Telemedicine Telemedicine has been defined as the use of telecommunications to provide medical information and services. It may be as simple as two health professionals discussing a case over the telephone, or as sophisticated as using satellite technology to broadcast a consultation between providers at facilities in two countries, using videoconferencing equipment or robotic technology.
Telemedicine Telemedicine generally refers to the use of ICT for the delivery of clinical care
Telemedicine is practiced on the basis of two concepts:
real time (synchronous) and
Real time telemedicine Real time telemedicine could be as simple as a telephone call or as complex as robotic surgery. It requires the presence of both parties at the same time and a communications link between them that allows a real-time interaction to take place. Video-conferencing equipment is one of the most common forms of technologies used in synchronous telemedicine.
Store-and-forward telemedicine involves acquiring medical data (like medical images, biosignals etc) and then transmitting this data to a doctor or medical specialist at a convenient time for assessment offline. It does not require the presence of both parties at the same time.
Dermatology, radiology, and pathology are common specialties that are conducive to asynchronous telemedicine. A properly structured Medical Record preferably in electronic form should be a component of this transfer.
Teleradiology, the sending of x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs (store-and-forward images) is the most common application of telemedicine in use today. There are hundreds of medical centers, clinics, and individual physicians who use some form of teleradiology. Many radiologists are installing appropriate computer technology in their homes, so they can have images sent directly to them for diagnosis, instead of making an off-hours trip to a hospital or clinic.
Telemedicine is most beneficial for populations living in isolated communities and remote regions and is currently being applied in virtually all medical domains. Specialities that use telemedicine often use a "tele-" prefix; for example, telemedicine as applied by radiologists is called Teleradiology. Similarly telemedicine as applied by cardiologists is termed as telecardiology, etc.
Telepathology is another common use of this technology. Images of pathology slides may be sent from one location to another for diagnostic consultation.
Dermatology is also a natural for store and forward technology (although practitioners are increasingly using interactive technology for dermatological exams). Digital images may be taken of skin conditions, and sent to a dermatologist for diagnosis.
The other widely used technology, two-way interactive television (IATV) , is used when a 'face-to-face' consultation is necessary. The patient and sometimes their provider, or more commonly a nurse practitioner or telemedicine coordinator (or any combination of the three), are at the originating site. The specialist is at the referral site, most often at an urban medical center.
Video conferencing equipment at both locations allow a 'real-time' consultation to take place. The technology has decreased in price and complexity over the past five years, and many programs now use desktop video conferencing systems.
There are many configurations of an interactive consultation, but most typically it is from an urban-to-rural location . It means that the patient does not have to travel to an urban area to see a specialist , and in many cases, provides access to speciality care when none has been available previously.
Almost all specialities of medicine have been found to be conducive to this kind of consultation, including psychiatry, internal medicine, rehabilitation, cardiology, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology and neurology.
Teleradiology is the ability to send radiographic images (x-rays) from one location to another. For this process to be implemented, three essential components are required, an image sending station, a transmission network, and a receiving / image review station.
The most typical implementation are two computers connected via Internet. The computer at the receiving end will need to have a high-quality display screen that has been tested and cleared for clinical purposes.
Sometimes the receiving computer will have a printer so that images can be printed for convenience.
The teleradiology process begins at the image sending station. The radiographic image and a modem or other connection are required for this first step. The image is scanned and then sent via the network connection to the receiving computer.
Video conferencing also opens up new possibilities for continuing education or training for isolated or rural health practitioners, who may not be able to leave a rural practice to take part in professional meetings or educational opportunities.
the use of telemedicine can also cut costs of medical care for those in rural areas.
There are still several barriers to the practice of telemedicine. Many states will not allow out-of-state physicians to practice unless licensed in their state. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) still has several restrictions for Medicare telemedicine reimbursement. Many private insurers also will not reimburse, although some states, such as California and Kentucky, have legislated that they must reimburse the same as for face-to-face consultations.
Many potential telemedicine projects have been hampered by the lack of appropriate telecommunications technology . Regular telephone lines do not supply adequate bandwidth for most telemedical applications.
Many rural areas still do not have cable wiring or other kinds of high bandwidth telecommunications access required for more sophisticated uses.
Lack of funding for developing state-of-the-art telemedicine infrastructure
Some private corporations and telecommunications companies are stepping in to fill the void, however, pressure on the appropriate government and legislative agencies is needed before more funding will become available.
The health of a nation is the product of many factors and forces that combine and interact. Economic growth, per capita income, literacy, education, age at marriage, birth rates, information on health care and nutrition, access to safe drinking water, public and private health care infrastructure, access to preventive health and medical care and the health insurance are among the contributing factors .
The advances in Medical science, biomedical engineering on one side and Telecommunication and Information Technology on the other side are offering wide opportunities for improved health care.
Despite making huge strides in overall development, the health coverage to majority of our population is still a distant dream .
India is a vast country gifted with rich and ancient historic background and geographically the nature has provided India with all the varieties like the mountain regions like Ladakh, deserts, green planes and far flung areas in the north east and offshore islands of Andaman’s and Lakshadweep .
