Purpose: Telemedicine has become a common method for the transmission of images and patient data across long distances. Our goal was to assess the efficiency and accuracy of Photomailer MD(TM) software, a store-and-forward telemedicine system, in the urologic setting. Methods: Photomailer MD software was loaded on two computers in the host institution, one with a T1 connection to the Internet and the other with a dial-up modem connection (24,000 bits/second), and computers at three remote sites. A total of 14 clinical cases, comprised of digitized histories and radiographic images, were sent to the remote institutions four separate times using the four transmission modes available: nonencrypted, 56-bit encryption, 128-bit encryption, and 128-bit encryption with password. The following data points were recorded: file size before and after encryption, file transmission times, and diagnostic accuracy of the remote urologists. One-way ANOVA was used to compare mean values statistically, while the z-test was used to compare diagnostic accuracies. Results: Encryption increased the file size by a mean of 37.8%, with the three encryption modes increasing file sizes by the same number of kilobytes. When a dial-up modem was used, encrypted files required a significantly longer transmission time (P < 0.05) than the unencrypted files. The same trend was seen with the T1 connection, although the differences often were not significant. When T1 transmission times were compared with modem times with other variables held constant, modem times were significantly longer (P < 0.05). Diagnostic accuracies for each of the three remote centers ranged from 85.7% to 100%. Differences in accuracy rates between attending physicians and residents were not significant. Conclusions: Photomailer MD provides a secure, convenient, and affordable method of transmitting patient images and records via the Internet. Transmission speed was significantly greater when using a T1 line and also tended to be faster when files were not encrypted. There was no significant difference in transmission time among the three encryption modes; therefore, 128-bit encryption with a password should be used to maximize security. Diagnostic accuracies were comparable to those in the literature. In general, 640 x 480-pixel resolution was adequate for urologic diagnoses, although higher-resolution images may improve accuracy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas