Unified Communications is transforming many industries; manufacturing, banking, retail, healthcare and more. It could be argued, connected data is having the biggest changing impact on healthcare allowing remote consultations, guided operations and access to medical records anywhere, on any device.
Limited Access to Medical Records under Scrutiny
Unfortunately, the U.S. is still very behind in this area. While I can go to any gas station in the country and use my credit card to make a purchase on my account, my medical history is an entirely different story. If I'm on vacation abroad and I seek medical care, the only medical records available are what I can communicate directly (if I'm even able to speak at all). The medical care professional might not be aware that I take certain medications or have certain allergic reactions.
For these reasons digital medical records are coming more in demand. The key is building an environment where doctors and specialists can get access to your entire history in real-time. As a result, patients can receive care immediately.
Healthcare Applications Leverage Expertise
From an application standpoint within healthcare, we're seeing the growth of connected hospitals. People can page nurses and connect between hospitals, which is becoming another big trend in this industry. Similar to what I talked about in an earlier blog post about UC trends in the banking industry, we're also seeing the emergence of health consortiums. What used to be five separate hospitals are now one regional medical center. Leveraging the expertise between each location is extremely important.
Remote Training and Diagnosis a Reality
When hospitals conduct regular training, it no longer requires driving to another location. Instead, people can just sit down and watch a video, perform remote diagnosis, and obtain educational credit.
Video-Enabled Medical Carts dispense Prescriptions
In New York State, if a student walks into a nurse's office in their school, they're actually walking into a healthcare provider. Some of these companies have hundreds or even thousands of clinics deployed throughout the schools across the state. When a student with a rash would go in for care, the nurse used to send them home for a couple of days and refer them for a doctor's visit.
The trend we're seeing now is video-enabled medical carts. If a healthcare provider is associated with a dermatologist, they can simply use a high definition camera for the dermatologist to view remotely. They can make a diagnosis of eczema, for example, print out a prescription, and send the student on their way with some calamine lotion. Once the student goes home, their parents can fill the prescription.
Unified Communications assist Faster Access to Care
The student gets a higher level of care while staying within the school site. The clinic can then bill against Medicare or Medicaid. This kind of improvement isn't just beneficial for students—it also helps people in communities who now have faster access to a higher level of expertise. They can receive care or scripts on-site, the number of doctor visits is reduced, and the time is easily billed out.
Video Conferencing cuts months off Pharmaceutical Developments
Pharmaceutical companies can knock months off development time and get their product to market faster. That's potentially three or four months of additional on-patent revenue, which could add up to millions of dollars. The pharmaceutical industry is now heavily leveraging videoconferencing/web conferencing to bring researchers and university labs together with pharmaceutical research. Clinical trials can also be performed with smaller time windows of discovery and development.
Security and Privacy Concerns slows growth of Electronic Medical Records
Similar to the financial industry, security and privacy is an ongoing priority in healthcare (maybe even to a greater extent). On one hand, we want all our medical records to be in one convenient place. That way, physicians and experts have the ability to access them to provide the right level of care and completely understand our current medical situation. On the other hand, we can point to the stories we see in the news about how risky it is to have our information out there.
What if someone has a medical condition they don't want their employer or others in the community to know about? It's a great concern to keep this information private, so organizations providing electronic medical record repositories and applications have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure security. However, security will still be a concern because each additional layer we introduce invites new threats.
Because people have traditionally had concerns about their security, we've seen slow growth of electronic medical records. We're at the point where the US federal government has mandated it because people were traditionally wary about moving in that direction.