Cell phones bring the Internet to radiologists

February 19, 2004

Third-generation (3G) wireless technology, which has recently made a splash in the U.S., will provide more opportunities for radiologists to access patient information on the go, according to an infoRAD exhibit at RSNA.Developed by Dr. T.J. Lewis of

Third-generation (3G) wireless technology, which has recently made a splash in the U.S., will provide more opportunities for radiologists to access patient information on the go, according to an infoRAD exhibit at RSNA.

Developed by Dr. T.J. Lewis of the Consulting Radiologists Corporation in Toledo, OH, the exhibit outlines a brief history of 3G wireless technology and proposes its use in several radiological applications.

The first generation of cellular technology was developed in the 1980s, but the analog cellular phones could not send or receive digital data. The second generation of wireless technology ushered in the digital phones of the early 1990s and boasted data transfer rates of 14 to 19 kbps.

In the late 1990s, 3G technology introduced data transfer speeds up to 2 Mbps for indoor traffic to digital cellular phones. The data rate drops to 144 kbps for mobile traffic (users who are on the move). The technology enabled the transfer of multimedia information between cell phones.

Currently, two types of cell phones are designed for 3G technology: Internet-enabled cell phones and "smart phones." The Internet-enabled types resemble regular 2G phones and sport typical 160 x160-pixel resolution with 1.6 MB of RAM. So-called smart phones are PDA/cell phone hybrids that offer 240 x 320-pixel resolutions and up to 64 MB of RAM. These phones are larger and have a shorter battery life than Internet-enabled phones.

Japan's NTT DoCoMo established the world's first 3G network in 2000, and Sprint PCS set up the first nationwide 3G network in the U.S. in August 2002.

According to Lewis' exhibit, 60 million Internet-enabled phones will be in use in the U.S. by 2005. In fact, more people in Japan currently access the World Wide Web by phone than by computer, according to the paper.

In the future, radiologists will be able to send e-mails and messages from their cell phones, send and view sample radiology images, and gain access to their institution's electronic medical records.

Lewis and colleagues have developed a prototype Web site specifically designed for Internet-enabled phones (www.angelfire.com/mi4/kalrad/rad3g.html). The site contains abstracts, links, cases of the month, and other information accessible by 3G-enabled phones.

"Three-G offers another venue for radiology content distribution for education, administration, and patient communication," the authors said.