Published on in Vol 2 , No 1 (2016) :December

Enhancing Video Chat Applications for Home Health Care

Enhancing Video Chat Applications for Home Health Care

Enhancing Video Chat Applications for Home Health Care

Authors of this article:

Steve Stutman 1 Author Orcid Image


Radio Robots, LLC, Sudbury, MA, United States

Corresponding Author:

Steve Stutman, BEng, BA, SM

Radio Robots, LLC

PO Box 783

Sudbury, MA, 01776

United States

Phone: 1 617 901 3490

Fax:1 617 682 0442


Background: Estimates show that up to 87% of seniors would like to “age in place.” Often, such people are remote from their families and health care providers. Acquisition and telemetry of data and bio-signals from personal health care instrumentation is of great value, but we feel that this does not tell the complete story, because we are dealing with humans. A brief video chat, via personal computer, can usually provide a great deal of information concerning a person’s well-being. An individual’s mood, physical status, and energy level and the state of their surroundings can frequently be determined in a one-minute video chat. While these evaluations are qualitative, they can be very useful in answering the simple, important question “Is this person OK?” A video chat can also help build constructive social bonds between patients and providers because the telecommunication is no longer “faceless.” People who are aging in place are generally not the best computer users. Even if a person is proficient with the use of computers, issues with vision and manual dexterity can present obstacles to the use of video chat applications such as Skype. We have designed and implemented a low-cost system, comprised of a small “helper” program and a wired keypad, which operates with a personal computer and obviates the difficulties experienced by many less experienced and older users. Very simply, this system makes it easier for many people to communicate with their families and healthcare providers.

Objective: Our goal was to simplify the use of video chat applications. A conventional desktop is often visually cluttered or has one application window obscuring another. Navigation with a mouse or other pointing device can be difficult for people with impaired vision and those with tremors, arthritis, or other dexterity limiting factors. We designed and built a “helper” program that, in conjunction with a dedicated large symbol keypad, lets a user initiate a video chat just by pressing a couple of buttons.

Methods: At present we have conducted a small pilot study (N=8) with naïve computer users who want to video chat with family members. Participants in the study were chosen because they had difficulty initiating video chats. We asked this group to use our system and measured time required to initiate a video chat.

Results: All subjects were able to initiate video chats in <30 seconds. The users were all able to terminate the chats when desired. In simple terms, the naïve users were able to start and end calls when they wanted to. Users expressed satisfaction at being able to control this aspect of their computers without technical support from others and enjoyed chat interactions.

Conclusions: Video chat applications can be made simpler and easier to use, empowering a person who is aging in place to engage with family and healthcare providers.

iproc 2016;2(1):e22



Multimedia Appendix 1


PDF File (Adobe PDF File), 1018KB

Edited by T Hale; submitted 20.06.16; peer-reviewed by CHS Scientific Program Committee; accepted 02.08.16; published 29.12.16


©Steve Stutman. Originally published in Iproceedings (, 29.12.2016.

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