The risk of an avian flu pandemic is a frightening prospect, so it’s not surprising that when Dr. Mary Vearncombe gave a presentation on pandemic flu recently, the auditorium could not hold everyone who wanted to hear what she had to say.
Fortunately Toronto’s Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre, where Dr. Vearncombe is medical director of infection prevention and control, has a multimedia clinical library. Equipment in the packed auditorium captured her complete presentation electronically and made it available to remote viewers both during and after the presentation.
Hundreds of viewers watched the presentation live via the Internet and well over 1,000 more have reviewed it since, said Oliver Tsai, director of information technology at Sunnybrook and Women’s, a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto.
That presentation is one of hundreds of sessions captured digitally since Sunnybrook and Women’s launched its multimedia clinical library about six months ago, Tsai said. Educational rounds – lectures given by specialists to medical students and others – make up a large part of the material, but mobile equipment allows the hospital to make all kinds of presentations available online.
Tsai says Sunnybrook and Women’s started about five years ago to look for a way of using “the pervasiveness of the Internet” to “take better advantage of our greatest resource, which is really our people.” Many presentations are given at the hospital, he said, but in the past their content was available only to those who attended them in person. Now students, staff and others have online access while the presentation is going on, or later.
It took Sunnybrook and Women’s about three years to find the right technology to build the multimedia library, Tsai says. The system it chose is Mediasite, launched about three years ago by Sonic Foundry, a Madison, Wisc., company founded in 1991.
Mediasite fits into a technology category called on-demand rich media, which Duxbury, Mass.-based research firm Wainhouse Research, LLC, describes as a US$620-million market today, with a compound annual growth rate of 94 per cent that will take it almost to the US$1 billion mark next year.
Rimas Buinevicius, chairman and chief executive of Sonic Foundry, said health care is one significant market segment for Mediasite, but the company also sells it to educational buyers, financial firms and others. In Canada, Sonic Foundry’s existing customers include British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, Ontario’s NORTH Network telemedicine program, McGill University in Montreal and York University in Toronto, said Julian Simpson, Sonic Foundry’s country manager for Canada.
Tsai said Sunnybrook and Women’s liked Mediasite’s simplicity. There is no client software – anyone with broadband Internet access and a Web browser can view the streamed presentations. And the system is simple for presenters. In fact, Tsai says, the equipment in Sunnybrook’s lecture halls can be set to record presentations automatically at scheduled times, so presenters don’t have to do anything.
Mediasite can connect to a lecture hall’s video projector using an RGB connector to capture whatever is being projected, Buinevicius explained.
Besides the room-based and mobile equipment, Simpson said, Sonic Foundry also has equipment that can capture both sides of a videoconference and stream it live to Web browsers as well as saving it for future viewing.
The system doesn’t put heavy demands on network bandwidth or storage, Tsai added. Many client PCs at Sunnybrook and Women’s have 10-megabit Ethernet connections, he said, and these work well for access to the system, as do ordinary home broadband connections. The hospital a couple of hundred gigabytes of storage in a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) to support the system and still has plenty of unused capacity after storing hundreds of presentations averaging one to two hours, he said. Buinevicius said a one-hour presentation tailored to a 100-kilobit-per-second connection takes about 70 megabytes of storage – some clients use 300 kilobits per second and that increases the storage requirements, he added.