Telemedicine offers better picture for patient care

Madrid 20 July 2006A new telemedicine platform promises to greatly improve the quality of care patients receive by giving highly qualified specialists the ability to collaborate efficiently when interpreting data from advanced medical imaging techniques. Tested extensively during the TENPET project, the telecommunications and tele-consultation platform is due to start being deployed commercially from September 2006, offering physicians across Europe and beyond the ability to quickly obtain second opinions and allowing them to work together efficiently to interpret Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans and other medical images.

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"Though the platform has been designed with PET in mind, it could be used for exchanging and interpreting medical data produced with any imaging technology, from magnetic resonance imaging to ultrasound", explained George Kontaxakis, the co-ordinator of the project, which was funded under the European Commission's eTEN programme.

George Kontaxakis noted, however, that the consortium saw a "clear need" for greater collaboration particularly in the field of PET, a nuclear medicine imaging technology that uses radio-active tracers to produce three-dimensional maps of functional processes in the body. The technology can be used to detect a variety of diseases and disorders from cancerous tumours to neurological problems.

With the TENPET platform physicians are able to collaborate on diagnosis by sharing patient scans and information across organisational and geographical divides. The result is an increase in efficiency, lower costs for health care providers and better care for patients. "Even the most experienced physician can sometimes need a second opinion. The TENPET platform gives them the ability to obtain that extra input quickly and easily", George Kontaxakis noted.

The Internet-based platform, which has its origins in the TeleInViVo project, the winner of the 2001 European IST Prize, uses secure socket layer (SSL) technology and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to protect the data being exchanged, while incorporating Jabber protocols for instant messaging and data transmission between physicians. An advanced imaging console is used for interpreting the scans.

Extensive trials last year at four PET units in Spain, France and Germany proved the effectiveness of the platform in overcoming barriers to collaboration. "The physicians who tested the system liked it a lot. After some initial technical problems were solved they found it very useful overall", the co-ordinator explained.

The trial sites in France and Spain are continuing to use the platform, while the project partners are also discussing deploying it at other PET units in Greece, Germany and Switzerland. "We are currently redesigning some aspects of the system and incorporating some new innovations. We should have a final version after summer which we will use to demonstrate it extensively as a first step toward widespread commercialisation", George Kontaxakis stated.

For more information you can contact George Kontaxakis, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, E.T.S.I. Telecomunicación, D.I.E., Ciudad Universitaria s/n, E-28040 Madrid, Spain, Tel: +34-91-4533544, Fax: +34-91-3367323, or visit the TENPET project Web site.

This article has been reprinted from the IST Results Web site.


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