A new WebRTC app that enables doctors and medics to conduct click-through video consultations with patients will ease the burden on the health sector and provide a boon to recipients of health care services, claims the app's creator.
The service, called TeleDOC, was developed by Elland-based Vapour Cloud and builds on the roll out of its automated GP appointment booking service in August. TeleDOC was launched at Vapour's annual Innovation & Disruption event held on 18th October in Leeds after 12 months of development and a three month beta phase.
"TeleDOC will enable GPs and other medical professionals to hold secure, encrypted, recordable, geo-tagged video calls with their patients, wherever they are located, on any device," stated Vapour Cloud CEO Tim Mercer. "With WebRTC technology at the heart of the product the result is the ability to efficiently discuss and diagnose health issues remotely before storing the encrypted video file in a secure vault."
In practice TeleDOC sends the patient a one-time-use SMS or email containing a hyperlink that activates a no-cost video consultation. Just two clicks are required to authorise the camera and enable a 'face-to-face' consultation which removes any difficulties from a patient's conventional visit to a medical practice, such as physical discomfort, transport issues or having contagious symptoms.
Another boon attributed to TeleDOC is that it puts the GP in touch with their own patients, a big improvement on video consultations with non-local and unfamiliar GP surgeries, which Vapour says happens to patients all too often. "Most people want to speak to their own doctor, not a stranger," added Mercer. "TeleDOC allows them to do this. Furthermore, NHS figures published in 2014 indicate that each missed appointment that year cost in excess of £100 per surgery, therefore TeleDOC also delivers cost savings as well as time saving benefits."
Mercer noted that TeleDOC has been developed so that it is easy to use no matter the patient’s technical literacy. "There is also no need to download and pay for an app," he explained. "This is an SMS-powered service delivered by the surgery. Given the strain being placed on the UK’s medical infrastructure it’s about time technology eased some of the pressures.”
Vapour's WebRTC strategy helped to attract £4m investment from Seneca and forms part of Mercer's long-term aim to become a £15-30m recurring revenue based organisation. Vapour, which was established in 2013, is on target for £12m turnover by 2020 and Mercer's growth plan also involves a buy and build campaign alongside the development of further technology innovations and application diversification.
"We have six other applications of video consultation technology in beta testing within different sectors," he added. "Watch this space!”
Video conferencing has been in use within the health sector for many years but Mercer believes conventional systems are costly and not generally available to the majority of patients who would benefit from a video-enabled consultation. With his TeleDOC application Mercer claims to have 'democratised' the video channel as a way for health professionals to efficiently discuss and diagnose health issues remotely, and then store encrypted video files in a secure vault.
"With no username, password or app required the result is maximum ease of use with the appointment carried out in much the same way as a face-to-face scenario," added Mercer. “The video element means doctors have the visual cues that can help to diagnose and advise, and the secure post-appointment storage of the file provides a valuable point of reference further down the line. We have other applications for conferencing. This isn’t like those. It’s more of a personal, one-to-one solution which is accessible by all."
TeleDOC uses the SaaS model for monthly licences and is an addition to Vapour's existing WebRTC voice service provided through the company's Höllr platform. "The ability to deliver through our online portal and to make the journey simple is paramount." added Mercer.
"Our vision is that video will play an integral part of the channel strategy over the coming years. We were an early adopter in cloud voice and WebRTC, therefore have a great opportunity to deliver video in the format that businesses really need, with a number of options to suit the specific requirements of different sectors.
"At this stage, without selling our crown jewels, I can say that we have a group of pharmacies wanting to test the service to discuss repeat prescriptions. We also have a worldwide fitness company that wants to trial the solution for their clients’ personal training plans."
Mercer knows he has to keep Vapour's channel offering innovative and available, and TeleDOC is emblematic of his quest for simplification across the broader portfolio of services, which is appealing to resellers with backgrounds in IT as well as voice. "Our next technology iterations are around our cloud platform and making it simpler to order and upgrade," he stated.
"We believe that those channel partners who don’t touch cloud yet, or are only starting to dip their toe in the water, need a partner that understands the whole network, voice and firewall journey, as well as the cloud service. They all interlink. A number of our new partners are in hardware and IT sales so they don’t have the technical network background, therefore they work with us.
"The market has shifted and clients are seeking cloud-first solutions. They don’t want to work with organisations that just dabble in this complex space. They want to invest in businesses that live and breathe this world, and have done so all along."