Imagine the advantages of being able to send high-definition video of a patient from an ambulance to a hospital via cell phone. It will happen nation-wide in Japan from next April.
A collaborative project by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), the Tsukuba Medical Centre Hospital, and the Tsukuba Fire Headquarters has developed such a system that can do just this. Simply at the flick of a switch, paramedics will activate the system to enable a hospital doctor to examine a patient via remote control video camera using the new technology that has made it possible to compress high-definition image data sufficiently to allow its transmission via cell phone.
According to national statistics in Japan, it takes an average of 21 minutes to transport an emergency patient to hospital. These high-definition images though, will make it possible for doctors at the receiving hospital to give critical, timesaving and appropriate advice to paramedics, with obvious positive implications for the survival prospects of the patient.
To implement the system, ambulances will need to be modified to carry a video camera, laptop computer and special antenna, and AIST say the system will be tested in the city by the end of the year and will go on sale nation-wide in April.
This is the first time we have heard of video from a moving vehicle being used for medical diagnosis and treatment. Fixed-location use of video is now becoming common place, in deed a story in News.com this summer highlighted the importance of being able to avail of expert instructions remotely, when cardiac surgery on a patient in Guam was led by physician, Dr. Benjamin Berg in front of a computer screen 3,500 miles away at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. He dictated the procedure to a less experienced colleague, monitoring every move with a high-resolution video camera.
AIST already has a track record in using technology to advance medical practice, having developed a therapeutic robot seal called PARO in collaboration with Microjenics. In February 2002, the Guinness Book of Records acknowledged the PARO robot as the most therapeutic robot in the world. AIST has licensed all PARO’s intellectual property rights to its affiliated venture company Intelligent System (ISC), who plan to introduce the robot to nursing homes for the elderly.