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3-D Tools Let You Search, View Human Body

Interactive Healthline BodyMaps tools introduced by Healthline and GE let users navigate 3-D images of human body, and eventually view how diseases progress.

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Healthline Network and GE have launched a new 3-D, interactive visual search and navigation platform for the human body, providing tools to facilitate medical discussions among doctors and patients.

The Healthline BodyMaps tools are being offered free to consumers and will be available to Healthline insurers, healthcare providers, and software vendors in the second half of 2011 for licensing and integration into their offerings.

"You'll see it show up in a variety of e-health records and personal e-health records," said West Shell, Healthline chairman and CEO, in an interview with InformationWeek.

The tools also will be available on tablet and other mobile platforms in the near future, he said.

The BodyMaps offering is "to help educate patients" by providing a 3-D view of the human body, including parts affected by illness, he said.

Looking ahead, the BodyMaps' product roadmap also will include "bodies in motions" interactive tools that enable patients to visualize how disease affects the body, such as what happens to the heart when plaque builds up or when an individual suffers a heart attack, he said.

GE, through its $6 billion Healthyimagination effort launched two years ago, is a major investor of Healthline and co-developer of BodyMaps, he said. When asked if GE plans to bundle the BodyMaps tools its own e-health records product offering, Shell said, "one would hope."

Also, moving ahead, BodyMaps will allow patients to use its tools to compare their own GE digital medical images, such as MRIs, with BodyMaps images "to better understand their own body and bring the technology to life," Shell said.

When it comes to viewing 3-D images of the human body via the Web, the Healthline BodyMaps platform is an option to Google Body Browser, which is a WebGL application unveiled last December and developed by a Google Labs, the team that developed Google Earth and Street View.

However, while Google Body Browser is a "3-D rendering" of the human anatomy, Healthline BodyMaps is a "search and navigation platform," that includes use of Healthline's Medically Guide semantic search technology and other tools providing users with clinically reviewed content, including video, animation, and wellness tips, and social media capabilities, said Shell.

While the platform can be used by doctors to educate patients about their bodies and health during office visits or at the bedside, "patients have access to these rich views after they leave," as well, said Shell.

Healthline supplies educational content and other services to about 50 organizations, including employers and health plans such as United Healthcare, Aetna, and others. Many healthcare insurers, health plans, and other payers have been an a recent mission to enhance their health related content, search capabilities, and other services of their Web portal sites to boost engagement with members and to help educate patients.

In addition to health plans and insurers, Healthline also provides content, hosting, and other services to Yahoo and AARP for their health sites, Shell said.

Besides GE, Healthline is a venture backed by Aetna, Investor Growth Capital, Kaiser Permanente, Reed Elsevier, U.S. News & World Report, and VantagePoint Venture Partners. Healthline was launched in 1999.

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