Hardware and software continue to evolve and faster networks are becoming more readily available. This evolution, combined with decreasing costs, positions Telehealth for rapid growth over the next few years. Below is an introduction to some emerging technologies which will further support this growth.
H.265 Video Encoding
Video must be encoded before it is transmitted, and then decoded when it is received. This process is most commonly completed by a CODEC (code and decode) using the H.264 video compression standard. While this is an extremely efficient standard, a new standard H.265 has been developed which is said to double the compression ratio compared at the same level of video quality.
This will allow better telehealth sessions where there is limited bandwidth available - for example in rural and remote areas and also on mobile devices. Although it will take some time for hardware to support this new standard, it was demonstrated by Cisco in 2012 (see below and watch here http://youtu.be/PZP75PEQo6E?t=49s) and its widespread availability is eagerly awaited.
VP9 Video Encoding
Another next generation CODEC is VP9, developed by Google. It has very similar performance improvements to the H.265 standard, but this is a free, open source standard - unlike H.265.
It is uncertain as to which standard will gain the widest adoption - some manufacturers will possibly support both standards.
Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC)
Today, to place audio or video calls from a computer, users need to download proprietary software and create user accounts.
WebRTC is an emerging standard that enables web browsers to support browser-to-browser applications for voice calling, video chat, and file sharing without plugins. In the same way as web pages can have chat sessions initiated on web pages, WebRTC will enable audio and video calls to be made from the browser, with no additional software needing to be installed. At present this standard is supported by Chrome and Firefox, but not Internet Explorer or Safari