Bob Ehlers, RGB Spectrum

Trends in Video Technology for Medical Environments

By Bob Ehlers
Bob Ehlers, RGB Spectrum

High-resolution options can enhance patient care and safety, and surgical efficiency.

From operating rooms, endoscopic suites and catheterization labs, to cardio and neurosurgery rooms, the need is clear: Medical professionals require quick access to imagery, and with the greatest clarity possible. Video is everywhere, and in the past decade the type of technology and options from which companies can choose has exploded. This article highlights the advantages and disadvantages of the main video technologies and what works best for any situation.

The demand for video surveillance has rapidly increased. With the introduction of megapixel cameras, companies are deploying 4K or Ultra HD systems to improve quality of care, surgical efficiency and patient safety in the medical space. The adoption of ultra-high resolution observation is driving some key trends in video processing and analysis.

Higher-Quality, Brighter, More Flexible Displays with 4K

With wider fields of view, longer focal distances and more “pixels on target,” 4K video offers a number of benefits, particularly in medical environments where collaboration and attention to finite detail is key.

When operators zoom in on 1080p or 720p video or scale it out over a video wall, images can become pixelated or “blocky”. However, the higher pixel density of 4K video allows images to be scaled larger, and/or zoomed in further, while maintaining more vivid colors and causing less eyestrain thanks to increased clarity.

In an operating room or patient monitoring center, 4K resolutions are important because they enable a wide field of view for tracking critical patient information in real time. Additionally, these higher resolutions provide enough pixels to zoom in and see fine details, without distortion or blurring. For example, a large Midwest medical center has improved the efficiency and effectiveness of care across three affiliated hospitals’ cardiac units with a new centralized telemetry heart monitoring hub. With the hub, medical technicians are able to monitor up to 120 heart patients’ vitals using the advanced display capabilities of two 65-inch 4K LCD panel video stations.

Taking Security Measures against Hackers

Register to attend the Medical Device Cybersecurity Workshop in person (Boston) or via webcast | October 17–18, 2017 | Learn moreThanks to IoT, something as innocuous as a light bulb or as important as ultrasound monitoring can be connected digitally. According to ABI Research, analysts estimate that by 2020, the number of active wireless connected devices will exceed 40 billion. However, with an increasingly interconnected world comes an increased security risk.

Hospitals and IoT devices have become an attractive target for cybercriminals, enabling malicious activities such as hacking medical devices or stealing patient data. With no signs of slowing down, it is only a matter of time before IoT makes its way into the world of video walls, making it vitally important to upgrade security infrastructure for these systems.

Using video as a way of isolating systems, while providing discrete monitoring and control of each system, is an interim measure while robust security for “Things” can be developed. Adoption of video appliance architectures will continue to be driven with security in mind. Video streams have to be encrypted. Access to video has to be authenticated. Networks must be more rigidly isolated.

Hospital Catheterization Lab
Hospital Catheterization Lab

The Rise of Analytics

With thousands of video streams monitored at consolidated facilities, analytics software that makes sense of video data is increasingly replacing manual observation. It can monitor parameters like motion detection, intrusion detection, color detection and objects appearing/disappearing, and immediately alert personnel when issues are detected.

Responsive remote monitoring and real-time video analytics are transforming footage from a forensic tool (i.e., used to figure out what happened after the fact) into a preventative or even predictive tool (i.e., responds to events as they happen, or predict the likelihood of future incidents). 4K video surveillance improves the accuracy of analytics because it provides many more pixels for analysis.

Connecting Video to Other Networks with Metadata

To create comprehensive situational awareness, video data needs to be combined with other sensor data such as point of sale information, environmental data, operational data, access control and alarm data. One way to achieve this is by attaching sensor data to video as “metadata,” which can be used to search through video and generate alarms and alerts as needed. This is useful in a medical environment because doctors and nurses can keep track of patient information and have a backup solution to alert them of issues.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for human beings to monitor video surveillance feeds without assistance. Combined with video, metadata helps further automate the monitoring process because it enhances the ability of analytics programs to alert operators when discrepancies are detected.

Centralized Telemetry Heart Monitoring Hub
Centralized Telemetry Heart Monitoring Hub

Future-Proofing Equipment to Protect Current Investments

Technology is evolving continuously. The latest innovation this year could be out of date in the next six months. Medical facilities need to ensure their AV/IT budgets are being appropriately allocated. With this in mind, it’s important to invest in future-proofed solutions and save your organization from using precious re¬sources to update expensive hardware.

Some organizations may be tempted buy low-cost solutions. Remember, however, that there is more to the cost of an AV system than just the processing boxes. Cabling, installation, maintenance and other costs have to be considered. Buying a modular system with a road map that recognizes the future of technology, protocols and applications is a wise move.

About The Author

Bob Ehlers, RGB Spectrum