I’ve recently come across a really interesting announcement, IBM Research Unveils 3-D Avatar to Help Doctors Visualize Patient Records and Improve Care. You know well how important it is to have electronic health records while constructing the basis of personalized medicine. That’s why this new software of IBM Zurich Research Lab using a 3D representation of the human body could be very useful for physicians in the future. The Anatomic and Symbolic Mapper Engine (ASME) visualizes patient medical records.
“It’s like Google Earth for the body,” said IBM Researcher Andre Elisseeff, who leads the healthcare projects at IBM’s Zurich Research Lab. “In hopes of speeding the move toward electronic healthcare records, we’ve tried to make information easily accessible for healthcare providers by combining medical data with visual representation, making it as simple as possible to interact with data that can improve patient care.”
The ASME 3-D avatar will allow doctors to “click” on the 3-D avatar of the human body–here the spine–and instantly see all the available medical history and information related to that patient’s spine, including text entries, lab results and medical images such as radiographs or MRIs. Or the doctor might be interested only in information related to a particular part of the spine; in this case, the practitioner can zoom in, narrowing the search parameters by time or other factors.
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Today, I asked Andre Elisseeff at IBM Research, IBM Zurich Research Laboratory to answer some of my questions and he kindly agreed:
- Is the software in beta testing or it has already been released?
The software is still in beta testing and is not scheduled before fall next year. We are working with clinicians in Denmark who help us designing the user interaction.
- Does it work similarly to ReliefInsite.com, the virtual pain diary?
The idea is to search over the set of medical records of a single patient. By clicking on the human body, you can enter new information or search the medical history of a patient that relates to the area that was just clicked
on. The user interaction will be based on a 3D model of the human body (with different layers, capability to zoom in and out etc…). The current model shown on the pictures is rather simple compared to what is planned
for the first release.
- What about the privacy issues? How can you store medical information about a patient?
Privacy issues are solved in the back-end: the current prototype is built on top of IBM Health Information Exchange, a set of components to integrate and get the medical records of a single patient spread over different IT systems. This includes a set of flexible security rules and policies as well as a tool for e-consent. The patients can therefore decide who to show the information to.
- Can the patient add information to his own database? I mean can the patient send his symptoms to his physician?
That is a possibility that we are investigating but that is not implemented nor planned in the release because we are currently focusing on the clinicians. There is no technical barrier to what you’re suggesting (besides security rules). The user interaction is still under development and would have to be adapted so that anyone can quickly understand how to make an entry.
One of the “vision” of the project is to make the communication between patients and physicians easier by using IT. Letting a patient prepare a medical visit by adding virtual needles where it feels pain, or by highlighting the areas which do not work properly, would be great and would typically make the discussion easier with the medical professionals.
- We know well how hard it is to introduce new and technology-based tools to physicians. What about the first feedbacks?
We got overall a very positive feedback from the physicians we showed the tool to. They understand very quickly how this could help them. Many agree now that they will have to use IT. There is a pressure from society to get more accountable healthcare. That means more reporting and a more frequent usage of standards which are rather complex. A system like ASME is supposed to ease that task. It somehow makes IT more aligned with what physicians think about when they see a patient. Most current electronic medical record
systems assume the clinician works like office-workers, happy to see a web form or an excel sheet to enter data. And that’s not exactly the case… By discussing with medical professionals, they told us they would like to see
a human body. This project somehow is their project: we worked on the technology and still are working on importing what they’re telling us, but first, they tell us how they would like to access and use electronic
As a side note, the clinicians we work with are in Denmark (opinions might vary significantly from country to country).
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