Making the most out of Skype
The popularity of Skype within Australia's telehealth community has sparked the interest of two Australian-based companies that have developed applications for the VoIP service that they believe could help clinicians make the most out of Skype.
Advansys is a small Australian software company that has developed RecollX, a search and archiving app that uses the concept of hashtags as a way to better manage instant messaging conversations. VodBurner is an app by another Australian company, Netralia, that allows users to record Skype video calls, edit them and upload them to file or even directly to YouTube.
Both of the developers see huge potential in the telehealth arena, not just for publicly funded telehealth consultations but also for education and training purposes, collaborative communities and to help doctors better exploit the popular technology.
Greg Bell established Advansys in 1989 as a software company specialising in innovative business solutions. His small staff all work from home and conduct most of their meetings through Skype, particularly using its chat capability for brainstorming sessions and discussions about product development.
Regular Skype for Windows users will know that while you can search within a chat, you can't do so across all chats, and there is also no easy way of archiving chats in an efficient manner.
Mr Bell's team at Advansys developed RecollX initially for internal use but realised there was a large market out there for regular users of Skype IM, he said. “We had already developed archiving tools and full search tools based on the open source indexing technology for the email market, so we saw this as the perfect application.
“Every time you send a Skype message it is stored on your local computer and also on the computer of each participant in a group or personal chat. So we wrote a system that indexes a user’s complete message history.”
Then the team developed the idea of using hashtags to accelerate search functionality. By hashtagging certain terms within the Skype chat, users can exploit the search parameters within RecollX to quickly retrieve conversations, ideas and key knowledge on particular topics.
“We needed a very powerful search capability to go across all chats and to use instant messaging to the maximum,” he said. “We developed a browse view that gives a table of contents to your Skype history. What we do is search for a #Note, #Tip or #ToDo … it provides context across the whole archive. You can search for any word or phrase, find the conversation, copy it to the clipboard and export it to CSV file.
“The idea is to capture the power and dynamism of instant messaging, the ability to exchange ideas very quickly, to be able to tag and classify those ideas immediately during discussion, and then to be able to retrieve and export them as needed.”
Mr Bell sees potential for the healthcare industry in a number of areas. One is to be able to keep track of IM conversations in a collaborative sense, and the other is to use the IM function to improve efficiency, such as writing patient notes while conducting video conferences.
“[GPs and specialists] can do a video conference and at the same time open up that chat window and IM notes to each other,” he said. “There are going to be legal issues but this is all about transparency. If they are typing into Skype, the patient gets it at the same time.”
He believes products like RecollX are going to become very important for historical records and for mining information. “A lot of people don't yet realise how much value they can draw from their Skype history,” he said.
VodBurner, on the other hand, concentrates on the popular video conferencing capability of Skype. Its creator, Jeremy Hague, was an early user of Skype and attended a Skype conference in Athens in 2008 when Skype announced it had launched video calling.
“I thought this would be a hugely popular feature as it is such a human use of technology,” he said. “Back then, video was on 10 per cent of all Skype calls, nowadays it is on 40 per cent of all Skype calls with it spiking over 50 per cent over Christmas/New Year.
“I thought that people would want to record their video experiences on Skype and share them on YouTube. Given that Skype doesn't do recording, we started scoping out the VodBurner product.”
While most of VodBurner's users are video bloggers, broadcasters and sales companies, it also has a strong user base in the university sector. Mr Hague is only now investigating the telehealth market and is keen to explore VodBurner's application in education and training in the health sector, along with its potential use in aged care.
Skype allows users to record their voice calls but not video, so Mr Hague developed a separate app that plugs into Skype automatically and records video calls.
“We offer recording of video calls, and group video calls, along with editing and export to file or upload to YouTube all from within the app,” he said.
“GPs can use Skype to conduct high quality video calls with patients across our vast continent and use VodBurner to record and archive those video calls. VodBurner records in high resolution for crystal clear playback and would be useful for training purposes.
“Apart from training, the main benefits that we see in recording telehealth calls would be doctors archiving those video calls for client records and possible compliance in this area.”
He sees telehealth as an area with obvious benefits for all Australians, and believes there is great potential for his product.
“VodBurner and RecollX together would be an ideal solution for recording Skype video calls, and archiving chat messages for later retrieval.”
Posted in Australian eHealth