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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 06:10 GMT 07:10 UK
Picture phones save doctors time
Doctor using picture messaging
Doctors believe it is a cost-effective use of technology
Doctors at a Welsh hospital are leading the way in using modern technology to help speed up a patient's treatment.

When a specialist is not to hand to make an instant diagnosis, junior doctors are using mobile phones to send picture messages of an X-ray.

Doctors claim the use of mobile phone technology has already reduced waiting times for orthopaedic patients.

As part of the scheme, a team at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant, south Wales, send an image of an X-ray over a mobile phone to a specialist.

The consultant can then advise the junior doctors how to proceed immediately.

Previously, copies of X-rays had to be sent by Telex or delivered by taxi to the specialists - an expensive and time-consuming process.

"We tend to rely on seeking opinions and discussing cases with colleagues," said Jonathan P Davies, orthopaedic consultant at the Royal Glamorgan hospital.

It speeds up the time in diagnosis - it is helpful for us to get immediate decisions so we can plan their cure
Specialist registrar David Baker

"Picture messaging proved a successful, quick and cost-effective method of transmitting images between colleagues for discussion.

"It is obviously a portable, hand-held mechanism, and we have found it quite accurate in the assessments we have done."

Specialist registrar David Baker used the technology in a recent case.

"The patient had a very complex fracture, for which there are a number of treatment options," he said.

"By being able to send the image down the line to my consultant, he was able to tell me which course of treatment he preferred.

"We have done a formal trial of the system and our results are very encouraging," he said.

Jonathan P Davies
Consultants can check their messages wherever they are

"On a day-to-day basis, it is very helpful, because the consultant is often not in the hospital.

"It speeds up the time in diagnosis - it is helpful for us to get immediate decisions so we can plan their cure."

Orthopaedics is the branch of medicine dealing with the correction of deformities of bones or muscles.

Doctors using picture messaging insisted that all pictures sent were annotated so they did not carry any of their patients' personal details.

Phone companies are currently trying to promote the use of mobile phones with picture messaging capability, and hope it will become as popular as e-mail and text messaging.

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