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Google Earth for the body

This is the expression used by an IBM researcher to describe the software he developed for visualizing electronic health records (eHRs) in 3-D. In a long article, IEEE Spectrum describes the IBM's Anatomic and Symbolic Mapper Engine (ASME), which maps the information in a patient's eHR to a 3-D image of the human body. When a doctor clicks on a particular part of the image, the patient's eHR is used to retrieve specific information such as lab entries or other medical images. The software is still in beta testing with the help of two hospitals in Denmark. A commercial version might become available by the end of 2008. But read more...
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Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive on

This is the expression used by an IBM researcher to describe the software he developed for visualizing electronic health records (eHRs) in 3-D. In a long article, IEEE Spectrum describes the IBM's Anatomic and Symbolic Mapper Engine (ASME), which maps the information in a patient's eHR to a 3-D image of the human body. When a doctor clicks on a particular part of the image, the patient's eHR is used to retrieve specific information such as lab entries or other medical images. The software is still in beta testing with the help of two hospitals in Denmark. A commercial version might become available by the end of 2008. But read more...

IBM software for visualizing electronic health records

You can see above a screenshot showing "a search being performed for "pain". The search filters the entries at the left to display only those that describe something about pain. The search pictured displays an entry related to back pain. A doctor can choose between different views of the 3D model. This image displays the spine and cardiovascular system, zoomed into the affected body area. Alternatively, a doctor could choose a view of the muscular system." (Credit: IBM's Zurich Research Lab). Here is a link to a larger clickable version.

This software prototype has been developed by Andre Elisseeff and his team at the IBM Zurich Research Laboratory.

The idea to develop this mapping software came to Elisseeff after he started to talk with doctors working at IBM about the problems with using eHR systems. This is why "Elisseeff and his team then created an initial mapper-engine prototype and showed it around to clinicians who use eHR systems to see if they thought it would increase the usefulness and acceptance of these systems. The positive feedback and suggestions for improvements gave the impetus to turning the prototype into a full-fledged project, which now consists of a team of more than a dozen researchers and software engineers."

Elisseeff said his approach was to "move eHR systems away from an administrative work mode toward a clinician's natural style of working: 'We try to adapt our approach to the workflow of the doctor,' while allowing both the doctor and patient to interact as easily as possible with the eHR system. 'We would not be surprised if it helps more the patients actually than doctors,' Elisseeff adds.

For more information, you also should read a previous IBM news release, "IBM Research unveils 3-D avatar to help doctors visualize patient records and improve care" (September 26, 2007). Here is how IBM describes the ASME system. "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 heart; in this case, the practitioner can zoom in, narrowing the search parameters by time or other factors."

Even if the IBM news release is full of PR lingo, it's still giving some real information. "Using advanced machine learning and state-of-the-art 3-D modeling techniques, the IBM researchers are working to overcome key technical challenges including integrating heterogeneous data sources and complex text-based information -- so-called unstructured data -- and linking that data to the anatomical model in a meaningful and easy-to-navigate way. ASME also uses SNOMED, the systemized nomenclature of medicine that encompasses approximately 300,000 medical terms, to create a bridge between graphical concepts and text documents."

As I wrote above, commercial versions of this software might appear by the end of the year. But what's next? Here is what writes IEEE Spectrum. "The IBM researchers see a day in the near future when a patient will be able to access their medical information prior to seeing a doctor and annotate the image with their symptoms. They believe this would further increase the value of the conversation between doctor and patient and improve the resulting quality of care."

Sources: Robert N. Charette, for IEEE Spectrum, January 2008; and various websites

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