ON APR. 23, A 15-MEMBER TEAM OF MOUNTAINEER-PHYSICIANS FROM YALE UNIVERSITY ventured to Mt. Everest's base camp, 17,500 feet above sea level, to study how the body responds in such a harsh environment. Throughout the experiment, the team will be linked with doctors back home through a communications network that can transmit voice, video, and numerical data from base camp in Nepal to Yale in real time.

It's an extreme test of telemedicine--the use of a hybrid video and communications technology to transmit complicated medical images over high-speed networks for assessment by doctors elsewhere. In the past, shuttling such images was inefficient and yielded low-quality results. Now, five different providers--including Totally Remote Communications and Lucent Technologies Inc.--have teamed up to transmit the info three-quarters of the way around the world in less than half a second. Millennium Healthcare Solutions Inc. of Raritan, N.J., is coordinating the project.

The expedition's success could have an impact closer to home, says James J. Tuchi, Millennium's CEO. Telemedicine has the potential to help the chronically ill as well as people in remote locations. "If this can be done from the top of the world, thousands of miles away, then it can be done anywhere," says Tuchi.

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