National Library of Medicine to Unveil Vast Potential of Internet2 for Improving Delivery of Health Care
Advanced Computer Networks Will Help Treat Disease
- Faster and More Effective Breast Cancer Treatment. Known as the "National Digital Mammography Archive," this multi-site project led by the University of Pennsylvania and including the Universities of North Carolina, Chicago, and Toronto tests the computer's ability to store and retrieve vast numbers of (high-quality digital) mammograms (from distance sites). Nothing would make a radiologist's or breast cancer researcher's job easier than to have access to mammograms stored at various locations from a single location. Moreover, a woman can move from one part of the country to another and her new radiologist can instantly access her past mammograms through the computer network to compare with the current mammogram. Cumbersome files will no longer have to be mailed. Researchers can get answers to such epidemiological questions as: Do some areas of the country have higher rates of breast cancer and fibroid tumors? What are the fibroid tumor and breast cancer tumor rate based on age and ethnicity? The project has built-in confidentiality safeguards which strips identifying information for research use. This project was #1 on InfoWorld's list of 100 innovative technology projects for 2002.
- Anatomical and Surgery Simulation Over the Internet. This project, led by researchers at Stanford University, shows how surgical techniques can be taught via the computer network using haptics. "Haptic" means the ability feel shape, texture, and density through the computer. For example, a master surgeon at one location can "trace" the correct surgical technique on the computer and have it recorded. A student hundreds of miles away can have the computer guide his or her hand several times according to the master surgeon's recording and then, after a few practice tries, students can try it on their own. These interactions can be stored and reused. This technology is similar to how pilots are trained on flight simulators.
- Surgical Planning in a 3-D World. Known as "Advanced Biomedical Tele-Collaboration," researchers at the University of Chicago project focus on using 3-D imaging for surgical planning and distance learning and employ video-conferencing techniques among multiple locations. Researchers on this project have invented software that converts 2-dimensional images into 3-dimensional images. In practical clinical terms, this means a physician can take images in different planes of a patient's liver and turn it into a 3-D picture showing the exact location of the liver's veins and arteries so the surgeon can work around them.
- Disaster Recovery of Medical Records. This project, known as "Internet2 Performance for Medical Imaging Applications" led by researchers at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, is similar to radiological ground rounds except that the radiologists can be hundreds of miles apart as they view the same x-ray online. It allows large medical images to be retrieved quickly and accurately viewed online. Researchers on this project have also come up with a means of simultaneously storing medical records and images off-site. In the event of a hospital disaster, the medical records would be safeguarded.
- Revolutionizing Clinical Trials. A project known as "Multi-Center Clinical Trial Using NGI" led by scientists at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore tests the feasibility of using the Internet in a multi-center clinical trial. This project demonstrates how high-speed networks can advance clinical trials related to rare disease when the patient base is diverse and geographically dispersed. Researchers involved in multi-center clinical trials usually have to send information on daily basis via overnight mail services. This multi-center clinical trial allows MRI studies of patients with the rare disease x-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD) to be shared digitally among researchers and institutions. This is the disease that received widespread publicity because the parents of one sufferer invented "Lorenzo's Oil," which has subsequently been proved to have some medicinal effects.
- Increased Cancer Detection Sensitivity. Researchers at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences are developing digital tools that will make it easier to acquire, view, and manipulate 3-dimensional images such as mammograms quickly and efficiently. Other collaborators include the National Naval Medical Center GE Global Research, and the University of South Florida.
The National Library of Medicine is a part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.