Previously we looked at the factors driving growth in telemedicine and how it has also impacted communication and collaboration in clinical teams, here we get some advice from integrators who have enjoyed success in the industry.
“We are at the stage of growth where integrators can start to make real differences to the market,” believes Ewan Marshall, co-founder and CEO of SpeakSet. “There are big gains to be made by offering implementation services on both the patient and the clinician side. You could even bring in traditional call centre approaches to delivering care remotely. Creating packages of a few complementary products for a very specific use case can bring real value to the clinician side of the equation. Ultimately, doctors and nurses do not want to spend their time managing a videoconferencing solution, so offering services around them will always be a winner.”
“Integrators should consider how collaborative technology can play a part in the workflow of the healthcare professional,” asserts Andrew Graley, director of healthcare, government and education, EMEA at Polycom. “If teams need to meet together, but are across different hospital campuses, look for room systems that have time-saving and easy-to-use features, such as facial recognition technology and integrated audio to cancel out background noise outside of the meeting area. Touchscreen controls also help the meeting hosts to quickly set up calls, switch modalities and share information.”
For those in the UK, Michael Roach, UK business manager for healthcare at Involve Visual Collaboration – who has amassed several years of experience in healthcare and technology – has some advice.
“Knowledge of the industry is vital,” he says. “You need to understand the NHS, and how it works. Healthcare is a very difficult industry to be in, especially when it comes to technology. You need to understand how specialist devices – medical monitors and so on – interface with the system, even if you don’t plan to do that. You need a solid infrastructure behind you and the support services that are appropriate.
“Yes,” he warns, “you can indeed get away with just selling tin – but the implications for your margin and the value you can provide are significant.”
But while, in the UK, dealing with an organisation of the size and complexity of the NHS may be a deterrent to some, SpeakSet’s Marshall has some words of encouragement.
“Each region does things differently and tries out different things,” he explains. “There is a definite push towards working with smaller companies that can bring better value. The days of the NHS famously buying and wasting £12 billion on connecting for health are hopefully behind us.”
The UK’s Saville Audio Visual is an example of an integrator that has seen success in the market. “We are able to deliver a round the clock solution for face-to-face diagnosis and monitoring of stroke patients,” notes David Willie, the company’s head of communication and collaboration technologies. “Consultants at home can dial in over video and provide a potentially life-saving service. We’ve also built on our almost 20 years of videoconferencing experience and our partnerships with Polycom, Cisco, Avaya and Lifesize to deliver collaboration installations in NHS trusts across the UK.”
“There is,” says Marshall, “a desperation to make healthcare higher quality and more efficient. Health services all over the globe are being stretched due to fast-rising costs and reduced revenue. There is a definite shift towards being more innovative. Even in the last few years, the rise in healthcare embracing new technology has been staggering. Attitudes are shifting and nurses and doctors are being given greater powers to innovate and bring in telemedicine products that they want to use.”
That the telemedicine market represents a substantial – and growing – opportunity in almost every country, given that all are facing similar challenges of improving care while controlling costs, seems unquestionable. Those challenges are increasingly being met by AV technology and infrastructure. The industry is largely agreed that, other than the legislative issues that need to be overcome in the USA, almost nothing can slow its progress. An increasingly elderly population will only fuel its growth.
Diverse and challenging
The big question is: what kind of opportunity? For the outsider, it is a confusingly diverse market – and a challenging one to understand. For those already in the healthcare market, companies like SpeakSet – which is actively looking to expand its third-party network – represent an opportunity for range extension. GlobalMed is looking to broaden its international footprint, and says it is highly receptive to approaches from integrators. The likes of Involve have shown that healthcare organisations will always be receptive to value.
‘Classical’ collaboration companies such as Lifesize, Polycom and Vidyo already have demonstrable success in the healthcare market.
“Polycom has been working with healthcare organisations for over 20 years,” says Graley. “This sector of business has constantly embraced technology to help deliver its objectives – patient care. The use of audiovisual solutions will continue to grow for acute care use in hospitals, as well as for hospital management, administration, medical education and patient services. We will see an even bigger increase in the use of collaborative solutions for providing services in primary and secondary care – those delivered in the community, sometimes directly to the patient’s home.”
For many integrators, providing collaboration systems to hospitals, clinics and care homes will be a relatively straightforward move. More sophisticated systems, however, that map clinical workflows and that perhaps see the integration of specialist equipment, will doubtless be more challenging – but also, potentially, more rewarding.
It is very apparent, though, that what healthcare providers value as much as innovation and RoI – whatever the AV solution – are suppliers who can understand their needs, provide the training and support to ensure straightforward installation, deployment and operation and “make it easy”, and who can be relied upon. From that point of view, at least, telemedicine isn’t so very different after all.