A Brief History of Teleradiology


While still “new” in terms of the history of medicine, teleradiology has made its mark in a very quick manner. From getting its start in airports and on ocean liners, to cutting the ever-rising cost of healthcare for those in need, teleradiology has adapted to the changing landscape and continued to make its mark in the healthcare world.

Teleradiology began on an ocean liner. Yes, you read that correctly. The Queen Mary ocean liner first started exploring the concept using the ship’s radiotelephone in the 1930’s to call and transmit information regarding patient needs and care to outside consultants who would then guide the ship’s doctors in a plan of care. This practice continued for many years with other ocean liners. The next big development was by Dr. Kenneth Bird. He got creative and installed a television system that joined Mass General Hospital in Boston, MA to Logan Airport. This allowed them to utilize radiology in the airport to provide medical care to passengers.

If you fast forward a decade, teleradiology took on a new look via cassette tapes. Hospitals would send images via mail to a radiologist, who would then transcribe their readings via cassette. This would be transcribed into paper reports that could be read by the practicing doctor and the patients alike. The ACR (American College of Radiology) and the NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) united in 1983 to create a digital storage standard. This was called the ACR/NEMA 300. While primitive, it was a huge mark in history. This was overhauled over the course of the next few years, and it led to what DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) is today.

In the pursuit of making teleradiology an efficient part of medicine for the future, cost was of course explored. In 2013, a German study1 utilized a Monte Carlo simulation to provide cost estimates for low-volume teleradiology services in a mid-size university hospital. Studies consistently show the effectiveness of teleradiology as opposed to conventional radiology. Key findings show the benefits such as improved treatment rates, image interpretation, and reduced complications. Teleradiology is also associated with reduced patient transfers, unnecessary trips, repeat imaging, and waiting times, contributing to more expedited and cost-effective healthcare services.

As teleradiology has evolved through history, it has proven to be a vital piece of technology and practice for hospitals and care facilities across the globe. With more time and advances to come, the future looks even brighter than the past.



1The Empirical Foundations of Teleradiology and Related Applications: A Review of the Evidence.  Telemedicine and E-Health. Published November 1, 2016. Accessed February 5, 2024.