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Video conferencing shows growth in the medical field

January 10, 2011

As technology advances in the healthcare industry, telemedicine is becoming an increasingly important piece of medical software, a new report has found.

Frost & Sullivan, a business research and consulting firm, recently announced that the healthcare sector is finding video conferencing and visual collaboration services to be an asset for physicians, staff and patients.

Reduced prices and improved quality are boosting the adoption of video conferencing systems in the medical field and other industries, according to the study. The technology had previously been an extremely expensive application, but in the last two years, there has been a substantial reduction in price and a major improvement in functionality.

According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine services can be used for many medical applications, including specialist referral services, patient consultations, remote patient monitoring, medical education and consumer medical and health information. Additionally, the information can be transmitted through networked programs, point-to-point connections, care provider-to-home connections, home-to-monitoring center links and web-based e-health patient service sites.

Video conferencing offers many benefits to the medical industry, but one of the most significant contributions is that the technology can extend the geographic reach of medical care and provide rural and remote areas with access to medical specialists.

A patient in a lesser-populated state needing care from a specialist can often drive hundreds of miles before finding one, according to Dermatology Times.

“That’s been one impetus for the growth of telemedine operations around the country,” the publication writes.

Practices can also save on travel and education costs, as video conferencing may allow staff to participate in conferences and trainings remotely.

Some fears still remain in the telemedicine market, such as medical staff being replaced by new and more efficient practices, electronic medical records and accreditation and licensing issues. Legal liability under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act are also at the forefront of healthcare providers’ minds.

But analysts with Frost & Sullivan say that once those obstacles are overcome, sizeable growth potential will remain in the field of telemedicine.

The growth of telemedicine is accompanied by the availability of U.S. government funding, which is composed of three segments. The ATA estimates that in 2003, $270 million in federal grants and contracts were given out in support of telehealth. Direct services funding from federal agencies is not tracked, but according to the ATA, the Veterans Health Administration, the largest provider of remote medical services, is estimated to have delivered approximately 350,000 patient services remotely in 2003. Medicare spending for telemedicine is only partially tracked, but while approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population is covered under Medicare, the program accounts for more than one-quarter of all medical expenditures, according to the ATA.

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