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CONTROVERSIES IN MEDICINE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 180-181

Videoconferencing: Necessity is the mother of (Re) invention


Department of Gastroenterology, Sunrise Hospital, Kochi, Kerala, India

Date of Submission11-Jul-2022
Date of Decision16-Jul-2022
Date of Acceptance18-Jul-2022
Date of Web Publication29-Aug-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan
Sunrise Hospital, Kochi - 682 030, Kerala
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/JME.JME_91_22

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How to cite this article:
Jayadevan R. Videoconferencing: Necessity is the mother of (Re) invention. J Med Evid 2022;3:180-1

How to cite this URL:
Jayadevan R. Videoconferencing: Necessity is the mother of (Re) invention. J Med Evid [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 5];3:180-1. Available from: http://www.journaljme.org/text.asp?2022/3/2/180/354998



Videoconferencing has been around for a long time before the pandemic but became part of everyday life only when people had no other option during lockdowns.

Several platforms are available for videoconferencing: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco's Webex, BlueJeans, Skype and WhatsApp Video being a few. From a healthcare standpoint, many of the everyday meetings are occurring on the Zoom® platform.

The chief advantages are the elimination of travel, and that these meetings can be done from any device ranging from a smartphone to a laptop.

Elimination of travel has several indirect advantages as follows:

  1. Expenses are reduced because there is no need to spend on fuel, public transport or accommodation
  2. When fewer people use the road, commuting becomes easier for other road users. This translates to more efficient use of limited infrastructure in developing countries like India: for instance, ambulances are less likely to get stuck in traffic
  3. When more people switch to online meetings, roads become less congested. People are no longer in a perpetual hurry, which means the risk of road accidents is also lower. Hence, road accidents are a major preventable public health problem in India[1]
  4. Pollution from automobile exhaust and noise pollution from incessant honking are reduced. In countries like India, the road is a major source of noise pollution[2]
  5. Reduced pollution lowers the risk of respiratory ailments such as asthma
  6. As emissions drop, a major beneficiary is the environment.


Convenience and peace of mind are other advantages: people can continue to do other tasks right up to the last minute if they wish, which is not the case if they had to travel to a venue.

Observations from in-person conferences in India suggest that women are somewhat less likely to attend because of the additional responsibilities they often have to shoulder, when compared to their male counterparts. They are also relatively less willing to travel at late hours and to stay overnight at distant conference venues. Videoconferencing has thus made it easier for women to participate in conferences from the comfort and safety of their own home or office.

A frustrating aspect of attending in-person conferences in India has been the relative lack of respect for others' time. Although meetings were tending to become more punctual, it was still common to see attendees waiting for long periods of time for the programme to start, just because someone decided to be late. Such tardiness is not tolerated elsewhere but has become a bit of the norm in some parts of India.

For habitually efficient and productive people who value their own time, this can be frustrating. That is because, unlike money, time lost cannot be recuperated if we work harder in the future. With the arrival of videoconferencing, this problem has been eliminated to a large extent.

The advantage of having a recording is somewhat unique to videoconferences, even though other means had existed in the pre-pandemic era. For instance, Facebook live had been effectively used to record academic presentations without incurring additional costs of engaging a videographer. For those who missed meetings and for those who wish to revise the content, recordings provide an opportunity.

An indirect advantage of the meeting being recorded is that the quality of talks will improve. This is a natural human trait: most people tend to put in greater effort if they knew someone was watching. For instance, the speaker might be better prepared and also take care to answer the questions more diligently because it becomes a matter of record.

One additional advantage of recordings is that of self-improvement for professional speakers. Those who wish to further their speaking skills are thus able to check the recordings for future improvement. For instance, several speakers are unaware of mannerisms and oft-repeated phrases or words that they use, which can be jarring to discerning listeners. Not all speakers invest in self-improvement; these habits or quirks can therefore persist unchecked for decades.

