A remote inhabited island located more than a thousand miles off the South African coast has been equipped with advanced telemedical capabilities, as a result of pro-bono services and support from a high-technology team led by IBM and Beacon Equity Partners.

Tristan da Cunha, home to 270 British citizens and located more than 1,665 miles west of Cape Town, South Africa, is accessible only by a boat trip lasting at least one week. The island’s sole physician, Dr. Carel Van der Merwe, has relied upon minimal technology and medical support to perform life-saving diagnoses and procedures – in a hospital without so much as its own telephone. Up until now, Merwe has depended on digital images scanned, printed and faxed to specialists thousands of miles away, thereby delaying diagnoses by days.

That’s why IBM and Beacon Equity Partners joined Medweb, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Government of Tristan da Cunha in implementing Project Tristan, a remote medical solution that combines medical equipment, satellite communications and remotely supported electronic health-record technology. Medical experts from anywhere in the world can now assist island clinicians in their daily practices with medical diagnoses and emergency support.

Project Tristan, based on open standards and running on the Linux Operating System, is expected to greatly enhance the island’s level of medical care and standard of living. Merwe is  able to electronically capture and share medical data and information with physician consultants via satellite communication.