The technology, which allows for the transmission of high quality video to multiple locations in real time, may enable doctors from different hospitals across the world to collaborate on a surgery, without having to actually be in the operation theatre.
The technology was recently tested by a team led by the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, which has now been joined by researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology.
An endoscopic surgery at the University of Puerto Rico was broadcast to multiple locations in the U.S. with the aid of a high-speed network.
The experiment also included a multipoint videoconference that was connected to the video stream, allowing for live interaction between participants.
"The University of Puerto Rico has been performing this type of transmission between two sites for more than a year, but we are now able to utilize a combination of technologies that allows us to transmit to multiple sites simultaneously," says Jose Conde, director of the Center for Information Architecture in Research at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus.
"Being isolated geographically from major research centers, we need to use information technology to foster research collaborations with scientists around the world," Conde adds.
Gurcharan Khanna, director of research computing at RIT and a member of the research team, says: "Previous efforts in telemedicine have been hampered by the quality of the video stream produced and the potential for network interruptions. This test demonstrates that by using the speed and advanced protocols support provided by the Internet2 network, we have the potential to develop real-time, remote consultation and diagnosis during surgery, taking telemedicine to the next level."
The research team used a 30-megabit-per-second broadcast quality video stream so as to produce high quality images, and configured it to be transmitted via multicast using Microsoft Research's ConferenceXP system.
They also used a Polycom videoconferencing system to connect all parties.
The results of the test were presented at a meeting of the collaboration special interest group at the fall 2008 Internet2 member meeting in New Orleans.
The team is currently preparing for additional tests with different surgical procedures and an expanded number of remote locations.
Their objective is to ultimately transfer the technology for use in medical education and actual diagnostic applications.
"Today, physicians often need to travel to both examine patients and conduct consultations. Given the growing capacity of Internet technologies, the development of live remote consultation with high quality video could revolutionize medicine and greatly enhance the care patients can receive while reducing overall costs to the health care system," says Khanna.