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Telemedicine Network Operational

Malaysia has rolled out a fully operational telemedicine network in the first phase of a national plan to bring high quality public healthcare services to remote areas.

WorldCare Health Malaysia Sdn Bhd, the company commissioned to set up the network, touts it as the first virtual private network (VPN) of its kind in the world with nationwide coverage.

The network allows patients to hook up from 37 “spokes” – clinics, medical centers and district hospitals across the country – to four “hub” hospitals, and confer with physicians via computers for diagnosis and treatment.

“The technology does away with the inconvenience of physically transferring patients for second opinions and follow-ups. Trained medical officers can now transmit patient information in video, voice and data via linked medical instruments and imaging systems to the major hospital concerned,” said Dinesh Nair, WorldCare’s R&D; director.

Core Technology

The WorldCare network is based on the OpenMed Capture family of products, a core technology application powering telemedicine networks worldwide. It was first developed by eHealthEngines, Inc, a spin-off from WorldCare Health’s affiliated company WorldCare Ltd in the US.

Using a high-performance film digitizer, OpenMed Capture converts X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound images into a digital format for transmission from a single Windows NT workstation. A standard document scanner, digital camera, electronic stethoscope and electrocardiogram (ECG) can also be attached to send patient histories, medical reports, images, audio, notes, lab results, EKGs and charts.

“The software grabs these images from the devices, and compresses and encrypts them before sending them to the destination hospital. There, the information is decrypted and decompressed and transformed into a Web-viewable format. You would only need a regular browser to view the medical data,” he said (see Fig).

Nair added that film-based images are also sent to a DICOM diagnostic workstation for viewing on high-resolution monitors for radiologists to make a diagnosis. DICOM, or Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine, is the industry standard for transferring radiologic images and other medical information between computers.

“All our remote sites are connected through an IP Security protocol (IPSec)-based virtual private network. What we’ve done is to leverage off the global Internet and build our VPN on top of this, thus benefitting from the distributed nature of the Internet,” said Nair.

by Julian Matthews, Kuala Lumpur

(July 2001 Issue, Nikkei Electronics Asia)

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