IBM puts 3-D electronic patient record to the test

By Bernie Monegain
12:00 AM

IBM researchers are testing a 3-D version of an electronic patient record, complete with avatar, at Thy-Mors Hospital in northern Denmark.

Scientists at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory, in collaboration with experts from IBM Denmark, created the software, which provides a medical information hub.

Using a 3D-representation of the human anatomy, the avatar helps medical staff navigate an electronic patient file, say IBM scientists. Doctors can rotate the avatar and zoom in and out to generate the level of detail needed. With the tool, they can also choose between different views - for example enabling inspection of the organs or the circulatory, muscular and nervous systems. Arrows indicate the areas of the body for which medical data is available. By selecting one of these arrows, medical staffers have all pertinent information at the click of a mouse.

IBM executives describe the situation at Thy-Mors hospital this way:

With nearly 11,000 beds and more than 65,000 outpatient visits per year, the doctors and nurses have busy schedules.

When Hardy Christoffersen, MD, head of the hospital's surgical outpatient clinic, sees a patient, he has 15 minutes for an interview, examination and diagnosis, including decisions about what kind of additional treatment may be required. To help ensure accuracy, Christoffersen must also take into consideration the patient's overall condition, including previous ailments and current health status.

"The IBM tool gives me a fantastic, graphic view of the patient's status. 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," Christoffersen said. "With this medical information hub, I have all the information I need at my fingertips."

"It means our doctors can work more efficiently," said Kurt Nielsen, director of Thy-Mors Hospital. "This improves patient care."

"The IBM solution helps support our ambition to be a paperless hospital," he added. "Also, future generations of doctors who have grown up with computers will have an even more natural approach to the use of such electronic health tools."

Andr&eacut; Elisseeff, from IBM business partner Nhumi Technologies GmbH, is one of the inventors of the tool.

"By combining medical data with a visual representation, we have tried to simplify access to electronic health information for healthcare professionals as much as possible, which will benefit all patients," said Elisseeff.

IBM and Nhumi Technologies will collaborate in the commercialization of the technology.