Rethinking Healthcare

Can videoconferencing really save money in medicine?

Posting in Cities

Is Vidyo the final link in the chain, bringing the right amount of quality to every desktop and iPhone?

Videoconferencing remains an industry with vast unrealized potential.

Every decade a new generation of expensive gear comes out, claiming to be the latest and greatest, revolutionary, capable of replacing face-to-face meetings entirely. Over time its price decreases, but the revolution never seems to come.

The latest such technology is Telepresence. You may have seen it on TV. (It was on 24 several times.) Among the companies working to make the technology affordable is Vidyo, which this week launched a division specifically aimed at healthcare.

Vidyo uses a technology called error resiliency to deliver the best quality your gear can handle. It can deliver a 1,080 dot per inch view on the PC and broadband connection you're probably using right now.

Marty Hollander, the company's senior vice president for marketing, envisions doctors doing remote consultations with homebound patients, or having a conference between a hospital and an arriving ambulance. Psychiatrists could see patients in distant cities.

All this is in line with Cisco's own ambitions, which led it to open source its interoperability protocol upon acquiring Tandberg last month. All this means you won't need a special codec to connect to a Telepresence meeting - any ordinary H.263 codec will do.

The question is whether even this will cause the kind of market shift Hollander anticipates. He said the company encrypts its meetings to help comply with HIPAA rules, and will work to make it available on NHIN-Direct as that effort expands.

"The real value in videoconferencing is that you see people face to face," says Hollander. With Vidyo, "You are seeing them in a quality that allows you to see details of their personal reaction. Meeting face to face lets you know how your messaging is received, and all those visual cues aren't available in a traditional videoconference."

So is the videoconferencing revolution finally coming to health care? Is Vidyo the final link in the chain, bringing the right amount of quality to every desktop and iPhone?

As they say in TV land, stay tuned. I hope so.

Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure