A digital image is taken using a digital camera, (‘stored’) and then sent (‘forwarded’) to another location. This is typically used for non–emergent situations, when a diagnosis or consultation may be made in the next 24 – 48 hours and sent back. The image may be transferred within a building, between two buildings in the same city, or from one location to another anywhere in the world. Teleradiology, the sending of x–rays, CT scans, or MRIs (store–and–forward images) is the most common application of telemedicine in use today. There are hundreds of medical centers, clinics, and individual physicians who use some form of teleradiology. Many radiologists are installing appropriate computer technology in their homes, so they can have images sent directly to them for diagnosis, instead of making an off–hours trip to a hospital or clinic.
Telepathology is another common use of this technology. Images of pathology slides may be sent from one location to another for diagnostic consultation. Dermatology is also a natural for store and forward technology, (although practitioners are increasingly using interactive technology for dermatological exams). Digital images may be taken of skin conditions, and sent to a dermatologist for diagnosis.
The other widely used technology, two–way interactive television (IATV), is used when a ‘face–to–face’ consultation is necessary. It is usually between the patient, their provider and a specialist, but may be any combination of the three
Use of IATV includes using high end Videoconferencing cameras and a number of codecs to facilitate the transfer of voice and moving images using either the satellite links or other telecommunication links such as ISDN lines or leased circuits provided by technology manufacturers.
Other emerging trends are the use of mobile satellite links which can make the availability of remote consultations easier in cases where medical services are unavailable, like villages in India where even the nearby medical centers are distant enough for patients to avail their facilities.