Goodwill Mission

Teleconferencing paired with medical diagnostic equipment helps save children's lives worldwide.

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"We showed it could work, and we started putting it in hospitals around the world," Brady says.

The MMC network now connects volunteer doctors from 27 Tier 1 U.S. hospitals with pediatric health care facilities in 108 countries.

In addition, MMC now operates a global satellite and IPTV network called the Medical Broadcasting Channel, as well as the Global Video Library of Medicine and the Giggles Children's Theater, which brings entertainment to pediatric patients in the U.S.

"It's a great humanitarian use of telemedicine," says Craig Stephens, an associate professor of biology at Santa Clara University in California and chairman of the judging panel for the health category of The Tech Museum Awards program, which is administered by The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. MMC was a 2006 Tech Museum Awards laureate.

As it grows, MMC's IT needs remain very similar to what they were in its early days, says John Riehl, MMC's president and chief operating officer.

However, compared with earlier tools, today's teleconferencing equipment supports much richer interactions among doctors and offers more-advanced diagnostic capabilities. For example, cameras can provide magnified views of the skin, and scopes can look into patients' eyes and noses.

MMC has also started employing high-definition videoconferencing equipment, which can be used to view digital images, Riehl says. This gives doctors real-time access to MRIs, CT scans and X-rays, without loss of image quality.

"They can look at the same image at both locations with quality that allows them to draw diagnostic conclusions," Riehl says.

Improvements in equipment haven't addressed all of MMC's challenges, however. Brady says there are times when MMC must send its own staffers to foreign hospitals to set up equipment because of a lack of on-site expertise. The World Bank, which provides equipment for hospitals around the world, also helps install MMC's equipment. Polycom has also provided support to hospitals, Brady says.

Cost and access to bandwidth can also be challenges.

For example, in late 2005, MMC started working with Armenia's National Institute of Child and Adolescent Health. When MMC was negotiating for high-speed Internet service with Armenia's sole service provider, the ISP initially asked for $7,500 a month before agreeing to $500.

Despite the cost, the return is significant. Dr. Konstantin Ter-Voskanyan, a pediatric cardiologist and president of the Armenian Association of Pediatric Professionals, says MMC collaborated with local doctors on seven cases in 2007, and the collaboration saved several lives by allowing doctors to make the proper diagnosis and set up the right treatment.

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