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Doctors collaborate online

UCSF Stanford Health Care swaps ideas in the first live Net telemedicine conference with China's Xian Medical University.

As President Clinton continues his nine-day trip to strengthen political and economic ties with China, a group of Bay Area doctors are using the Web to establish their own ties with their mainland Chinese counterparts--with a little help from Silicon Valley.

Yesterday, doctors from UCSF Stanford Health Care exchanged medical treatment ideas in the first live Internet telemedicine conference with doctors from Xian Medical University.

Both sides exchanged photos, medical records, graphics, and other information, using IP Multicast Backbone technology to discuss treatment for two seriously ill children from Xian. One of the children is a 12-year-old girl suffering from shortness of breath, fatigue, and abnormal heart rhythms; the other is a two-week-old baby boy suffering from brain damage after being delivered by cesarean section.

The conference represents the first time American and Chinese doctors collaborated on medical cases in real time, according to UCSF. Typically, collaboration has come in the form of exchanging email messages or faxes.

"I think it's clear that patients gain a tremendous amount when physicians are able to communicate and share critical diagnostic information and images in real time," Dr. David Teitel, chief of pediatric cardiology at UC San Francisco, said in a statement.

The project was organized by the Bridge to Asia Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports education and research in developing countries in Asia.

High tech also lent a hand to the project. Sun Microsystems, which has been developing network systems in China, donated the workstations that powered the conference, and the AT&T Foundation donated $150,000 in grants and resources.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was in attendance in Xian during the conference and contributed a few questions to the discussion. Albright was accompanying President Clinton in Xian, which was the first stop on his tour around the country.

The Web also will play a role in Clinton's China tour when he heads to Beijing. ABCNews.com will stream video of Clinton's speech at Beijing University live on Sunday, June 28. The president will speak to students about his view of China's future.

During the streaming speech, ABCNews.com will host an online chat featuring Netizens from Beijing's cybercafes and the United States.