Virtual Telemedicine Using Natural Language Processing

Virtual Telemedicine Using Natural Language Processing

Imran Sarwar Bajwa (The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan)
DOI: 10.4018/jitwe.2010010103
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Abstract

Conventional telemedicine has limitations due to the existing time constraints in the response of a medical specialist. One major reason is that telemedicine based medical facilities are subject to the availability of a medical expert and telecommunication facilities. On the other hand, communication using telecommunication is only possible on fixed and appointed time. Typically, the field of telemedicine exists in both medical and telecommunication areas to provide medical facilities over a long distance, especially in remote areas. In this article, the authors present a solution for ‘virtual telemedicine’ to cope with the problem of the long time constraints in conventional telemedicine. Virtual Telemedicine is the use of telemedicine with the methods of artificial intelligence.
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1. Introduction

Telecommunication is the most used technology all over the world in current age and still establishing a long way. This technology has made things to do in an easy and fast manner. Now enhancements in technology have made our thoughts to drag fields of life into advance technology. From last few years, alphabet ‘e’ is being used with almost everything i.e., e-mail, e-learning, e-commerce, e-banking and e-services. The proposal of ‘e-health’ is still new and asks for more development. Medical is the field that is emerging continuously to make health facilities more affective and facilitating. Telemedicine (Khalid, Akbar, Kumar, Tariq, & Farooq, 2008) is the need of current age to provide health facilities in the remote areas where medical experts, doctors and physicians are not available. Telemedicine uses telecommunication technology to provide medical treatment and services. Telemedicine connects patients with doctors where distance is a critical factor and exchanges the information of diagnosis, treatment and other health care activities.

Telemedicine becomes more significant if the patient is far away from the medical experts and faces transportation challenges. On the other hand it is helpful way of getting medical treatment at home. Health care facilities can be improved for a specific community: children, old people, plague disease, etc. Telemedicine can become moiré effective in emergency cases and areas of natural disasters. Still, this is cost effective and efficient way of providing high level and skilled medical facilities to the people living in remote areas (Memon, Chowdhry, & Baloch, 2004), who can easily access the physicians and medical specialist.

1.1 Conventional Telemedicine

Telemedicine typically works in two ways (William, David, Susan, Tracy, Pyle, & Helfand, 2006): store and forward method and real time method. Store and forward method gathers patient’s medical information locally and then patient query is emailed to a physician. Afterwards, physician prescribes a treatment and then emails the response of the medical query in 24 to 48 hours. On the other hand, in real time telemedicine, video conferencing and live data transmission methods are involved for communication between patient and medical expert. UCD Health system (Nesbitt, 2007) is one of the examples of video conference based health systems. (See Figure 1 and 2)

Figure 1.

UCD Health system – Patient side (Nesbitt, 2007)

Figure 2.

UCD Health system – Physician side (Nesbitt, 2007)

In store and forward method is quite approving solution but it requires lot of time to get diagnostic results in return. Time constraint can be up to 24 to 48 hours. In real time telemedicine, there are so many constraints that make its effective usability difficult. While in countries like Pakistan (Khalid, Akbar, Kumar, Tariq, & Farooq, 2008) where video conferencing is a pricey client, real mode is not appropriate solution. Secondly, high bandwidth is required for data transmission. On the other hand, the availability of the medical expert is also required, when the patients need. Virtual telemedicine is the process to provide the telemedicine features online using a virtual physician in place of the real doctor. Other famous telemedicine types are home telemedicine and individual telemedicine (William, David, Susan, Tracy, Pyle, & Helfand, 2006).

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