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J Am Coll Surg. 2000 Aug;191(2):196-203.

Evaluation of the effectiveness of portable low-bandwidth telemedical applications for postoperative followup: initial results.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.



The idea of using telemedical applications to evaluate patients remotely is several decades old. It has already been established that x-ray images (and magnetic resonance images) can be transferred using a personal computer and a modem, and many other such applications have been implemented. Over the past 50 years the expense and technical demands of the equipment involved in telemedicine have hindered its widespread deployment. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the ability of a mobile, low-bandwidth telemedicine platform to achieve real-time postoperative visits in the home.


This evaluation was designed to evaluate the feasibility of performing a real-time clinical visit with computer and telecommunications hardware and software. A nurse and medical student (for information gathering only) made postoperative visits at patients' homes while the physician stayed at the office. Clinical evaluations were performed by using low-resolution and frame-rate video, high-resolution still images, and simultaneous telephony over a standard telephone line. These remote visits were followed by a standard visit in the office. Eleven patients were included, all of whom had undergone various laparoscopic procedures. They lived 5 to 240 miles from their surgeon. Efficiency was measured by recording the time required to capture and send data required by the physician to make a clinical decision. The time expense was measured at both the patients' and physician's locations. Technical issues were evaluated and patient satisfaction was assessed by standardized objective questionnaires. The accuracy of the evaluation at the remote visit was determined with a standard office visit.


No technical problems were observed. The mean total time of the housecall at the remote site was 86 minutes (range 60 to 160 minutes) and at the base station site was 41 minutes (range 21 to 71 minutes). After personnel became familiar with the system, the last three visits averaged 61 and 25 minutes at the two sites, respectively. This corresponds favorablywith current time requirements for visiting nurses and office visits. The patients were highly satisfied with the home visit and, on average, rated the experience as 4.8 out of a maximum of 5.


Followup visits in patients' homes after laparoscopic procedures can be accomplished by transmitting simultaneous voice, low-resolution video, and high-resolution still images to accurately perform postoperative evaluations over standard telephone lines, with time requirements and clinical accuracy similar to those of standard visits.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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