In addition to projecting slides, the ability to project the whole screen offers certain advantages.

The ability to play videos from websites or directly off the computer is an example. Speakers who have experienced snags while attempting to play videos embedded in their slide presentations at distant conference venues will relate to this.

Sharing of screen also offers the ability to use a virtual whiteboard. By opening the laptop's notepad and using a device such as Apple Pencil®, it is easy to write or draw diagrams like a teacher would, on a blackboard. These drawings are seen live by the audience on their own screens. This is helpful while explaining certain concepts, for instance, immunology. Rehearsing with a small audience is a must for those who are attempting to do this for the first time.

One other advantage of a videoconference is the option to keep the camera off. It is perfectly acceptable to listen or speak without having to pose in front of the audience while the talk is going on, or afterwards. This offers privacy as well as convenience. The provision for blurring the background or adding a virtual backdrop helps keep background activity and clutter out of public view.

The chat box offers the advantage of posting questions or comments but is a definite distraction if used while the session is going on. The questions can then be selected, prioritised and moderated by the chairperson, which is helpful for the audience.

In contrast, the equivalent scenario during some in-person conferences is that the first two or three questions sometimes might be of no common interest and will not enrich or enhance the quality of the session because this moderating option is absent. By the time the more pertinent questions get their turn, the time window would be over.

Needless to add, videoconferencing reduces the risk of spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and influenza. Conferences were notorious super-spreader events during the pandemic.[3] Although sitting with a mask involves little risk of getting infected, most of the spread occurs during the socialisation that is part of these conferences. The SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads through aerosols, which behave like cigarette smoke in crowded, ill-ventilated settings.[4] Therefore, this virus has the ability to reach and infect large numbers of people sharing the same space.

An under-used but easy option is conference call by mobile phone. Easy to use and inexpensive, this is helpful when a handful of individuals at different locations need to discuss something briefly to make a quick decision. Group WhatsApp calls can be used for the same purpose; this also includes video.

As with any product or procedure, there will always be disadvantages. Being mindful of these is helpful so that we can reduce inconvenience for others.

An article on basic videoconferencing etiquette is available at this link.[5]

The most common problem has always been noise. Unfortunately, people continue to forget to mute their microphones while attending these meetings. It is still common to hear the phrase 'Doctor X, please mute your phone' even after 2½ years has passed since these became an everyday tool. As a result, we hear dogs barking, children making noise, or the TV turned on more frequently than we need to. Although the administrator has a universal mute option, that has not solved the lack of empathy on the part of some sections of the audience.

In summary, limitations apart, videoconferencing is here to stay. They offer numerous advantages at an academic, social, health, economic and environmental level.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Road Accidents, a Public Health Problem in India. Dr Rajeev Jayadevan. Available from: https://www.onmanorama.com/lifestyle/health/everyday-health-staying-alive-on-our-roads.html. [Last accessed on 2022 Aug 06].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Noise Pollution: Sources, Hazards and Elimination Strategies. Dr Rajeev Jayadevan. Available from: https://www.onmanorama.com/lifestyle/health/noise-affects-our-health-and-what-to-do-for-it.html. [Last accessed on 2022 Aug 06].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Majra D, Benson J, Pitts J, Stebbing J. SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) superspreader events. J Infect 2021;82:36-40.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Aerosols are the Main Mode of Spread of the SARS-CoV2 Virus: Dr Rajeev Jayadevan; April 10, 2020. Available from: https://www.onmanorama.com/lifestyle/health/2020/04/10/how-does-sars-cov2-virus-spread- coronavirus-covid19.html. [Last accessed on 2022 Aug 06].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Etiquette for Video Conferencing. Dr Rajeev Jayadevan. Available from: https://www.onmanorama.com/lifestyle/news/2020/05/17/dos-donts-during-videoconferencin g-know-your-etiquette.html. [Last accessed on 2022 Aug 06].  Back to cited text no. 5
    




 

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