IBM Announces Web-Based Radiology Theatre

IBM has announced an online “radiology theatre” product, currently at the prototype stage, which allows teams of medical experts to “simultaneously discuss and review patients’ medical test data using a Web browser.” The project is being run in collaboration with the Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Boston and is built on IBM’s next-generation browser platform Blue Spruce, which ReadWriteWeb reviewed when it was first announced back in November. IBM also used the WebKit Open Source Browser Engine. The app runs on the Linux or MacOS X operating systems and the browser may be Safari or Internet Explorer.

According to IBM, it has created a secure Web site that allows select medical experts at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to access and collaborate on data such as CT scans, MRIs, EKGs and other medical tests. Each medical expert can “talk and be seen through live streaming audio/video through their standard web connection, and have the ability to whiteboard over the Web page as well as input information to the patient’s record.” Basically it is a secure multimedia experience running inside a single browser window, using Blue Spruce as the platform.

A reminder that Blue Spruce is a fully browser-based application development platform, currently in development, which is being built on open Web standards. The main feature of Blue Spruce is that it allows for a combination of different Web components – data mashups, high-definition video, audio and graphics – to run simultaneously on the same browser page. It’s important to note that the Radiology Theatre app only requires a standard Web browser (as long as it’s Safari or IE!) – so there’s nothing to download for the end user, in this case doctors.

The radiology theatre is the latest in a series of prototypes for Blue Spruce. The current prototypes are focused on 3 main areas: finance, health and “heavy industry” (which it previously defined as utilities, rail, steel, etc).

This is how IBM described how the new online radiology theatre will work:

“A group of doctors can log into a secure Web site at the same time to review and analyze a patient’s recent battery of tests. For instance, a radiologist could use her mouse to circle an area on the CT scan of a lung that needs a closer look. Then using the mouse she could zoom into that scan to enlarge the view for all to see. An expert on lung cancer could use his mouse to show how the spot had changed from the last scan. And then, a pathologist could talk about patient treatments based on spots of that size depending on age and prior health history, paging through clinical data accessible on the site.

The theatre allows all these experts to discuss, tag and share information simultaneously, rather than paging through stacks of papers, calling physicians to discuss scan results and then charting the results. This collaborative consultation brings together the personal data, the experts and the clinical data in one physical, visual theatre.”

Perhaps the biggest potential benefit of the online radiology theatre is that it will enable experts from all over the world to consult on cases. The ability for multiple users to “cobrowse” (as IBM has termed it) means they can interact in the browser in real-time and see each others’ changes.

Of course, since this is medical data, there are significant privacy implications involved in using the Internet to collaborate. But we’re pleased to see that IBM’s Blue Spruce is being put to such a worthy use and we look forward to seeing other applications this year and beyond.



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