between 1990 and 1995 (Allen and Perednia, 1996). The review also suggested that teleradiology installations were growing at a similar pace, although getting accurate data on these programs has not been easy, in part because vendors have been reluctant to release sales information (Franken, 1996).

Newspapers, medical newsletters, and other sources document the development of the Internet as a vehicle for the formal and informal provision of medical advice. An increasing number of health-related organizations are establishing World Wide Web pages (including a number of programs described in this report),4 and a variety of individuals and groups have created less formal "chat groups" and other links that respond to many consumers for greater self-determination in medical care.5

The diversity of telemedicine demonstration projects is suggested by the 19 projects funded by the Office of Rural Health Policy (see Appendix A). The discussion below, which includes some of these projects, further illustrates the range of clinical applications of telemedicine. It includes both common and relatively uncommon applications. Some examples focus on clinical specialties (e.g., radiology) whereas others focus on populations or sites of care (e.g., prisons). Most programs have received governmental grants or other public subsidies, but some are essentially self-sustaining. This diversity underscores the challenge of designing evaluation strategies, measures, and data collection methods to fit different settings, populations, clinical conditions, and objectives.

Teleradiology

As indicated earlier, the most common current applications of telemedicine (other than general telephone and fax communications) appear to involve radiologic image transmission within and among

4  

Health information sources on the World Wide Web can be searched using a variety of "search engines" such as Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com/Health/) and EINet (http://einet.net/galaxy/Medicine.html) and other sources such as the Telemedicine Information Exchange (http://tie.telemed.org) and Medical Matrix (http://www.slackinc.com/matrix). The latter site is sponsored by the American Medical Informatics Association's Internet Working Group.

5  

One committee member cited a chat-group participant from Taiwan who described a relative with an illness the local doctors had not diagnosed; suggestions made by other participants assisted the subsequent local diagnosis (John Scott, personal communication, February 6, 1995).



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