The Application of Telepresence in Medicine
Telemedicine has been defined most clearly as ‘the use of electronic information and communications technologies to provide and support health care when distance separates the participants’ . Applications of telemedicine in remote consultation fall into two broad categories — store and forward of electronic patient-related information for remote diagnosis, and real-time interactive remote consultation between geographically separate clinicians or patient and clinician. Store-and-forward applications are the fastest growing area of commercial telemedical services, for example, the managed radiological case-reporting service offered by Worldcare Ltd . Patient-related images or case reports are transmitted to a remote expert clinician for report back within 6 to 48 hours. Store-and-forward applications are not explored in this chapter since the remote expert is not telepresent during a consultation. This chapter details the BT trials and pilot schemes which have helped to establish the credentials for real-time medical telepresence. It highlights technical solutions to clinical concerns which can change real-time teleconsultation from an interesting technology for enthusiasts to a potentially important means of making more effective use of limited human resources, leading to improved patient care at acceptable costs.
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