Manufacturers have to balance price and performance of computers so it's not surprising that although most computers are capable of making a video call, some simple enhancements will make dramatically improvements.
Web cameras built into laptops and screens are generally very low quality and not acceptable for Telehealth. Virtually all webcams in laptops and monitors produce very poor images. Struggling in average light conditions, these webcams won’t produce accurate colours and will produce a flat and lifeless video of you.
In comparison, a NZ$100 HD webcam, such as the Logitech C920, will produce sharp and accurate wide screen high resolution video (right). These simply plug into the computer’s USB socket.
Although video quality is important, poor audio makes the TeleHealth session almost unusable. Always try to be in a quiet environment away from other noise.
The built-in microphones on many computers are poor so audio quality can be greatly improved by using a specialised microphone. It is, however, very important to invest in a microphone that is designed for the purpose you will use it for. For example, a microphone that is excellent for one person may not suit a larger group as the system may detect quieter or distant voices as background noise (such as air conditioning) and will suppress them.
- USB Headset – Although initially a headset can be distracting, if only one person is involved in the Telehealth session a headset will generally produce the best quality audio. The distance between the microphone and the user’s mouth is always the same even if they turn their heads or look away. The microphone is designed to eliminate noise that is not within this short distance. Headsets also have the added benefit of reducing any feedback or echo where the user will hear their own voice back. Although systems actively attempt to cancel echo, headsets will always eliminate 100% of the echo.
- Webcam Microphone – Quality HD webcams will generally detect very good microphone if the person is 1-2 metres away from the camera/microphone. These microphones may not be ideal, however, if there is a small group that are sitting some distance from the webcam/microphone.
- Omni-directional USB Microphone – other USB microphones are designed specifically to detect sound from any direction and from anywhere in the room. This example will easily detect someone speaking at 5 or more metres away but, unfortunately, it also picks up any other background noises.