The private Swiss company, European Medical Network AG, has initiated a pilot project in order to distribute distance learning applications to physicians in Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. Deutsche Telekom, the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS), IBM, and the Fantastic Corporation are the participating members in the initiative. Since the project involves satellite technology, the European Space Agency (ESA) will act as the major sponsor. Fantastic's CEC Pro and MediaSurfer software have been selected to support the medical training.
Cost-effectiveness and sufficient bandwidth capacity constitute the two main advantages of supplying distance learning tools via digital satellite broadcast. In this way, it is possible to substitute the conventional classroom teaching methods which are commonly used in the Continuing Medical Education (CME) for physicians with high-resolution, interactive and broadband programmes. New prevailing trends in legislation prescribe the introduction of mandatory CME initiatives for general practitioners all over Europe. About 1.2 million practising physicians would benefit from the EMN project.
IBM will provide each participating doctor with a pre-configured multimedia PC. A satellite dish will be installed by Deutsche Telekom. A special cable will be delivered in case the physician would like to establish an additional connection between the PC and his television. Deutsche Telekom will also offer an Internet Service Provider (ISP) account to every participant in order to create a back-channel for interactive communication. The multimedia PC will incorporate the MediaSurfer programme, developed by the Fantastic Corporation, as well as IBM's Lotus Learning Space teleteaching software.
The distance learning modules will be directly transmitted in an audio/video stream via satellite into the physician's PC or television. At the start, the medical education will consist of four different programmes that will involve training, new medical developments, news from the industry, and general information. Each module will be delivered in a linear video format in three languages, which are English, French and German. An interactive format will only be available in English. The test period will take a minimum of four weeks.
The EMN project will be able to reach physicians in dispersed and remote locations, using the innovative Broadband Multimedia software solution, which has been developed by the Fantastic Corporation. This company was founded in February 1996 by the team that has been responsible for the first commercial data broadcasting system for personal computers.