08:38 PM

IBM, Danish Hospital Test 3-D Patient Models In E-Records

Along with the 3-D models, the IBM software includes a semantic search function.

A Danish hospital is testing IBM-developed technology that provides medical staff with a 3-D model of a human body for getting a quick, up-to-date overview of a patient's electronic medical record.

The technology, developed by IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory and tested at Thy-Mors Hospital, lets doctors use a computer to rotate the 3-D representation of the human anatomy and zoom in and out to view needed detail, IBM said Tuesday. The 3-D tool also lets medical staff choose between different views, enabling, for example, a close inspection of organs or the circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems.

Arrows are used to indicate the areas of the body for which medical data is available. Clicking on one of the arrows with a computer mouse provides the pertinent information.

Along with the 3-D models, the IBM software includes a semantic search function. Searching for "heart trouble," for example, will place the words in context to produce results that include terms such as "right ventricle," "radiating pain in left arm," and "ECG" for electrocardiogram. The results are shown graphically on the 3-D model.

Speed in examining patient records is important given the size of Thy-Mors, which has nearly 11,000 in-patient beds and more than 65,000 outpatient visits per year. For example, Dr. Hardy Christoffersen, head of the hospital's surgical outpatient clinic, typically has 15 minutes for a patient interview, examination, and diagnosis, including decisions about the kind of additional treatment that may be required, IBM said. To ensure proper treatment, Christoffersen must also take under consideration the patient's previous ailments and current health status.

"The IBM tool gives me a fantastic, graphic view of the patient's status," Christoffersen said in a statement. "I can see much more information than just what the patient tells me is bothering him or her that day -- information for which I would otherwise have to spend considerable time searching through our current records system."

Kurt Nielsen, director of Thy-Mors, said the IBM test is part of the hospital's overall goal of becoming a more efficient "paperless hospital."

IBM and business partner Nhumi Technologies plan to collaborate on commercialization of the technology.

In the United States, the Obama administration's economic stimulus package, recently passed by Congress, includes about $21 billion for health IT programs. The additional money could help meet a goal set by President Bush five years ago: e-health records for most Americans by 2014.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center CIO Dan Drawbaugh is also writing the prescription for health care transformation. InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of this CIO of the Year. Download the report here (registration required).

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