Distributed Acquisition of Digital Images in a Rural Setting
Hospitals of less than 100 beds constitute over half of hospitals in the West South Central US. These hospitals can seldom afford to maintain a full-time radiologist on staff, and thus depend largely on intermittent interpretation by itinerant radiologists. Acquisition of images from these hospitals in digital form and transmission to a central location for remote diagnosis would provide continuous and emergent coverage with response times similar to large hospitals. Routine interpretation of digitized images from a group of small hospitals will generate a library of images that exceeds the number found in a large hospital. We are engaged in development and installation of a distributed network to collect and interpret images from 6 rural hospitals and 1 mobile CT facility. Design of the network requires assumptions regarding the volume of images produced by each hospital. Design decisions include spatial resolution necessary for diagnosis, data compression, transmission rate, mode of transmission, features of the radiologist’s workstation, and method of archival storage. A distributed acquisition system can be installed and operated in a cost-effective manner using existing technology. System design and cost are affected dramatically by transmission rate. The required transmission rate can be determined empirically with minimum capital expenditure.
KeywordsTeleradiology Rural Radiology Telemedicine
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