NTT Com and Docomo have successfully carried out a remote medical physical inspection, including tactile palpation, connecting three hospitals in Hokkaido. The experiment overcomes the difficulty to implement telemedicine due to concerns that the inability to palpate a patient increases the risk of misdiagnosis compared to face-to-face medical treatment.

Working with partners, the operators have developed sensing equipment for palpation, remote reproduction equipment and control technology for tactile information, as well as the 5G technology for linking tactile information with high-definition video for visual examination. They connected Hokkaido University Hospital, Obihiro Kosei Hospital and Hakodate Chuo Hospital with 5G to demonstrate real-time remote palpation of the upper arm. After integrating tactile sensing and 4K resolution video, NTT reproduced the tactile sensation associated with the video at a remote location. Multiple doctors worked to reproduce and differentiate the tactile sensations of each part of the upper arm (bones, muscles, tendons), distinguishing between relaxation and tension in each part.

To achieve real-time results NTT Com utilised Docomo’s Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) service with 5G to deliver 4K resolution video and high-speed, low-latency communication. NTT Com also worked with Soliton Systems to evolve its compression transmission technology, solving the delay problem and achieving ultra-short delay video transmission.

By embedding the tactile information acquired by the doctor with the sensor into each video frame, the tactile information and the time and space within the video are perfectly synchronised and linked, allowing it to function as a content database containing tactile information. This makes it possible to share inspection and palpation information with other doctors, which can be used for information sharing when transferring hospitals and for educating medical students.

The trial was conducted as part of the R&D project for strengthening post-5G information and communication system infrastructure promoted by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation. 

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