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Health Care: Delivery, Education, Communication

Telemedicine Systems and Telecommunications


6. Information Display

The method of information display will depend mainly on the format in which the information is originally captured. For example, audio information will usually be 'displayed' in the form of sound. Several options are available for displaying images. Videoconferencing units commonly use standard TV sets as their display, while still images are often displayed on PC monitors. However, PC monitors are sometimes used instead of TV screens for viewing video, and TV screens are sometimes used for viewing the output from a PC. This is more than a matter of simply connecting them together, because PC display monitors and TV screens operate in a fundamentally different way (see Squibb for a review).[22]

Many items of medical equipment have a PC built-in, the output of which can be directly displayed on another PC but not viewed with a TV. In such cases, it may be necessary to use a specific video output (often designed for connection to a video recorder) to acquire an analogue signal suitable for a TV display. Such PCs do not always use bulky cathode ray tubes, but increasingly use flat screen displays (as in laptop computers). These types of display are still expensive, but are becoming increasingly popular due to their smaller overall size and lower power consumption. PC screens also come with different resolutions (the number of dots per unit area). High-resolution screens are used for detailed work, but are more expensive. Most telemedicine applications (other than radiology and pathology studies) do not need high-definition images. For instance, a standard magnetic resonance image (MRI) has a resolution of 512 x 512 pixels.

7. Training

Equipment and the telecommunications are a necessary, but not sufficient, prerequisite for a successful telemedicine programme. The right people are also required and they must be properly trained. Since many telemedicine programmes often begin incrementally, training users can also be done incrementally. Numerous universities and private companies offer telemedicine training, as well as the equipment vendors, although this sort of training tends to focus on the capabilities of specific devices. If you decide to implement a telemedicine programme, training must be part of the plan.

8. Conclusion

About 10 or 15 years ago, the technology for telemedicine was not readily available. Much early telemedicine work involved modification of expensive equipment, which was originally designed for other purposes. Now, however, the technologies such as robust telecommunication networks and video equipment are widely available, and much more affordable. Telemedicine users now have a plethora of choice. Most manufacturers offer products that adhere to industry standards which ensure interoperability with other devices. The situation in medical informatics is less developed and efforts continue to ensure the seamless integration of data between different systems. This is important in health care, where patient data-sets need to be available when required.

While the right technology is essential for a successful telemedicine programme, it is essential not to overlook the human factors. In particular, a local 'champion' will be required, and there will be a continuing requirement for user training.


Brett Harnett
Center for Surgical Innovation
University of Cincinnati
231 Albert Sabin Way
SRU Suite 1566
Cincinnati, OH 45267-0558, USA
Fax: +1 513 558 3788


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