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A Tonic for Telemedicine

THE CUTTING EDGE

Health: The use of technology to provide care remotely is slowly gaining a foothold. New FCC funding should speed the process.

June 16, 1997|JUBE SHIVER Jr. | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"It made a great impression on me at the computer technology conference I attended this winter in California," Hundt recently told a National Library of Medicine gathering in Washington. "Conference participants were invited to strap themselves in for medical exams from [doctors] 3,000 miles away. . . . One hundred apparently healthy people volunteered. The unexpected result was that of those 100, 15 were found to have serious previously undiagnosed medical problems, including diabetes, hypertension and an eye tumor."

Indeed, telemedicine is producing real benefits, experts say, even in the most difficult of environments.

In a study involving private, military and Native American health-care facilities in Alaska, the University of Alaska at Anchorage is using a network of 9.6 kilobyte-per-second modems to facilitate remote patient diagnosis and transfer radiology images among health-care facilities.

"Nobody is going to build fiber-optic lines to some of these remote clinics," said Frederick W. Pearce, director of the laboratory at the University of Alaska that is supervising the project, "so we have to think of more practical uses for the technology we have available now."

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Jube Shiver Jr. covers telecommunications from The Times' Washington bureau. He can be reached at jube.shiver@latimes.com

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