Choosing A Webcam For Telemedicine: Our Top Tech Buying Tips

June 21, 2021 • 5 minute read

Given the additional reliance we have all placed on tech devices since the start of the pandemic, your thoughts may well have turned to tech upgrades for your practice or home-working setup. The huge spike in remote working means that webcams have become a highly sought-after tech accessory across in all industries, selling out and […]

Given the additional reliance we have all placed on tech devices since the start of the pandemic, your thoughts may well have turned to tech upgrades for your practice or home-working setup.

The huge spike in remote working means that webcams have become a highly sought-after tech accessory across in all industries, selling out and being subject to surge pricing in the early days of Covid-19.

Within healthcare the importance of a reliable high-quality webcam that enables your patients to feel comfortable and connected to you, as if you were in the consultation room with them face to face, has become even more pronounced.

Our customers often ask us for recommendations for a specific webcam that will work well with our Vidyo Telemedicine integration, so we thought today we would offer some general tips on choosing a webcam that is suitable for telemedicine and to help demystify some of the surrounding jargon. After all, we know you have plenty more important tasks than researching frames per second, or screen resolution during your working day.

When it comes to selecting a new webcam, there are two key numbers that are going to be thrown around in the specs, whether you’re shopping on online or in store, and those are FPS (Frames Per Second) where you’ll see numbers like 24, 30 or 60 listed, and Resolution which is slightly more confusing, as the format of this number changes and options include 480 and 720 to 1080 through to Full HD (1920 x 1080p). These days you can get 4k too – that’s not much use for consultations, and designed more for professional content creators, but if you’re running webinars, a YouTube Channel or sharing your expertise online it could be an option. 

Choosing A Webcam for Telemedicine: Consider FPS

This is how many individual pictures your webcam processes and displays every second. Put simply, the higher number is going to be better, and will result in a smoother video stream; the last thing you want is looking like a slideshow or freeze during your patient consultation. 

Frame rate/fps  Notes 
24  Supposedly the highest that the human eye can distinguish, in our experience it’s a good minimum to set, anything less is not good enough 
30  Many webcams fall into this realm, and it will work for most use cases 
60  Pretty high end for a webcam, if you’re looking for a professional experience and are willing to spend the extra, this is what to look for 
60+  You won’t get much benefit from anything over 60fps, unless you’re planning to use your webcam for creating high quality video content as well as consultations

 

Choosing A Webcam for Telemedicine: Research The Resolution

Resolution  Notes 
480p  This is the resolution in which DVDs were originally released. Today this would result in you feeling in need of a consultation – with an Optician  
720p  Was once called ‘HD’ – now it’s a barely decent minimum resolution for webcam and most built-in laptop cameras are at this resolution 
1080p  Also known as Full HD this is a ‘premium’ choice but fast becoming the accepted standard
4k  You won’t get very much benefit from spending the extra to get this feature when it comes to consultations 

‘This doesn’t apply to me, I recently upgraded my laptop / desktop computer, so I don’t need a separate webcam’ you may think. Well, the surprising thing about webcams is that even the most up to date PC, Mac, laptop or Macbook isn’t guaranteed to have the webcam quality you would expect – many carry specs that haven’t been updated for a decade.

For example even if you invested in the latest Macbook Air  – one of Apple’s best-selling devices – you will still be stuck with a less than ideal 720p built-in camera. To put that in context, this flagship laptop has a sub-par built-in camera when compared to an iPhone 11, iPad Pro, or even Samsung’s previous generation Galaxy S20 phone.

In 2021 you could easily be using the same camera technology in your brand new laptop that you would have been using if you were innovative enough to run virtual consultations on your old laptop back in 2011.

Windows users are in the same boat, with most PC’s and Microsoft laptops sporting mediocre camera technology from the era before Zoom and Teams calls were a common feature of the modern world.

This is easy to rectify by upgrading, and selecting a webcam by one of the respected webcam manufacturers, such as Logitech or Microsoft – though many other manufacturers are competing in this growing market.

And while you’re comparing refresh rates, and resolution, remember to also consider these other factors:

Sound: You can have the best picture in the world but if the sound on your consultation is echoey, tinny, or difficult to decipher, you are going to run into problems, and unhappy patients. Depending on your exact working set-up, you maybe want to consider a webcam with a built-in microphone, ideally with ANC  – active noise cancellation – so you can achieve a natural and distraction-free sound quality.

Working Hours: Many webcams struggle in low light, meaning if you specialise in after hours appointments you may have a very grainy picture. Outdated webcams can also suffer, offering blurry images.

Screen Placement: When using a built-in webcam, the angle of your computer screen dictates the angle of your camera – this may not necessarily be the ideal angle for both note-taking and seeing your patient properly. A separate webcam, perhaps with a tripod, could give you far more flexibility.

Wide Angle: In some circumstances, especially where multiple participants are involved in a consultation, you will have more options if you choose a wide-angled webcam.

Plastic vs Glass: Look out for a glass lens as this will always be better quality, produce crisper images and be more durable than a plastic lens which is a telltale sign of a budget product.

Patient Privacy: Accidentally leaving your web cam on could be potentially embarrassing for most of us, but in a medical setting the importance of a secure and foolproof method of ensuring your webcam is off when you think it is, cannot be underestimated. An LED indicator that lets you know when the webcam is active is optimum, and some devices offer a built-in cover meaning it would not be physically possible to record, which is ideal for those running a combination of Telehealth consultations and in-person patient appointments from the same physical office.

Internet Speeds: Even the best resolution and FPS on the latest webcam will become irrelevant if your internet connection – or that of the patient you are video calling – is poor.

Do You Actually Need A Webcam For Telemedicine?

And finally – just because you need a webcam, doesn’t mean you actually need to buy a device labelled ‘webcam’. That’s because modern mobile phones, GoPro’s and various other camera-ready devices are already equipped with the high-end camera tech needed to run virtual consultations, you often just need the software, or cables to connect them to your existing setup.

About Meddbase Telemedicine and Vidyo

Meddbase’s partner, the VidyoConnect service, supports Telemedicine calls at a resolution up to 4K (3840 x 2160) though that is always based upon various specifications, such as available bandwidth, device computing capability, and device display resolution as well as third party compression and devices.
If you’d like to see our Telemedicine Software in action, or learn more about our web-native Practice Management Software, book a demo, or call our sales team on 0207 482 6290.

 

 


Sam Wood
As Product Architect Sam works closely with teams across the company as well as Meddbase clients to understand which improvements we should work on next, and how best we can deliver them.