In the world of healthcare, patient safety and well-being are primary concerns. And while hospitals and healthcare facilities have hundreds of resources available at their disposal, video has quickly become one of the most effective and trusted tools.

The Power, Appeal, and Utility of Video

All five of our human senses are valuable and useful. As anyone who’s struggled with hearing or speaking knows, it’s challenging to go through life when you don’t have all of the same sensory strengths as your peers. Even having a bad sense of taste/smell or isolated numbness that makes it difficult to feel things is a big challenge. But there’s arguably nothing more limiting and challenging than a lack of vision.

Eyes have been called the windows to the soul. They have the ability to both communicate information and relay information to the brain. Whereas most mammals have a strong sense of smell that allows them to collect information about their environment, humans are fairly limited in this capacity. It comes down to our ability to see.

It’s been said that the human brain processes visual content 60,000-times faster than text, and that visual content makes up 93 percent of all human communication. In other words, it’s a big deal.

As powerful as video is, it’s also highly appealing. There’s something satisfying about watching video. Most people would much prefer to be entertained with video than they would by reading or listening to another form of content. There’s something magnetic about it that continually draws us in.

Then there’s the utility of video. It can be utilized in so many different ways. Video can be used to monitor, educate, entertain, and communicate. And as the healthcare industry evolves, it’s this aspect of video that’s proving to be most useful for doctors, healthcare educators, hospital administrators, and other professionals in the field.

3 Specific Ways Video is Improving Patient Safety

Doctors, nurses, and healthcare administrators have dozens of responsibilities. However, it could be argued that no single responsibility holds more weight than that of patient safety. Without the proper safety systems and processes in place, nothing else matters. And the healthcare industry’s growing commitment to video reveals this to be true.

There are numerous examples of ways in which video is improving patient safety, but let’s zoom in and look at three specific areas of application that are most intriguing.

1. Preventing Patient Falls

It’s estimated that between 700,000 and 1 million Americans fall in a hospital setting each year. More than 30 percent of these falls result in an injury that requires further treatment and/or prolonged hospital stays. The average cost associated with these injuries is $14,000. Beyond the patients themselves, these falls result in an increased risk of litigation for healthcare facilities. They also reduce patient satisfaction and create unnecessary friction for all parties involved.

Traditionally, the only way to reduce the number of patient falls has been to increase caregiver involvement. But as you can guess, this is an expensive investment that requires hospitals to increase staffing and payroll.  And while physical caregiver involvement will always be necessary, many hospitals are discovering that remote monitoring of patients via video surveillance technology is much more practical for patients and cost-effective for the organization.

The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) has been the leader in this charge. They’ve implemented a system by which observation technicians located in a building near the hospital watch large, split-screen monitors with up to 10 video feeds showing at once. The patients are spread across six different hospitals in the area. In addition to those who are considered risks for falling, the video feeds also follow those who are being watched for suicide behavior or risk of seizure.

When the observer notices something abnormal, she engages the patient via a two-way communication device, while simultaneously speed dialing a nurse to show up at the scene. If the patient doesn’t respond right away, an alarm is sounded.

Marc T. Zubrow, M.D., the system vice president for telemedicine at UMMS, reports video monitoring has saved the system more than $1 million in the first year of operation alone. But even more than saving money, it’s saved lives. Not only does the video surveillance prevent falls, but it allows doctors to respond much faster after falls occur. And in a business where minutes can mean the difference between life and death, this is a significant development.

2. Training Healthcare Professionals

There are few industries where training is more important to the integrity of the job than in healthcare. If doctors, nurses, and other staff members aren’t properly equipped to do their jobs, the consequences can be severe. In some cases, patients’ lives are on the line.

Traditionally, medical student training has been hands-on. However, over the past few years, medical professionals have become increasingly concerned about the safety of patients during these trainings. (Morally, we have to ask the question: Should patient safety be compromised at the expense of teaching students how to perform certain tasks?) As a result of these concerns, we’ve seen an increase in the role of simulation learning.

With technology like VALT by Intelligent Video Solutions – which uses a video recording system to train and analyze medical students in simulated settings – learning doesn’t have to come at the expense of an actual patient’s health and well-being. Mistakes can be made, lessons learned, and experience acquired.

Then there are the ways in which augmented reality (AR) is being used to help doctors and surgeons practice complicated procedures in real-time. Virtual simulations, which were once rudimentary and ineffective, now have an added layer of realism. Doctors have the chance to actually physically feel what it’s like to perform a procedure. The hope is that these technologies will continue to improve, which will lead to doctors and surgeons who are better prepared to deal with a variety of situations.

3. Improving Telemedicine

Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, has taken a long path toward maturation. A decade ago, most people would have suggested that the industry would be further along than it is right now. But due to a combination of patient resistance and technological inefficiencies, telemedicine has lagged behind. Evolving video technology is hoping to change this.

To date, the biggest problem with telehealth is that patients don’t feel like they’re getting as much value as they receive when they attend an in-person visit. Part of this has to do with the fact that they aren’t always able to interact with doctors and nurses in a face-to-face manner. (Many telehealth services are administered via phone, email, or online chat.) But as video technology improves and the ability to stream content in real-time becomes more cost-effective and seamless, this is no longer the case.

Virtual visits are more popular than ever in situations where patients simply need to describe symptoms and get a prescription or professional medical opinion. Cases of the common colds, viruses, and the flu are perfectly suited for video. By staying home, patients lower the risk of spreading their germs and doctors are able to see more patients.

As video makes telehealth more practical, we’ll see fewer instances of patients not seeking care in situations where they truly need a medical opinion. By removing the inconvenience of getting in the car, driving to the doctor, sitting in the waiting room, being seen, and driving back home, patients are more likely to seek out medical care and get the diagnosis or treatment they need to live happy and healthy lives.

Lights, Camera, Action

The utility of video is perfectly exemplified in the healthcare industry. From surveillance and monitoring to education and engagement, video is completely transforming patient safety for the better. But this is just the start. When we look back on the evolution of video in 25 or 30 years, we’ll call 2019 the “early days.”

Over the next three to five years, some pretty exciting things will happen in regards to video in the healthcare industry. Some of the biggest trends will be the ways in which video production is used to educate patients and give them better opportunities to thrive (both inside and outside of formal healthcare settings).

Healthcare organizations – including insurance companies, physical therapists, and general practitioners – will add video production to their list of responsibilities and value-adding services. They’ll begin to produce their own content that can be shared to their patients and customers in an effort to improve their ability to care for themselves at home.

Take physical therapy as an example. We’ll see an increasing number of physical therapists produce their own video content to help patients perform exercises the correct way. Think of it like instructional yoga videos that you can find on YouTube today. Yet instead of being mass-produced video with general content, the video will be personalized to the individual patient. This will lead to better results and a more positive patient experience.

Inevitably, the future will also hold some surprises. Video will take on forms and roles that we never thought possible – significantly improving patient safety and engagement along the way. So grab some popcorn, prop your feet up, and enjoy the show!

Frank Landman

Frank Landman

Frank is a freelance journalist who has worked in various editorial capacities for over 10 years. He covers trends in technology as they relate to business.