Telemedicine drives image sharing around the world

By Eric Wicklund
07:47 AM

The ability to transmit detailed images over long distances is fueling new telemedicine projects in Canada and China and making it possible for physicians to view images anywhere and consult regarding patients and treatments.

Pathologists at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles are consulting with their peers at Second Affiliated Hospital Zhejiang University (HZU) in Hangzhou, China, through scanning technology offered by Aperio, a Vista, Calif.-based developer of digital pathology solutions. In Canada’s Northwest Territories, meanwhile, 18 community health centers spread out over 1.3 million square miles are having their radiological images read by specialists at Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife within 15 minutes, thanks to digital imaging solutions from Rochester, N.Y.-based Carestream Health.

[See also: Canada’s Northwest Territories Implements Digital Imaging Solution From Carestream Health To Dramatically Improve Rural Healthcare.]

The two projects point to the latest advances in telemedicine, offering healthcare providers in remote locations the opportunity to share images and consult with specialists in real-time, rather than waiting days, weeks or even months for images to be e-mailed or sent by regular mail.

In Canada, the government of the Northwest Territories purchased and installed Carestream’s DIRECTVIEW Classic CR System and a CARESTREAM workstation at each community health center, then linked those stations with a PACS installed at Stanton Hospital. Each center serves between 250 and 3,000 people in communities above and below the Arctic Circle and operates with nurses who are either permanent staff or work on a rotating schedule.

In the past, film images had to be shipped hundreds of miles to the hospital. Now they’re forwarded from the workstation to a server, transmitted via satellite or microwave and read by clinicians in the territorial capital within 10-15 minutes.

“When community residents learned they had access to digital imaging, they were extremely appreciative.” Said Megan Mitchell, Stanton Territorial Health’s PACS administrator, who had to travel to each clinic to train personnel and who now has remote electronic access to each site so she can consult with the nurses and view screen displays. “The nurses recognize the enhanced quality offered by the CR system, and they don’t miss dealing with film processing and chemicals.”

“Digital imaging has helped all of our patients, particularly those with serious illnesses. Now practitioners can immediately assess a patient’s condition to determine what type of care is required and if a patient needs to be urgently transported to the nearest hospital,” said Jessica Young, projects coordinator in information services for the Canadian government’s Department of Health and Social Services. “Carestream Health overcame daunting logistics to transport and install equipment at these sites. Despite challenging conditions, this solution offers excellent image quality and rapid transmission times.”

In Los Angeles, more than 100 unusual or complex cases submitted by ZHU have been reviewed by sub-specialty experts in pathology at UCLA through the use of Aperio’s ScanScope scanners, Spectrum image management (PACS) software and remote viewing technology. The technology enables ZHU pathologists to capture a digital image at very high resolution of the entire tissue sample on a glass slide and share it with members of the UCLA staff.

Pathologists at both locations are also using the technology to participate in digital slide conferences, in which all participants can manipulate the slide and make notes that others can see. The hospitals are also conducting multi-disciplinary conferences.

“Digital pathology allows UCLA to offer the advanced skills of our sub-specialty pathologists to China in real time when a specific type of pathology expertise is needed quickly on a difficult or complex case,” said Jonathan Braun, MD, PhD, chairman of pathology and laboratory medicine and a professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Our collaboration illustrates how integral pathology is to patient outcomes. Pathologists have become influential partners in treatment. Digital pathology dramatically enhances our ability to provide patient-centered care.”

[See also: Laboratory IT systems poised for growth.]


“UCLA and ZHU selected the only true global leader in digital pathology that can deliver a complete remote consultation capability today,” said Dirk G. Soenksen, Aperio’s CEO. “Aperio is helping healthcare organizations of all types deliver sub-specialty pathology services via online access to top-notch virtual pathologists. Pathology expertise is just a mouse click away anywhere in the world to help ensure the best pathology services possible in a fast and cost-effective way.”