Universal Access to Health Services Through the Digital Terrestrial Television

Universal Access to Health Services Through the Digital Terrestrial Television

Aldo Franco Dragoni (Dipartimento di Ingegneria dell’Informazione, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 37
DOI: 10.4018/jitr.2013010104
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Abstract

The Western World has almost completed the transition toward the Digital Television (DTV), and in particular toward the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). In every home there is at least one decoder for the DTT. Some of them have a modem, to connect to a telephonic return line, and a Smart Card reader, both required by the “Pay TV” channels. Since those readers are compatible with the Governmental Smart Cards, a new access for the masses to secure and confidential digital services is nowadays available in our Information Society. “T-Government” defines the set of services provided by Governments or private entities via DTT. “Multimedia Home Platform” is the standard for DTT applications. A Local Health will be no more justified for offering services only through the Web disregarding both the broadcast and the return channels of the DTT since by doing so it would contribute to deepen the “digital divide” between skilled (young) people and unskilled (elder) people. The author defines a scenario for providing such T-Health Services both for patients (T-monitoring health parameters) and healthy citizens. These latter will have a bunch of services over DTT, not only informative or interactive applications on the Set top Box, but also transactional services through the secure return channel. However, much effort has to be spent to guarantee the usability of that new interface which is quite different from that of a Web application. The author designed, tested and redesigned a suite of DTT applications as a “proof of concept” to show the potential of this new platform for health information services. DTT may represent a real contribution to bring social healthcare and wellness.
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Introduction

Western World has almost completed the transition toward the digital television, and in particular toward the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) (García Leiva, 2006). Thanks to the presence of a modem and of a reader of smart cards, some decoders may provide a new access for the masses to the digital Information Society. They can bring simple transactional services through the secure return (telephonic) channel. Quoting from (Ko, 2013):

... changed the TV transmission from one-way broadcasting to two-way communications. The combination of TV broadcasting and internet creates a variety of services such as high definition content and personal video recorder, etc. In the near future, TV can also provide interactive services such as interactive gaming, education and voting.

The DTT software is almost universally based on an open standard called “Multimedia Home Platform” (MHP) (ETSI, 2003). MHP applications are written in Java and are called “Xlets” (see (Morris, 2005) for a complete introduction to Interactive TV Standards). They are broadcast by the TV operators inside the MPEG video stream, so they do not need to be installed on the Set Top Box (STB) and are independent from its operating system, thus being immediately available in every home. On the STB there is an embedded “Application Manager” (which comes with the operating system of the STB) whose task is that of managing the life cycle of the Xlet, which is quite like an applet and has methods to let the Application Manager init, start, pause and kill itself.

The expression “T-Government” means “E-Government over the DTT”, and it defines the set of services provided by Governments or private entities through the DTT (Gunter, 2004). The services include information, requests for personal certificates, payments, utilities (municipal property tax, taxes, fines) and services to participate (eg TV polls on the work of public administrations) (Weerakkody, 2008; King, 2007).

After this epochal change, Local Healthcares should not disregard the return channel of the DTT as a platform to distribute their services (as they are currently doing through the Web). This because elderly people, which are not comfortable with personal computers and the Internet, are instead used to the TV and its handset; the idea should be simply that of bringing all the important informative and interactive services over a suite of Xlets.

The potential of DTT to support personal health care and wellness of individuals, namely elderly people, has recently been investigated by some european projects as the portuguese “iDTV HEALTH” (Baptista, 2013) and the spanish “T-Asisto” (briefly described in the book, Martinho (2013)). These first results suggest that DTT may represent a real contribution to bring healthcare and wellness to the target population, namely as a supplement to health services provision.

The local television stations are clearly the partners that should work with local health authorities to bring health services to the citizens through the DTT. As japaneese researchers noticed (Koga-Browes, 2012):

There is increasing acknoledgement that change in the relationship between central and local broadcasters is inevitable.

We believe that this change could help local broadcasters to survive the digital television tsunami and avoid what happened, for instance, in Vietnam, where the number of players is reduced from 67 to 3 national DTT broadcasters and 5 regional DTT stations (Tran, 2011).

A main problem with this project is that of ensuring the usability of such Xlets. To anticipate the importance of this problem, as a negative example we remember that in 2005 we took almost six months to realize that developing an Xlet to browse the Web over the return line of the DTT would be quite a nonsense, since it is almost impossible to navigate the Internet through a very limited input device as the remote control (instead of the powerful PCs’ couple keyboard/mouse or smartphones’ capacitive touchscreen) and with a low resolution monitor as the TV screen (but other researchers tried to develop a browser for the DTT, see (Amerini, 2010)).

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