[Medical tele-imaging: a good chance for the future]

Bull Acad Natl Med. 1999;183(6):1123-34; discussion 1134-6.
[Article in French]


Tele-imaging is an important part of telemedicine: it includes the transmission of medical digital images and plays a role in all fields of telemedicine, such as expertise, consultation, teaching and research. Tele-imaging has been made possible through the digitalization of medical imaging. There are two possibilities: either digitalization of conventional radiological film or direct acquisition of digital images. The transmission of medical imaging requires a high data rate so as to obtain a good quality transmission of the initial images in a reasonable delay. In order to deal with the great amount of information to be stocked and transmitted, a compression of the data, without loss of information, is usually necessary. Interactivity is very important in all these types of transmissions. These tele-transmission techniques are already used world wide, especially in Japan and in the United States, to help in therapeutic or diagnostic decisions. In France, we have been performing real time interactive tele-imaging sessions between radiology and endocrinology departments of Hotel Dieu in Montréal and Hôpital Cochin in Paris. This experimental device includes a visual-conference link between the medical teams and a real time link between two CT scanners. The CT scanner slices appear simultaneously both CT scanner screens; it is even possible to guide a CT scanner examination using remote control from the other hospital. We have successfully repeated the experiment between Cochin and a private hospital in Paris. In the case of the "Prison de la Santé", we have been using telemedicine in order to reduce problematic transfers of prison inmates. Moreover, access to doctors in the prison is sometimes difficult. The system ensures the daily transmission of X-rays, which are immediately read by radiologists at Cochin. In the past, 50 to 70 X-rays had to be read during one weekly visit. Medical tele-imaging raises certain legal, ethical and economic issues, such as problems concerning confidentiality, the right to compensation, patient information. It would be interesting in this context to open a discussion on the possible dangers of telemedicine, its value for the patients and the physicians, its role in emergency care, and the possibility of creating imaging data storage that may help radiologists in making diagnoses, especially for unusual images. Drawbacks not to be ignored: Poor digital images could lead to difficulties in their reading and interpretation. There is still a debate as to whether tele-diagnosis is reliable or not. Further evaluations must be made to as certain the effectiveness of these techniques. A certain dehumanization of medicine due to an increase in the distance between the physician and patient is another difficult issue. The great number of people involved in the process of tele-imaging could confuse the issue of determining individual responsibility. Such consultations of experts may reduce the freedom of patients to choose their doctor. Tele-consultation must not be performed without the patient's consent. If consent was not obtained before tele-transmission, the patient should be informed after the procedure; and the use of tele-consultation should be mentioned in the report. The utilization of public networks could lead to the manipulation of data as well as undermine confidentiality. These pitfalls must be avoided. Lastly, the financial ramifications of these new technologies must not be overlooked.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Confidentiality
  • Emergencies
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Remote Consultation / trends
  • Telemedicine* / trends
  • Teleradiology* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Teleradiology* / trends
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • United States