Q&A: How A/V Intersects with Health Care

TechDecisions sat down recently with Rich Mullen an expert in healthcare A/V.

What are the biggest mistakes and misconceptions health care facility technical directors make regarding A/V?
Rich Mullen: I’d have to say the biggest one is not understanding or being able to differentiate between consumer products/applications from commercial requirements. But others, in no particular order, include:
• Understanding how well-designed and maintained systems can reduce overall operating costs.
• Realizing the numerous health care applications that can be enhanced by A/V technology, such as grand rounds, enhancing intensive-care monitoring of the ICU and telemedicine.
• Analog versus digital: understanding how to migrate from analog to digital and the requirements for EDID, HDCP and other connectivity formats regarding signal loss and distance issues.
• Failure to leverage the power of the network for teaching, training, streaming applications, and overall monitoring and management of A/V assets.

TD: When it comes to A/V systems, where are health care facility technical directors falling short?
RM: One of the issues I see is that the “higher ups” are very interested in the esthetics of a space but really do not understand the technical requirements for deploying technology into a room. It is the technical director’s job to bring in the resources to explain these requirements. Function follows form. A good example of this is screen size. We constantly fight with the facilities’ non-technical groups to install properly sized screens into a room. It is usually after the “to small for the room” display goes in that the technical director is chastised for the user’s inability to see the information on the screen. If the proper display would have been budgeted for in the first place — or the technical director could have positioned the correct costing for the display — the situation would have been avoided.

TD: The neighborhood health clinic market is rapidly expanding. What are the key types of A/V systems that are being used in them? Is this a potentially big market for digital signage?
RM: Quick access to information, both visual and audio, is a huge requirement here. We are examining many types of streaming delivery systems that utilize wireless delivery to both Android and iOS devices. This capability would allow clinic staff and clients limited access to video and/or audio information on an “as needed” basis. We also have developed several types of WOW’s (workstations on wheels) for the many different specialties within the clinics. For instance, a cart developed specifically for neurology for remote stroke analysis, or a different cart for orthotics, which can allow the physician, look at range of motion remotely.

TD: What should health care facility technical directors be looking for in audio/video systems? How can they make a dental office or local health clinic more user friendly?
RM: As the A/V industry struggles to understand the proliferation of personalized mobile health technologies and how they apply to the industry, forward thinking integrators will be at the forefront of understanding how to integrate a wide range of capabilities, such as streaming information to mobile devices, and understanding how to deploy collaborative technologies like VTC and interactive touch locations for things like wayfinding or digital signage solutions for patients to have greater access to medical information.

TD: The commercial assisted living/independent living facility is another fast-growing market. What do directors of those facilities need to know and understand about A/V systems and how they can be integrated into their facilities?
RM: The people in these facilities often have limited ability to get around, so it is imperative that both entertainment and communication systems provide full service to this group, such as IR hearing-assist devices and larger, brighter screens for theaters. Access to computer technology is also important, as many of these people wish to stay in touch with loved ones or participate in distance-worship services. Broadband connections and two-way videoconferencing are becoming more and more important in assisted-living facilities for that reason.

TD: Are the changes in health care legislation going to create opportunities for A/V to make the operations of health care facilities easier or more productive?
RM: As hospitals feel the tightening of budgets and managed care becomes more pervasive, A/V integrators must find new and different ways to guide the health care professional into technologies that are viable and applicable for their specific need, but which also fit into their budgets. It would be a mistake to assume that health care providers have endless budgets to spend on A/V. The budget is almost always the brick wall. To overcome this, A/V integrators must understand the industry trends and find the pockets of funding that will allow the proper integration of technology to fit the providers’ needs. One of the highest costs of any health care institution is staff, and one of the largest contributors to staff costs are includes inefficient meetings. This includes any or all of these issues: double-booked conference rooms, lost time making the technology work, travel time to attend meetings, and inability to bring people into a meeting on short notice. A better-planned A/V infrastructure that integrates communication and scheduling technologies could address all of the issues listed above.

TD: What A/V technology developments should health care facility technical directors be watching for in the next year or two?
RM: They should watch:
• Utilization of fiber to facilitate distribution of the vast quantities of information required for the healthcare industry.
• Mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, and how they are being mainstreamed by most health care institutions.
• Robotic surgery systems and how to capture video streams for dissemination to those requiring it outside of the surgical theatre.
• Centralized resource and asset management deployments for budgeting and life cycle replacement of technology equipment and systems.
• Finally, humanizing the hospital suite, by utilizing technology like VTC and interactive touch capabilities that will allow access to the bedside for family members not able to physically be there with patients. This has to be handled in a HIPAA-compliant manner, of course. That’s one big thing that health care technology directors will have to be very aware of in the future: the need to make sure that all of the technology the integrate into health care is also compliant with the huge sea of regulations that affect the health care industry.

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