Grids work around Internet weaknesses in healthcare

Using grids to handle a shortage of processing power is old hat. But the Globus alliance, which develops grid applications, has adapted grids for dealing with hospitals' last-mile bandwidth problem.

Stephan ErberichUsing grids to handle a shortage of processing power is old hat. But the Globus alliance, which develops grid applications, has adapted grids for dealing with hospitals' last-mile bandwidth problem.

MEDICUS allows the sharing of bandwidth to transmit the ginormous files created by 3D and 4D imaging systems.

One weakness of the system is that when you're signed-up to view a file, you're technically signed-up for all of them. Security and tracking of requests were among the biggest problems developers faced.

They were solved by having requests and the user database maintained by Shibboleth, Globus' authorization feature.

The lead on MEDICUS is Stephan G. Erberich (above), a USC researcher attached to Childrens' Hospital of Los Angeles. Some 41 medical centers are now in the project.

All files are saved using the Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine (DICOM) standard.

This is important on several levels beyond the help it gives patients. First, you're fortifying standards. Second, you're getting around the current Internet's problems in a creative way. Third, you're bringing many hospitals together, which could mean more standards down the road.