Researchers at the PSG College of Technology Peelamedu in Coimbatore, India have devised a dedicated, embedded system that uses the short-range Bluetooth wireless networking protocol
to connect patient data to the network in order to make it available to healthcare providers.

According to a paper in the forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics, a telemedicine system based on a modified version of the Bluetooth wireless protocol can transfer patient data for assessment almost four times as fast as conventional Bluetooth and without the intermittent connectivity problems.

The research team has demonstrated a specific application for their technologywhich involves the transfer of patient medical images (CT scans) to the healthcare provider's personal digital assistant (PDA) device as an example of how Bluetooth might work for telemedicine.

"In medical imaging, picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) are computers in networks dedicated to the storage, retrieval, distribution and presentation of images," the authors explain. However, PACS, which replaces hard-copy based means of managing medical images, such as film archives, cannot circumvent the connectivity issues associated with standard internet connections.

The modified Bluetooth system can handle the digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) standard for medical images and use it to produce compressible images that can be transferred readily using Bluetooth.

The embedded system used in this project is an ARM based processor (AT91SAM9263), which is a 32 bit advanced embedded processor of the type commonly used in mobile data devices. "The design and implementation of an embedded wireless communication platform using
Bluetooth serial communication protocol is proposed and problems and limitations are investigated," the team explains.

The authors add that tests with DICOM images of approximately 1.5 megabytes can be transferred using their modified Bluetooth system injust 120 seconds, compared with 400 seconds for standard Bluetooth.