PDA Usability for Telemedicine Support

PDA Usability for Telemedicine Support

Shirley Ann Becker (Florida Institute of Technology, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-562-7.ch069
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Telemedicine is broadly defined as the use of information and communications technology to provide medical information and services (Perednia & Allen, 1995). Telemedicine offers an unprecedented means of bringing healthcare to anyone regardless of geographic remoteness. It promotes the use of ICT for healthcare when physical distance separates the provider from the patient (Institute of Medicine, 1996). In addition, it provides for real-time feedback, thus eliminating the waiting time associated with a traditional healthcare visit. Telemedicine has been pursued for over three decades as researchers, healthcare providers, and clinicians search for a way to reach patients living in remote and isolated areas (Norris, 2001). Early implementation of telemedicine made use of the telephone in order for healthcare providers and patients to interact. Over time, fax machines were introduced along with interactive multimedia, thus supporting teleconferencing among participants. Unfortunately, many of the early telemedicine projects did not survive because of high costs and insurmountable barriers associated with the use of technology. Telemedicine has been resurrected during the last decade as a means to help rural healthcare facilities. Advances in information and communications technology have initiated partnerships between rural healthcare facilities and larger ones. The Internet in particular has changed the way in which medical consultations can be provided (Coiera, 1997). Personal computers (PCs) and supporting peripherals, acting as clients, can be linked to medical databases residing virtually in any geographic space. Multimedia data types, video, audio, text, imaging, and graphics promote the rapid diagnosis and treatment of casualties and diseases. Innovations in ICT offer unprecedented healthcare opportunities in remote regions throughout the world. Mobile devices using wireless connectivity are growing in popularity as thin clients that can be linked to centralized or distributed medical-data sources. These devices provide for local data storage of medical data, which can be retrieved and sent back to a centralized source when Internet access becomes available. Those working in nomadic environments are connected to data sources that in the past were inaccessible due to a lack of telephone and cable lines. For the military, paramedics, social workers, and other healthcare providers in the field, ICT advances have removed technology barriers that made mobility difficult if not impossible. Personal digital assistants (PDAs)1 are mobile devices that continue to grow in popularity. PDAs are typically considered more usable for multimedia data than smaller wireless devices (e.g., cell phones) because of larger screens, fully functional keyboards, and operating systems that support many desktop features. Over the past several years, PDAs have become far less costly than personal-computing technology. They are portable, lightweight, and mobile when compared to desktop computers. Yet, they offer similar functionality scaled back to accommodate the differences in user-interface designs, data transmission speed, memory, processing power, data storage capacity, and battery life.

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