We compared the accuracy of a low-cost teleradiology system with plain film at a small rural hospital. The comparison was a case-control, paired-comparison study. In total 377 consecutive cases were read prospectively by teleradiology and later by independent interpretation of the plain films. 'Truth' was determined in discrepant cases by further investigation of available records and images. Sensitivity and specificity were determined for each modality, and agreement using the kappa statistic. There was 90% agreement between teleradiology and plain film, with no significant differences. Sensitivities (0.88, 0.89) and specificities (0.98, 0.98) of the two methods were almost identical. McNemar's test indicated no significant differences in the accuracy of the two modalities. We conclude that inexpensive teleradiology for small rural hospitals is equivalent to plain film for radiologists' interpretation.