European group proposes global telemedicine information society

September 17, 2001

Teleradiology and telemedicine have come a long way since the first x-ray images were transmitted over telephone lines in 1969.Healthcare is now a major beneficiary in any vision of the Next Generation Internet. But if the development of

Teleradiology and telemedicine have come a long way since the first x-ray images were transmitted over telephone lines in 1969.

Healthcare is now a major beneficiary in any vision of the Next Generation Internet.

But if the development of supercommunications networks is to take place on a global scale, it should not occur in an ad hoc manner, according to a recent white paper.

The paper, "Virtual Medical Worlds," was written by Dr. Andy Marsh, project manager of Euromed, a three-year project funded by the European Commission. It introduces the International Telemedical Information Society (ITIS) to facilitate organization of existing medical information and provide the foundation for its integration into future forms of medical information systems.

ITIS was born out of Euromed, which uses Web-enabled technologies to deliver high levels of healthcare to all European citizens. To realize this objective, Euromed proposed the Virtual Medical Worlds (VMW) standard to integrate the diverse range of telemedical technologies and applications.

VMW, based on three-dimensional reconstructed body images, uses the Web as a navigational medium to remotely access multimedia medical information systems.

Under VMW, a unique personal home page is generated for each patient. The user follows hyperlinks to locate patient data.

VMW offers physicians a complete set of telemedical services, such as tele-collaboration, tele-diagnostics, and personalized image processing facilities.

The system also includes hyperlinks to follow patient image data. The information is organized in a hierarchical structure, ranging from top-level whole-body image data down to specific organs.

Wavelet compression is proposed for downloading medical images at remote sites. VMW supports the fusion of different image modalities for use in the local 3-D image processing services.

The average hospital annually produces 6 terabytes of data that must be stored for legal reasons, according to Marsh.

Euromed has proposed a 20-building-block infrastructure that combines technologies such as advanced imaging and data management with well-defined standards, including DICOM and HL7, into in a modular framework interconnected by the VMW standard.