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Remote health-care options prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic were limited due to a lack of identifiable need for an alternative to in-person consultations. Thus, remote health-care services were not widely utilized.
When Covid-19 struck, health-care providers faced a number of challenges. While reducing the disease’s transmission was a priority, the individuals most likely to require regular interaction with health-care professionals were also those most at risk. As such, health-care professionals were left with the difficult task of balancing the risk of Covid-19 transmission against the risk of not meeting the health-care needs of vulnerable people, with both options having the potential for negative patient outcomes.
While educational institutions were able to adapt relatively well by using commercial video-conferencing services, such programs were unsuitable for providing health-care services. The main issue was that commercial video-conferencing services, while pragmatic, operate outside of a hospital information system (HIS) and therefore increased the risk of administrative errors that could lead to negative patient outcomes. On top of this, there are stringent regulations in place regarding the handling of sensitive data, and using commercial software intended for video conferencing added concerns over data security.
Most importantly, the quality of care that could be provided through simple video conferencing was insufficient. While capable of handling routine consultations, there are nuances to doctor-patient interactions when it comes to more complex conditions. As such, relying solely on verbal communication can make it difficult to fully inform patients of all relevant information, particularly when it comes to patients with complex needs.
The ideal solution had to be integrated with an HIS and also have additional tools to aid doctor-patient communication. The most effective way to achieve these objectives was through IoT gateway technology.
AAEON, alongside AV-over-IP solutions provider AREC Inc., created a comprehensive remote health-care application for the Hsin-Chu Branch of the National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH). Using AAEON’s SRG-APL IoT gateway system with AREC’s Industry Vertical Video Conferencing (IVVC) platform, health-care professionals were able to provide remote consultations using a multi-screen, annotatable video display system integrated with their existing HIS.
Trilateral connectivity important
The functionality of the application relied on trilateral connectivity, with the SRG-APL operating as an IoT gateway between clinician-side devices, a patient-side app and the health-care provider’s data center.
Peripheral cameras were connected to the SRG-APL via USB 3.0 ports for video-conferencing purposes, while dual Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports facilitated data exchange between the facility’s data center and the SRG-APL. Crucially, this data transmission was bilateral, allowing the SRG-APL to retrieve patient data from the hospital’s HIS. The same connection would then transmit the data from the virtual consultation back to the data center, ensuring synchronicity between both in-person and virtual outpatient consultation data. This also allowed the patient-side app to be configured with the clinic’s appointment-scheduling system, enabling the patient to “check in” as they would for an in-person consultation.
In terms of functionality, diagnostic imaging from a clinician-side panel PC was sent to the SRG-APL via HDMI, which AREC’s multiscreen synchronized video software displayed within the patient-side app screen via a one-click switch. The panel PC’s touch interface gave the clinician the option of annotating the diagnostic image, making detailed explanations of the issue easier.
The importance of having real-world examples of successful remote health-care applications being implemented cannot be understated. While improvements in pandemic management are being made, the experience as a whole has acted as a stimulant for remote health-care provision as an industry, which is now better equipped to provide the most vulnerable patients with a safe method of accessing high-quality treatment.
Wider implementation of IoT gateway technology as a conduit to remote health-care provision has the potential to further revolutionize the way patients interact with medical professionals. As a risk-free, efficient, and effective way to engage the needs of vulnerable patients, the use of IoT gateway applications like those demonstrated at NTUH’s Hsin-Chu Branch can make health care more agile, inclusive and safe.