SAMTA will develop an openscaleable architecture for multimedia telemedicine applications allowing system designers to choose features which make appropriate use of available network bandwidth. Such a scaleable architecture improves the safety of investment for telemedicine users when faced with an uncertain future regarding the availability and cost of network infrastructures.
SAMTA is a European Union funded research project within the INCO-COPERNICUS programm (Project Number PL961144).
The availability of telemedicine services has thepotential to both reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of diagnosis and treatment. Typical telemedicine applications include the consultation of remote specialists and the transmission of a digital patient record as a part of patient referral to a different healthcare institution. Telemedicine services also provide the important component of implicit continuing education for the involved users.
Critical to the adoption of telemedicine services is the seamless migration from low speed to high speed network technology. Although broadband networks (e.g. ATM) are likely to become available in EU countries within the next few years, many CEC/NIS countries will have to wait much longer. Furthermore, many rural EU regions will also only have access to narrowband networks for some time to come (e.g. telephone and ISDN).
SAMTA will develop an open scaleable architecture for multimedia telemedicine applications allowing system designers choose features which make appropriate use of available network bandwidth. Such a scaleable architecture improves the safety of investment for telemedicine users when faced with an uncertain future regarding the availability and cost of network infrastructures.
Most telemedicine applications are inherently multimedia applications; still images, sound, signals, video and structured textual data can all form part of the patient record. The use of digital diagnostic imaging as an important information source is increasing and represents a very high proportion of the bandwidth required for telemedicine services. Without compression, the quantity of data causes many telemedicine applications to be impractical due to time constraints, or uneconomic due to telecommunication costs. Although standards are available for image communication they are focused on high speed networks and provide less than adequate capability within a low speed network environment.
SAMTA will provide further impulses to the ongoing standardisation activities by developing and evaluating compression technology for both images and signals and providing proposals for the extension of existing standards suitable for application in network environments ranging from low speed telephone modems to high speed ATM.
The novel compression technologies developed will be integrated into a telemedicine application based on the open scaleable architecture and both demonstrated and evaluated at the two CEC partner locations in the demanding area of cardiac imaging which has one of the highest data rates of all medical imaging subspecialties. Furthermore, based on the evaluation, guidelines will be published for an open scaleable architecture for telemedicine applications together with recommendations for lossy compression in clinical environments.
The SAMTA project consortium brings together the complementary image compression expertise and "narrowband" telemedicine experience of a CEC partner (KTU in Lithuania), enhanced by the medical expertise and clinical evaluation of a further CEC partner (CORPUSNET in Hungary), with the experience of the two EU partners in ISDN and "broadband" ATM based telemedicine (OFFIS in Germany and ETIAM in France).