Objective: Our aim was to assess whether tertiary level screening fetal echocardiography can be extended to primary care facilities with telemedicine assistance.
Methods: Assessment of image quality and the adequacy of fetal echocardiograms recorded after random transmission at 128, 384, or 768 kbits/s was performed. Live fetal echocardiograms were transmitted at 384 kbits/s (3 integrated services digital network lines) from the remote primary care center. Patient satisfaction was assessed by surveys obtained after office-based and telemedicine consultations.
Results: A total of 58 recorded normal studies had similar image quality and adequacy on transmission at 384 and 768 kbits/s (P =.08 and.49, respectively) and were significantly better than 128 kbits/s (P <.01). During live screening transmitted at 384 kbits/s from the primary care center, 3 of 34 fetuses were diagnosed with heart disease. Surveys from patients with direct physician contact and by telemedicine showed a high satisfaction with telemedicine-assisted screening and counseling.
Conclusion: Adequate screening for fetal heart disease is technically feasible at or above data transmission rates of 384 kbits/s. Community acceptance for telemedicine-assisted screening and counseling is not adversely affected by a lack of direct personal contact with the specialist.