Nov 21 2011

Virtual Doctor: How Video Conferencing Is Changing Medicine

With video conferencing, medicine goes global.

Content, collaboration and connectivity are at the core of the Seattle Science Foundation’s mission. So it’s no wonder that the organization uses high-definition video conferencing to enable medical professionals from around the world to work together.

Doctors, scientists and educators use the foundation to collaborate on live surgery, diagnostic imaging and training, so image quality is critical. But as a nonprofit organization with 11 full-time staffers, SSF needed a system that was both robust and affordable. The foundation chose the LifeSize Room 220 system, which features a 1080p HD display.

“When you’re dealing with heart catheterization or brain surgery, seeing small details are imminently critical,” CEO Curt Miner says. "Without that, it just becomes tissue on the screen.”

SSF features an eight-station bio skills lab that lets doctors practice new surgical techniques in a realistic operating room environment. Video conferencing in the lab helps the doctors interact with their peers as if they were in the same room, fostering new skills while eliminating travel expenses.

“We have live surgery here in our video conferencing room and also broadcast out to places like Duke University, where we have a doctor on the other end,” says Gary Merritt, SSF’s director of technology. “The quality of the video conferencing equipment lets him talk to the doctor in the operating room. They can talk back and forth while doing the surgery, and he never has to fly here and book a hotel.”

SSF also has a LifeSize Room 220 in its teleconference center. The gear lets 60 attendees watch a video conference session on eight large HD displays — everything from live surgery to medical device proof-of-concept demonstrations.

“Our Room 220 system is integrated into our AV infrastructure, so it’s fixed and also has bridging capability,” Merritt says. “We can use all of our cameras and feed into the system. Is that a requirement for someone to get started? No, but it certainly helps to get to broadcast level.”

SSF also uses a LifeSize Express 220 system for less-intensive conferencing sessions. “We have it on a cart, so we can just roll it into our smaller conference rooms to do remote calls and share a PowerPoint presentation,” Merritt says.

By The Numbers

33% Enterprises that have a formal ROI measurement for video conferencing

40% Percentage of U.S. companies that will deploy a video communication solution within the next six months to two years
SOURCE: Canalys

31% Employees who say their organizations require security software on smartphones
SOURCE: Global IP Solutions

73% Percentage of frequent users of video conferencing who believe it helped keep their business competitive in the market, as opposed to 42% of nonusers
SOURCE: Cisco Systems

30% The amount saved, on average, in travel costs by SMBs that use video conferencing
SOURCES: Polycom

Flickr/ <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/armymedicine/6300225700/sizes/l/in/photostream/">Army Medicine</a>