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J Telemed Telecare. 2012 Dec;18(8):473-5. doi: 10.1258/jtt.2012.GTH111. Epub 2012 Dec 3.

Practical experience of telehealth between an Antarctic station and Japan.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Tokatsu Hospital, Nagareyama, Chiba, Japan. geka-oonog@tokyo-kinikai.com


The Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE) has had a presence in Antarctica since 1956. The Syowa station is 15,000 km from Japan and evacuation of patients is impossible during the winter months. From 1956 to 2003, a total of 4932 telemedical consultations were undertaken, i.e. every member of the station needed an average of 4 medical consultations each winter. Forty five percent of the consultations were surgical or orthopaedic cases, 23% were for internal medicine and 12% were for dental problems. In the early 1980s, satellite radio-telephony was found to be useful for consultations, but did not have the ability to transmit medical pictures. Email was transmitted by the International Mobile Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) but the connection was only available every 2 hours and the maximum message size was 100 kByte. In 2004, the International Telecommunications Satellite (INTELSAT) system made a connection constantly available, and increased the maximum message size to 10 MByte. Transmission of still and moving pictures became possible. Scheduled consultations are performed monthly. A doctor in Japan can ask the patient questions and perform a proxy examination with the assistance of the Antarctic doctor. Real-time telemedicine is very effective in orthopaedic and surgical cases, skin, eye and dental troubles. Still pictures are more effective for understanding in detail skin and eye problems. Emergency consultations are effective if adequate consulting staff are available.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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