unfortunately, this standard is too vague to offer useful guidance in choosing the best telemedicine solution for your healthcare organization.
Instead, start by making a list of features that you want or need in a telemedicine package. Next, decide which elements are “must-haves;” any product that is missing a “must-have” feature doesn’t make the cut.
In a comparison of telemedicine software, certain critical features should remain a priority to ensure that the application is easy to use, works reliably, and gets the job done. And a more intuitive interface will lead to a higher and faster adoption rate among staff and clinicians. After all, a tool only works when it’s being used.
Without further ado, here are seven key features that any excellent telemedicine solution should have, in no particular order:
1. Customizable screen layouts
This feature addresses my personal pet peeve: Why do so many video solutions force their chosen layout on my screen? No one likes having choices taken away—whether it’s the amount of space used up, the size of video pictures, or inflexible boxes. You should be able to keep your desktop visible if you like, make all the videos the same size if you like, or arrange picture-in-picture if you like. Really, is this too much to ask? Many vendors seem to think so.
2. Borderless video pictures
Speaking of those on-screen boxes, one of the most important elements of any conversation is trust—a connection between the involved individuals. This connection is formed through tone, eye contact, body language, and other factors, many of which are lost if the video call is framed by an impersonal box. A framed video image almost looks like a window, and it’s awkward to yell and gesture at someone through a closed window. Who wouldn’t prefer chatting comfortably across a coffee table?
If you can eliminate that unnatural frame around the video image, you can simulate a closer, more personal interaction. This, in turn, builds trust. This is more important than most medical providers realize! Trust between the patient and provider is a major influence in clinical outcomes. When it comes to telemedicine, any delays in building trust can postpone treatment in a potentially life-and-death situation. So, anything we can do to strengthen that trust quickly can only be a good thing.
3. Compatibility with other systems
In the healthcare industry, many organizations are stuck with H323 equipment that was funded by grants years ago—think of traditional videoconferencing systems like Polycom®. These days, much of this equipment is gathering dust because it’s too expensive and complicated to use. However, many telemedicine solution vendors want you to buy only their systems and to tell your partner clinics to use only their product. This is great for the vendors from a sales perspective, but for healthcare providers, it’s inefficient, expensive, and counterproductive.
Why not use an application that can interface with just about any software and hardware on the market? You’ll need the ability to make outbound calls and receive inbound calls from legacy devices. With such a program in your arsenal, you can make those initial investments productive and profitable again.
4. Selective multi-monitor sharing
In a world that’s increasingly relying on multi-monitor setups, it’s becoming harder to keep information private. An ideal desktop sharing scenario would allow you to include or exclude particular monitors from the video conference. This feature is particularly useful when one monitor is dedicated to a specific system that must remain confidential, such as patients’ health records or images. With selective sharing, you can view information securely on one monitor while conducting a telemedicine call on another screen.
5. “Reachable” status
Most video conferencing solutions include the basic status settings: Away, Online/Available, Invisible, and Busy. They may offer variations of these modes, but none of them adequately address a situation where someone is not immediately available but can accept an incoming call, such as stepping out of the office temporarily or driving between destinations. The “Reachable” status fills this gap.
6. QuickPick™ technology
Juggling multiple feeds from various video cameras and devices can be confusing and time-consuming. QuickPick allows you to easily switch between feeds, create a collage from selected feeds, or scroll through the available feeds.
7. Customizable contact lists
Having a large list of names can be cumbersome. What if you could sort your contacts list the way you want them to appear? Or group contacts the way you want? For example, a group could consist of your team members; to send a message or initiate a video conference with them, all it takes is just one click—not one click per person, but one click, period. The ability to sort and group your contacts list offers convenience and huge time savings.
Taken individually, these seven features are not necessarily unique; other companies may include one or two of these in their products. However, to the best of our knowledge, swyMed is the only video communications solution that offers the entire package—all seven features—in one all-encompassing application. And that’s in addition to our top-notch security, mobility, and performance. What’s not to like?
To learn more about what makes swyMed different, request a demo at swyMed.com.
Polycom is a registered trademark and the property of Polycom, Inc.
Quick Pick is a trademark and property of swyMe, Inc.