India today has more than 1 billion population and there is finite limit of elasticity in providing health care in terms of infrastructure, facility, the manpower and the funds. Wide disparities persist between different income groups, between rural and urban communities, and between different states and even districts within States.
The population is predominantly rural and distributed in distant geographical locations apart from the high-density urban areas; to provide the basic minimum health care has been one of the priorities of the Health administration all along.
This calls for innovative methods of utilization of science and technology for the benefit, of our society and telemedicine assumes a great significance to revolutionize the health care system in India. Adaptation of Telemedicine technology offers one of the best options for delivering healthcare for rural & geographically distant population spread across India. Importance of Telemedicine in health care started quite some time ago & more recently the telemedicine has undergone something of resurgence as technology began catching up with the need and aspiration.
Some pilot schemes in telemedicine through the initiative of Department of Space, Department of Information Technology, and some other public & private organizations have demonstrated the successful application of information and Communication technology in extending the reach and access for improved health care to all.
Framework in defining the guidelines and standards:
Interoperability : Develop telemedicine networks that interface together and create an open environment sharing the application on different participating systems in real-time or seamless interface between several applications
Compatibility : Equipment/systems of different vendors and different versions of the same system, to be able to be interconnected
Framework in defining the guidelines and standards:
Scalability : Equipment/systems inducted for telemedicine to be able to be augmented with additional features and functions as modular add-on options.
Portability : The data generated by an application that runs on one system to be able to be ported to different platforms with a minimum effort .
Reliability : Telemedicine systems to follow relevant reliability standards of equipment/systems of similar category to ensure availability of service with minimum system downtime.
The above framework has been so adopted to ensure:
Inclusion of all the stakeholders : Making the recommendation with due consideration of the rights and responsibilities of patient/community, health care service provider, the technology provider, the government etc.
Making recommendations vendor neutral : Ensuring that the recommendations are not biased against any specific vendor/manufacturer of telemedicine systems
The above framework has been so adopted to ensure:
Making standards technology neutral : Ensuring that the recommendations will not favour any specific technology leaving scope for present/future alternatives.
This will include minimum standards for all the hardware and software used in a telemedicine system.
Under hardware it will include standards and guidelines for basic telemedicine platform, servers, clinical devices, video conferencing system, communication hardware and power support.
The software standards address operating system, telemedicine software, and server software.
Telemedicine Infrastructure: Hardware o Telemedicine platform : This will include minimum standards for type of platform to be used, processor/minimum speed, memory requirements, interfaces, and peripherals. o Clinical devices This will include minimum standards for all the clinical devices to be interfaced or integrated with the telemedicine system, including performance specifications for devices measuring diagnostic parameters, imaging devices, compression, and their safety requirements.
Telemedicine Infrastructure: Hardware o Video conferencing units o This will include minimum standards for video conferencing system, including data rate, picture resolution, frame rate, type of camera, audio quality etc. o Communication hardware o This will include minimum standards for various hardware used for interfacing the telemedicine system with the communication network, including all types of terrestrial and satellite based networks.
Telemedicine Infrastructure: Software o An operating system o Licensed telemedicine S/W with appropriate User Interface(UI) o Back-end Data Base with the mandatory tables/ fields (if applicable)
Telemedicine Infrastructure: Connectivity: options for telemedicine services o VSAT o PSTN o ISDN o Leased Line o Wireless LAN /WAN
Video conferencing boosts telemedicine Video conferencing is becoming quite popular among hospitals. By using this technology, doctors can help patients who are unable to come to the hospital. It especially benefits the rural populace since one cannot always get good doctors there. Telemedicine has turned out to be a blessing for patients who were otherwise deprived of the best treatment. Polycom is one company that’s providing video conferencing equipment to hospitals for tele-medicine.
Video conferencing boosts telemedicine A telemedicine system consists of customised hardware and software at two locations—the patient’s as well as the doctor’s end. These locations are usually connected by means of an Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN), Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) or Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) link, and the system is controlled by the network hub station of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Video conferencing boosts telemedicine Polycom India provides video conferencing equipment for tele-medicine. Apollo and Escorts are their principal clients in this area.” The company’s video conferencing solution is called Unified Collaborative Communications (UCC). It helps to provide converged voice, video, web and data solutions for emerging broadband networks, and is designed to integrate with standard video-based medical end-points.
Broadband Broadband has come as a big boost to telemedicine. “With the availability of broadband, India is now becoming a hot destination for tele-medicine as it is a win-win situation for both the patients as well as hospitals.
The goal Telemedicine tools help deliver healthcare in medical disciplines like emergency medicine, behavioural science, dermatology, cardiology, radiology, paediatrics, obstetrics, oncology, dentistry, gastro-enterology, neurology, pathology, psychiatry, orthopaedics, family practice, ophthalmology and rheumatology. As Lavanian puts it, “The primary objective of tele-medicine is to provide quality healthcare assistance to every patient.
The goal Video conferencing also ensures that the patients are treated irrespective of their financial condition, and this makes it popular in most countries. It is expected that home-based patient monitoring is also going to become popular, as will remote surgery, which will involve surgery via robotics, with the surgeon in one location and the patient in another.