A team of Japanese experts says that the time has come when researchers should start working on a virtual medical care system that might support nursing staff, care managers and other healthcare workers.
The research team—including experts from Yamagata University, Yamagata College of Industry and Technology, and Fukuoka Institute of Technology—have revealed that they have already carried out successful field trials with a prototype remote medical care support centre they have developed.
Akio Koyama of Yamagata University revealed that the prototype could address some of important socio-economic problems like providing quality medical care for all citizens, even including the residents of small towns and rural areas.
The researchers pointed out that access to sophisticated healthcare has been mainly restricted to people in major conurbations to date, and those in areas are usually required to seek healthcare some distance from their homes.
"These trips can require hours of travel time for a relatively short examination, and thus are neither convenient nor an efficient use of the patient's time," says the team.
Even if healthcare workers with specialist knowledge have to travel to such remote areas, it would still not solve the problem at all levels, the team adds.
According to the researchers, the optimum solution could be to provide medical consultancy through information and communications technology.
They say that their remote system helps establish contact between a patient and healthcare worker through video conferencing, and allows the uploading of medical care data to a database.
The data thus uploaded would operate through the Internet or cell phone, and allow a remote doctor to give local healthcare workers valuable advice on what the patient requires.
Finally, the researchers talked about a subsystem that uses a network of sensors to monitor the progress of a drip infusion, and notify nursing staff of further requirements, which could then be passed on to a local carer.
They, however, concede that several technical aspects need due attention before such a remote medical care approach becomes workable—such as improvements in delays and throughput of video transfer during communications, diagnosis accuracy of the doctor agent, and the prediction accuracy of the drip infusion finishing time.
The team wrote about their approach in the International Journal of Web and Grid Services from Inderscience Publishers.