Integrated mobile telemedical systems: current status and future prospects

Toronto 21 June 1999 At the first day of the comprehensive InterMed'99 event in Canada Professor Robert Istepanian from the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom held a lecture on the subject of hybrid signals processing technologies for the next generation of wireless telemedicine systems. VMW Magazine kindly would like to thank Professor Istepanian for providing us with an abstract of the issues which were tackled in his presentation.

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At the first day of the comprehensive InterMed'99 event in Canada Professor Robert Istepanian from the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom held a lecture on the subject of hybrid signals processing technologies for the next generation of wireless telemedicine systems. VMW Magazine kindly would like to thank Professor Istepanian for providing us with an abstract of the issues which were tackled in his presentation.

Telemedicine which is broadly defined as the use of telecommunication infrastructures to provide medical information and health care delivery at a distant, is an emerging field in health care that could have revolutionary impact on the delivery of medical care world-wide [1]. There has been extensive research in different clinical areas of telemedicine applications in the last decade [1]. These included the use of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) for the transmission of medical data and video images to provide medical consultation services [2,3]. However, such applications are for communications between fixed stations and are not applicable to mobile patients who are free to move around in different environments.

In recent years and with the explosive consumer use of digital cellular technology networks, there have also been a rapidly growing commercial market for digital mobile telephones and the adoption of the relevant digital cellular standards, such as D-AMPS (Digital Advance Mobile Phone Systems); USA based, GSM (Global System for Mobile communications); European based, PDC (Personal Digital Cellular); Japanese based and the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access); USA based. These standards are known as the second generation communication systems. Wireless and mobile technology are currently having a powerful impact on the way different health care organisations are delivering health care to their customers. Cellular digital networks, in-building wireless and portable information system appliances are extending the reach, range and manoeuvrability of applications and content [4]. The emergence of personal mobile telemedicine systems using wireless links with video capabilities is imminent in the next few years [5].

The concept of including data and high speed services with the voice services is emerging as one of the main points of the future telecommunication priorities. Keeping this in mind, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has developed a concept known as IMT-2000 (International Mobile Telecommincations-2000) for the third generation systems. The third generation systems or the "3G" systems demand the necessity and requirements of supporting these high speed services which would make them more attractive for mobile telephone subscribers. The applications of new standards like wideband CDMA (W-CDMA); ETSI and ARIB; UWC136; and cdma2000, have widely been discussed by various standardisation bodies and this list is definitely not conclusive. By the time the third generation mobile technology comes to market in 2001, the mobile revolution will have realised some 600 million users. The vast majority of these will use second-generation GSM and D-AMPS technology.

However, this popularity and advances in cellular digital mobile systems are not paralleled with similar developments in the wider use and integration of such systems for wireless telemedicine applications. Advocates of telemedicine forecast that the next few years will see the development of global grid of medical providers and consumers linked by mobile telecommunication networks for the exchange of medical information and remote health care delivery with high quality and at affordable cost. The recent advances in telemedicine applications are propelled by two converging megatrends; advances in enabling technologies and telecommunications and the increasing demand for access to high-quality medical care irrespective of location or geographical mobility. The next step in the evolution of telemedicine will be mobile telemedicine systems and the advances in mobile telecommunications technologies will enable the achievement of these goals [7].

In recent years, several mobile telemedicine studies with applications exploiting the cellular telecommunication technologies were presented [8-12]. The specific contributions are of two fold. First, to describe wireless communication as used for mobile communication in the health sector and to discuss the trends in future personal communication services and to highlight actual uses of mobile communications and telematic services in the health care domain. The second will address the design and integration issues of mobile telemedicine applications based on European (GSM) and North American (IS-136) cellular telephonic standards detailing the modelling and design issues of a general modular structure of GSM-based mobile telecardiology system. The second addresses the compression issues and new signal processing algorithmic methodologies that can be integrated within the wireless design process to optimise the performance and to enhance the integration of such systems under different mobility conditions.

These concepts will provide the telemedicine providers with a better understanding of the engineering aspects and the compatibility issues of the future mobile standards and their integration with the next generation of mobile telemedicine applications for enhanced quality, better performance, and flexibility of mobile telehealth systems.

Acknowledgement:

This work is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council (EPSRC), UK under grant (REF: GR/L50419).

References:

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  10. R. H. Istepanian, Woodward B, Gorilas E, and Balos P. Design of Mobile telemedicine systems using GSM and IS-54 cellular telephone standards. J. Telemedicine and Telecare, 4, Suppl 1., 80-82, 1998.
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Dr. Robert Istepanian

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