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Telemedicine at Mayo

Mayo Clinic's entrance into the world of telemedicine and satellite communications followed decades of intermittent experimentation with several forms of communications technologies. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, physicians and other health care professionals in Canada, Australia, the United States and other countries with scattered populations, explored the use of radio, telephone, microwave, two-way television, computer and satellite technologies to link isolated, rural areas to urban medical practices.

Mayo Clinic was ready as opportunities arose to test and apply various modes of medical data transmission. In 1967, telephone transmission of electrocardiographic (ECG) signals from Saint Marys and Rochester Methodist hospitals to a clinic laboratory was begun. That distance was greatly expanded in 1971 when two Mayo Clinic cardiovascular disease physicians participated in a transoceanic transmission of ECGs from a hospital in Sydney, Australia, to an ECG laboratory in Rochester. The transmission was initiated by telephone and involved cable, telephone and satellite technologies.

Then on April 12, 1978, Mayo participated in its first two-way live, intercontinental exchange. During the 45-minute live telecast, Mayo staff in a studio in the Plummer Building were introduced to the staff of a Sydney hospital. The program was brought to Australia by a complex circuit of landlines, microwaves, a domestic American satellite and an international satellite over the Pacific.

In 1984, a Telecommunications Task Force was formed at Mayo to exploit new communications technologies that would foster interdependence among practice sites. In 1986, a 5,000-pound satellite dish was hoisted by helicopter to the top of the Mayo Building. Today, Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz., are equipped with satellite equipment, along with telemedicine examination rooms, and administrative conference rooms and auditoriums.

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