Telemedicine, now common in the healthcare community, helps serve patients, staff members and administrators to make both the medical practice and business sides of their operations run more efficiently. Video conferencing has taken telemedicine to a more comprehensive level of communications.

According to Patricia Dixon, public relations manager for Nefsis.com, “With the current adoption rates of telemedicine as part of an overall medical system, patients are receiving more efficient care. For doctors, time constraints are less of a challenge, and access to care in certain medical situations can be greatly improved.”

Because of the expanded use of video conferencing, from patient care to physician education, now most jacks within a facility need to be enabled for communications support.

Joe D’Iorio, manager of Telehealth Services, Tandberg, N.Y., explained that, because of the immediate element associated with video conferencing and its uses, one needs to be prepared to connect from just about any place.

According to Tom Toperczer, vice president of marketing at Nefsis Corp., San Diego, telemedicine is only growing stronger, and it is destined to remain an integral part of healthcare.

“We see the benefits of telemedicine—extending reach, eliminating delays and lowering costs—driving widespread adoption in the years to come. In particular, we see more interdisciplinary teams, remote consults and complex training programs throughout the medical field driving more telemedicine applications. For Nefsis, that means more room-to-desktop and more central facility to remote clinic installations,” he said.

From the contractor’s point of view, it ultimately means more cabling and projects that focus on telemedicine; these projects could be in new construction or overhauls of and upgrades to cabling.

Where contractors come in to play

Video conferencing relies on both data and electrical cabling for its operation. From an infrastructure standpoint, it is important to plan for video conferencing.

“For a telepresence studio or a more traditional video conference room build-out, there are established practices for the A/V-related cabling and network infrastructure. The same apply here [telemedicine]. For those lucky few to be building new medical facilities, it’s far more cost-effective to get the conference build-out done at the same time, or left unfinished for an A/V contractor—anything but a redo immediately following new construction,” Toperczer said.

There are additional design implications to keep in mind when developing or assisting with a video conferencing solution for use in telemedicine.

“Large, open conference rooms with glass panels are very popular right now. But in telemedicine there are patient privacy issues, and the large glass panels can be an acoustic challenge. For multi-purpose rooms, be sure to figure in window coverings,” Toperczer said.

Explaining why contractors are relevant in telemedicine, he said, “I would also be very cautious anywhere telemedicine applications are anticipated, but intend to use cabling or wireless plant installed in previous years. Live sharing and video conferencing require continuous up and downlinks, unlike terminal services and Web browsing that perform data requests from time to time. Telemedicine applications require stable, full-duplex connections.”

The impact on contractors is a positive one, as video conferencing is an embedded technology in healthcare these days.

“In the early days [of video conferencing], it was one system in one room, and contractors would have to drag wire and pipe to each room. Now, that video is being used for the business side of healthcare,” D’Iorio said.

Telemedicine was initially an important medium for bringing medical care to rural areas. It has become a way to provide healthcare more efficiently and adds a personal experience to basic communication through today’s video conferencing solutions.

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at jennifer.stong@comcast.net.