An American telemedicine pioneer has teamed up with University researchers to develop cutting-edge techniques with the potential to treat patients in their own homes. Joseph Ternullo, associate director at Harvard Medical School-affiliated Partners Telemedicine, has taken up a post as senior visiting fellow at Kingston’s Mobile Information and Network Technologies Research Centre.
Mr Ternullo plans to continue exploring the use of live video images, mobile phones and Internet technology in patient treatment as part of his new role. His investigations have close connections to Kingston researchers’ trials of a robotic technique allowing doctors to perform ultrasound scans without having to sit next to their patients. “Telemedicine will never replace face-to-face care but it has the potential to free up waiting rooms for patients in more need,” Mr Ternullo said. “For example, we’ve looked into setting up a diabetes management and recording system using mobile phones. This could reduce the need for regular hospital check-ups and allow patients greater freedom to continue with their everyday lives.”
An ageing population in the United States meant that mobile health care was becoming increasingly essential, Mr Ternullo said. It was, however, proving more difficult to persuade patients and medical staff about the need for such change. “People access their bank accounts from anywhere in the world and buy groceries online and they’re no longer amazed by that,” he said. “If a patient has an X-ray at a hospital though, it's virtually impossible to have their results transferred to another medical facility. That culture must change if we are to improve care.”
Mr Ternullo’s fellowship is being sponsored by Vodafone and the Royal Academy of Engineering. He said he had been particularly keen to forge ties with the University because Kingston was rapidly emerging as a world leader in mobile communications. Research co-ordinator Bee Tang said staff were already benefiting from tapping into Mr Ternullo’s expertise. “We’ve worked very hard to build partnerships all around the world and Joseph is at the very top of his profession. We’re looking forward to sharing ideas and developing our collaboration even further,” Ms Tang said.