Review of ATA2016 Telemedicine Conference

For more information, download our “Agora for Telemedicine” datasheet here and also see our fun Infographic here on the global journey of a video packet that shows how we optimize mobile and global video communications to connect people everywhere.

Agora.io was excited to attend the American Telemedicine Association Annual Conference and Tradeshow in Minneapolis in May 2016 (ATA2016), as an ATA member and exhibitor. The show brought together thousands of participants from telemedicine and traditional medicine, academic medical centers, government and new local and global e-health startups along with many providers of new healthcare technology and telecommunications capabilities (such as Agora.io).

Telemedicine Goes Mobile

The ATA show this year reinforced the tremendous trend in personalized telemedicine technology towards mobile and remote solutions. All kinds of mobile integrated devices, from remote dentistry to wearables, and expanding personal telemedicine use cases, from mental health applications to to disease-specific communities with specialized remote health-care providers, were on display across the show.

According to Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report, there are 3.4 billion smartphones in the world today that will grow to 6.4 billion over the next six years. For a growing majority of global users, especially millennials and post-millennials, their mobile device is their primary screen and “computer”. So it is not surprising that mobiles devices are becoming the communications and application hub for new more-personal telemedicine use cases.

Nicholas Negroponte, famous for founding the MIT Media Lab in 1985 and the One Laptop per Child global education initiative in 2005, challenged the ATA audience saying that Telemedicine must be about “the end of isolation”, ensuring people globally won’t be unhealthy simply because they are geographically isolated. To reach everybody, he also argued strongly that “the Internet should be a human right”! We at Agora.io certainly agree that continuing to make the Internet more effective in connecting all people across around the world through high quality video and voice is a key foundation for global telemedicine.

Fixing the Internet for Telemedicine Video

Today, nearly 3.4 billion people, 46% of the world’s population, are connected to the Internet (InternetStats) and healthcare organizations of all sizes rely increasingly on the public Internet to reach their remote and global patients. In telemedicine, like in other business communication areas, the days of expensive private networks and leased “MPLS” circuits is giving way rapidly to “use the Internet” approaches to most easily reach everyone.

This means that telemedicine solution providers must tackle the quality of experience challenges of the public Internet, which by itself does not manage video and voice quality. This is the value Agora.io brings to telemedicine – we are uniquely focused on providing a simple to integrate communications platform as a service where we take care of Internet backbone bottlenecks, mobile device optimization, and “mobile last mile” connectivity. Our Infographic here is a great overview of all the optimization opportunities we focus on to ensure a high quality end-to-end telemedicine video session. At ATA2016 we also got a lot of interest in our comparison video below, which was running throughout the show, This shows the impact of bad networks on different video stacks from different vendors and how Agora.io survives up to 50% packet-loss in this example:

Global and Social Telemedicine

In addition to seeing many remote-area patient use-cases at ATA2016, we also talked to many organizations working on cross-country telemedicine – where patients and providers may be in completely different countries. Example use cases included providing access to highly specialized medical advice into countries with more limited resources, supporting “visits” and evaluation of hospitals in other countries before patients need to travel for specific procedures, and a range of global counseling services, often focused on very specific conditions or issues. We expect to see a lot more example of cross-country global telemedicine over the next year.

Most telemedicine use cases to-date have focused on the patient to healthcare-provider connection.  However, we also expect to see the growth of “social telemedicine” applications where patients will increasingly start communicating together about their issues and experiences, particularly around specific conditions. So look for more to follow on this blog about social telemedicine!

Disrupting the Economic Model for Video in Telemedicine

With all the new innovation and new focused telemedicine mobile apps we saw being built at ATA2016, a question we were often asked at the show was: but what does it cost to get started integrating premium quality Internet-optimized video and voice into new applications?

Our answer is that it should be free to get started, access our easy-to-use SDKs, and develop apps! When an application starts being used then there is a simple pay-as-you go model, with all the back-end details taken care of within our cloud platform.

This radical cloud economic model lowers the cost basis for telemedicine by an order of magnitude compared with traditional video licensing models, that are typically user based with significant up-front commitments, complex software deployment requirements and ongoing staffing needs. In contrast, Agora Video for Telemedicine has no up-front licensing, capital expense or long-term commitments and provides free access for developers to SDKs and global communications services. Pricing is a simple pay-as-you-go model with 1 million global video minutes costing only $3,990. We got such a positive response to this at ATA2016 that we issued this press release at the show.

As telemedicine is increasingly delivered over the public Internet to remote and mobile patients, we believe telemedicine solution providers require a much simpler cloud-based video integration and economic model to support their growth, and also need our unique optimization approaches to ensure video quality over challenging network conditions.