New device lets doctors 'see' long-distance

January 31, 1991|By Leslie Cauley

WASHINGTON -- A patient complaining of stomach cramps was brought into the emergency room of a Denver hospital this week.

Dr. James Lear, a radiologist, looked at the X-rays and saw that the patient was hemorrhaging in the lower intestines. The patient was immediately wheeled in for surgery.

What makes this story remarkable is that Dr. Lear was 1,600 miles away in Washington, D.C., when he made his diagnosis.

Dr. Lear was able to diagnose the patient thanks to a new medical-imaging product offered by US Sprint that allows doctors to "see" patients thousands of miles away and make a diagnosis instantly.

Medical-imaging technology marries the "intelligence" of computers with the speed and clarity of fiber-optic phone lines, which have the capability to transmit voice, data and video. The full-color, three-dimensional images can then be rotated, enlarged or manipulated in various ways.

Sprint's imaging products are faster than conventional offerings. An image that might take two hours to transmit via conventional means, for example, takes 30 seconds or less on Sprint's all-digital network.

Dr. Lear, chief of nuclear medicine for the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, has been working with US Sprint to develop a range of imaging applications. A few of those applications were on display this week at the Comnet trade show in Washington.

Though he was holding court at Sprint's booth, Dr. Lear managed to keep up with his regular duties in Denver yesterday by using the imaging technology to diagnose patients -- from the show's floor.

Dr. Lear said his Denver hospital developed the software for the imaging system, then brought Sprint in as a vehicle for tying together hospitals that wanted to swap medical expertise and experts -- via video.

As a result of its work with Dr. Lear, Sprint founded the Healthcare Application Network Delivery System in November and now offers voice, data and video products for hospitals nationwide.

Twelve hospitals and 38 clinics in Maryland are members of the SunHealth hospital alliance that has signed up with the network, said Sprint spokeswoman Robin Pence.

In the Baltimore area, Church Hospital, Harbor Hospital Center and Baltimore County General Hospital are members.

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