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Healthcare across Europe aims to improve

Healthcare across Europe could be improved through a new telemedicine system demonstrated today across the GÉANT academic network and various national research networks. Three hospitals across Europe have been linked for the first time using an advanced video conferencing system. This enables the sharing of high quality, real-time video images of surgery for training and diagnosis.
The demonstration, at the TERENA Network Conference (TNC) on 10 June 2009, links St Olav’s University Hospital in Norway, connected through the Norwegian UNINETT network, the Monaldi Hospital in Italy via the Italian GARR network and the Hospital Clinica Barcelona, through the Spanish RedIRIS network, to each other via the pan-European GÉANT network and also to the TNC venue in Malaga, Spain over RedIRIS. Staff at each hospital will provide a tour of surgical operating facilities or show how endoscopic surgery can be transmitted for training purposes across the high speed GÉANT network, which is operated by research networking organisation DANTE.
Traditionally telemedicine has been held back by poor image quality and a need for expensive equipment. The demonstration, created and run by the TEMDEC project (Telemedicine Development Center of Asia) at the Medical School of Kyushu University in Japan, successfully overcomes these issues. By using GÉANT and National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) it provides high image quality, transmitted at 30 Mbps using Digital Video Transport System (DVTS) equipment that can be run from a standard PC. 
“Telemedicine has the power to improve medical training and patient care across Europe,” said Dai Davies, General Manager, DANTE. “It provides the ability to view new surgical techniques and collaborate internationally on diagnosis and share skills and experience. The success of this demonstration shows how high speed networking can underpin telemedicine across Europe and the world, enhancing healthcare for all.”
The TEMDEC project has been a pioneer in using telemedicine to improve surgical training. Since being set up in 2003, it has carried out over 100 demonstrations across the world, of techniques that include laparoscopic gastric surgery, neurosurgery, endoscopy and colon surgery. This is the first TEMDEC-led project that links hospitals across Europe.
“Surgical training has traditionally been based on observing operations and learning from them,” said Dr Shuji Shimizu, Department of Endoscopic Diagnostics and Therapeutics Kyushu University Hospital and Leader of TEMDEC. “As surgical skills become more specialised we need to be able to train surgeons remotely in order to improve knowledge transfer and enhance abilities. Using television-quality video over the GÉANT network to remotely watch live keyhole surgery undertaken in other countries, promises a disruptive change to training in this area, benefiting all involved. We hope that this demonstration is the first step in the adoption of increased telemedicine use across Europe.”
Over 100 hospitals across the world have expressed interest in becoming involved in telemedicine for surgical training. As technology evolves, the TEMDEC project is looking to move from DVTS video to High Definition (HD) pictures to further enhance quality.
GÉANT is the high-bandwidth, academic Internet serving Europe’s research and education community. Through the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) it connects, GÉANT reaches over 30 million researchers with a multi-domain topology spanning 32 European countries and links to a number of other world regions, GÉANT is at the heart of global research networking.
As well as the telemedicine demonstration, GÉANT is heavily represented at the TERENA Networking Conference with 14 presentations, a GÉANT booth with user and technology demonstrations and the exhibition area will showcase other uses of the network, including the ASTRA project that has used GÉANT to bring the sounds of ancient instruments to life.

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