VitalLink 1200 links patient to physician - virtually
By Mike Hanlon
In June 1999, facing isolation throughout the five month Antarctic winter and as the only doctor at the South Pole at the time, Dr. Jerri Nielsen was forced to perform a biopsy on herself after discovering a potentially malignant tumour. After capturing digital images of the tumour cells and sending them via a satellite Internet connection to pathologists in the US for analysis, the results were discussed through videoconference and an airdrop of chemotherapy drugs enabled successful treatment to postpone surgery. What this tale brings home is the inherent danger in remote medical emergencies and the critical difference the use of modern communications devices can make - devices that are becoming more accessible and being specifically designed for such situations. The VitalLink 1200 System is a "Telemedicine" system designed to provide a direct virtual link between patient and physician by monitoring vital signs and transmitting the information via a wireless LAN connection. A doctor's ability to recommend a course of action from a remote location based on real-time information relating to the patient's temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygen level and cardiac functions, has obvious lifesaving implications for medical emergencies. The backpack-sized unit can be used to relay symptoms and changes in condition through text and voice communication as well as image and file transfer. The system consists of a Medical Unit that measures vital signs, a Patient Display Unit that displays them at a distance of up to 90 metres from the patient, a Communication Device, and a Medical Control Display Unit used by the physician to view data and communicate with the remote location. A wide range of operating conditions make the VitaLink 1200 suitable for use in aircraft and marine vessels as well as land locations such as public buildings and satellite or cellular phone connections are available. VitalLink is listed in the Australian Register Of Therapeutic goods and is distributed in Australia by TC Communications. The system costs AUS$25,000.
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