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September 30, 2017

Telemedicine can assist in improving remote medical education

Telemedicine – remote care – has many promises. Many recent studies have shown the advantages of telemedicine. It makes life easier for both patients and caretakers. It has a positive effect on both environmental and travel costs. it offers access to caretakers in remote areas and limits the time involved for a traditional consult. And it can assist in broadening medical education, a new study finds.

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Telementoring—defined as mentoring by means of telecommunication and computer networks—can be used for remote education of healthcare professionals. Furthermore, it is rapidly establishing itself as a valuable asset in medicine and education. The study published by BMJ Journals had the aim to establish a financially and practically feasible, stable telementoring network using wearables for sterile and hands-free remote control, to be used during surgical procedures.

Facilities in Netherlands, Spain connected

For the study, two stand-alone computer systems, located at the AMC academic hospital in the Netherlands and at a surgical research facility in Spain, were connected using TeamViewer software allowing for remote, hands-free controlling of radiological images using Myo gesture control armband. The operating surgeon consulted the remote surgeon through an audio, video and desktop sharing system during a live surgical procedure on a single porcine model. The system was analysed for feasibility and connection quality.

The sensors used were commercially available and relatively cheap, with the integrating computer system being responsible for the majority of costs. A successful connection was established without any downtime and with only a minor time lag, not interfering with the telementoring procedures. The operating surgeon effectively consulted with and was mentored by the remote surgeon, through video, audio and the desktop sharing system, using the wearable sensors.

The price of the separate sensors was relatively cheap with the Myo gesture control armband available around €200 and the Plantronics Voyager Legend headset at €70. They were included in research combination package with the TedCube, of which the price range including all licenses is dependent on the version of the system, varying around €10?000. In combination with mostly free and readily available software including Skype and TeamViewer, the main costs for this procedure are those of the TedCube.

Wearable sensors usable for handsfree interaction

This experiment, the authors conclude, shows the feasibility of using wearable sensors in combination with TedCube technology for hands-free computer interaction during surgery and telementoring. The combination of wearable sensors, an integrating device and internet-based remote desktop sharing software proves a feasible set-up for telementoring in situations when sterility for both the mentor and the mentee is necessary, and distance needs to be overcome.

While future studies need to determine the security demands to be set for internet networks and software used to transfer patient data, the use of readily available telecommunication technology is pragmatic and useful in the experimental set-up.

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