How did you choose your doctor? Unless you were referred by a friend or family member, it’s likely you made your decision in real estate terms: location, location, location. Around 60% of Americans attend their closest primary care provider, ranking convenience much higher than they do the performance or success rate of their doctor.
The rise of telemedicine, however, could change that process. Built around video conferencing, telemedicine lets you meet your physician face-to-face online and in real-time no matter where you’re located. If all physicians are available from the smartphone in your pocket, almost two-thirds of Americans will have to find a new reason to choose a doctor.
The quality of the telemedicine conversation could affect that decision. Affordable webcams like the Logitech Brio and the Intel RealSense 3D webcam now include 4K visuals, 3D presentation, and smoother frame rates than ever before. If you’re a doctor needing to fill out your patient roster, having a high-quality webcam to place you in your best possible light could become critical.
Trusted Doctors Use Trusted Video Conferencing
Telemedicine is more widely used today in the US than you probably realize. Consider these facts, recently compiled by the Wall Street Journal:
- 15 million Americans received some kind of remote care in 2015
- 1.2 million medical consultations were made via telemedicine the same year
- 72% of hospitals have telemedicine programs
- 74% of large employers currently provide telemedicine benefits
- 90% of surveyed family doctors said they’d use telemedicine if properly reimbursed
Add to that list the dozens of smartphone apps that provide medical care and advice like virtual doctor apps, and the state-sponsored programs that link central expert healthcare providers with remote general practices (see our post on telemedicine in Texas), and there’s a clear trend toward telemedicine.
If all that momentum leads to the general public accepting telemedicine as a credible alternative to visiting a doctor in person, then the way physicians and patients first meet is going to change as well.
It’s not hard to imagine local doctors creating their own video-calling websites to create a direct link to the public. Nor is it hard to take that scenario a step further and see these sites collated, rated, and reviewed the same way airline flights and hotels are currently scrutinized online on sites like Expedia, Yelp!, and StubHub. Some crowd-sourced sites that review medical professionals are currently available, but as most medical care still ultimately requires in-person visits, such sites are handicapped by the location of the services.
The obvious first impression doctors will make with potential patients trawling through these future search engines will be the quality of the visuals they project. That’s why it’s going to be crucial to find an edge by embracing the latest in webcam technologies.
Intel RealSense and Logitech Brio Webcams
A quick scroll through Amazon.com will tell you there are dozens and dozens of webcams currently vying to project you into the video-conferencing world. While your laptop and smartphone come with adequate cameras already built in, standalone webcams offer more powerful lenses, dedicated processors, and high-tech extras that make a big difference.
Each webcam offers its own combination of convenience and power, but we’re going to limit ourselves to two pioneering devices that could really help an online doctor make a good impression.
Intel RealSense 3D Webcam
Intel was the first commercially-priced webcam to get 3D right. With a variety of cameras and projectors, it uses light to determine the distance of objects, then combines that information to create an image with a foreground and background. As a result, the image projected by a video caller stands out dramatically from their surroundings, giving the body a depth and clarity rarely seen elsewhere. While it’s not technically 3D at all, it’s the closest you can get without paying thousands of dollars for a room-sized hologram projector.
Logitech packed so many features into its 2017 offering, it’s almost too much webcam, as we talked about in our Logitech Brio review. Chief among these features for our purposes are the high dynamic range technology and the 4K visuals. There are limits as to where 4K-quality streaming can be deployed due to bandwidth restrictions, but combined with the multilayered imagery of HDR, it provides crisp and clear images approaching that of the human eye. If you’re a futuristic doctor trying to win the attention and confidence of an online patient, offering them a face-to-face encounter so clear they can tell if you’ve shaved that morning could make a big difference.
Standing Out in a Telemedicine Crowd
When talking telemedicine, the webcam is obviously more than a pretty face. The greater clarity available to a doctor, the more accurately they can understand and diagnose a presenting condition. However, the image coming from the patient is out of the physician’s control. Unless each new patent is sent an HD webcam upon signing up—which is perhaps possible, given that they retail for less than $100—the doctor will have to make do with whatever the patient has at their disposal.
What the virtual physician can control is their own likeness. As the web shrinks the world to the size of a mobile phone and patients get the opportunity to take their aches and pains to whichever GP is most appealing, that likeness is going to become a key selling point.
After all, who looks more professional: the doctor on the crackly Skype transmission, or the one with cinematic visuals whose face leaps out of the screen and resonates with in-room intimacy? It may sound like medicine is in danger of turning into a beauty contest, but mass commercial telemedicine may result in the survival of the most high-tech.