Telemedicine provides medical expertise to remote places, which do not have the access to medical care. While individuals would prefer face-to-face interaction with doctors, telemedicine has become very popular in areas where specialist treatment is difficult to reach.
An example of the technology would be, a patient wearing a shirt that has embedded sensors and uses electro-optical fibers twined in the fabric used to collect 30 physiological signs. This information is sent to a transmitter at the base of the shirt where it is stored on a memory chip and transmitted to the specialist through a wireless network such as third – generation (3G) technology, radio frequency, wireless local area network, or cellular.
Telemedicine is playing one of the most crucial roles in healthcare industry and is emerging as the cutting edge technology in telecommunications. While the rest of the world is waiting for telecom to deliver viable high-speed mobile data services, wireless technologies such as 3G technology is quietly gaining ground all over the world.
3G – Heading towards a Medical Revolution
3G being a mobile telephone technology is associated with the developed world and considered the domain area of bigger and established enterprises. This technology with interactive video capabilities is gradually transforming wireless telecommunication. Already being offered in Japan and South Korea, in India the subscriber base has risen from 15.5 million in May 2003 to 53 million in 2005 with a continuous addition of 1.5 million to 2 million mobile subscribers every month. It is certain that India is likely to grow to an addressable market of 300 million people by 2010 and this shows the huge potential that 3G technology has in this region.
Wireless telemetry is becoming a standard practice in hospital settings. Telemedicine equipment being as simple as a mobile phone or a laptop computer with desktop video-conferencing facilities provide simultaneous two-way video, two-way voice, vital signs, cardiac and other data to a trauma center. Emergence of newer technology is making this possible and within reach of the remotest places on the globe very efficiently. Due to their ability to offer broad geographical coverage and widely deployed infrastructure, 3G wireless networks have expanded their reach and subsequently achieved a greater significance in telemedicine. With a data transfer rate in the range of 144 kbps to 2Mbps, telemedicine systems are able to transmit multiple types of medical information simultaneously.
Further, the growing telemedicine services in this region are expected to gain momentum due to favorable policies in the telecommunications industry thus creating demand for medical imaging equipment.
The currently viewed most promising applications of telemedicine are teleradiology, dermatology, retinal visual imaging, and cardiac care. Many initiatives of training physicians and specialists to use sophisticated telecomminucations is underway, especially physicians of developing countries.
Further more, Asia Pacific is emerging as an active region for the establishment of telemedicine ventures. Through a project in Indonesia and another one in association with the Malaysian government for constructing an information highway between the country's hospitals, United States providers of this service are quite active. Along with this, Multimedia Supercorridor is being promoted by the Malaysian government, which includes four pilot telemedicine projects.
There is huge potential for telemedicine in this part of the world including countries such as Taiwan, Singapore and Korea which would act as regional hubs that receive and diagnose the electronic images transmitting from distant areas. It would not be long before services such as telehomecare, clinical consults, telepharmacy, telesurgery and the like would be just a click away from anywhere and everywhere.
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