NetMeeting software enhances collaboration with oncologists


A new use for an old tool has been enlisted to ameliorate some collaboration difficulties.

A new use for an old tool has been enlisted to ameliorate some collaboration difficulties.

Researchers in the U.K. have adopted Microsoft's NetMeeting, along with a commercial virtual simulation package called ProSoma (Oncology Systems Limited, Shrewsbury), to provide closer collaboration between radiologists and oncologists in target volume determination.

"Ideally, oncologists and radiologists would sit together in front of a planning terminal to do outlining, but this is often impractical because they are frequently working in different locations in the hospital," said Keith Langmack, Ph.D., chief of clinical radiotherapy physics at Nottingham University Hospitals.

The NetMeeting-ProSoma remote desktop system allows a user at one computer to view and interact with a program running on another computer. NetMeeting allows two or more users to share applications and data and to videoconference across a network, whether it's the Internet or a hospital local area network.

The NetMeeting collaboration system was developed at the NUH Cancer Centre, which is split into two sites five miles apart that are connected by a 100-Mb LAN.

"We found that most operations are practically instantaneous," Langmack said.

A collaboration system is important since many oncologists lack specific training in newer imaging modalities such as MR and PET, which are being used more and more in the determination of tumor volumes.

"The advice of an appropriate radiologist in the interpretation of these images is highly beneficial, for accurate structure delineation, particularly in complex cases, which in turn leads to more accurate radiotherapy," Langmack said.

NetMeeting gives both physicians full functionality. Each can see fused data sets and can delineate gross tumor volume or other structures.

The hospital's PACS has conferencing functionality for diagnostic imaging, but this PACS feature does not support tumor outlining or provide image fusion capability, Langmack said.

"Currently, our oncologists and radiologists talk over the phone during their remote desktop sessions, but NetMeeting also supports audioconferencing, an option we intend to implement in the near future," he said.

NetMeeting is available as part of the Windows standard package in all versions prior to Vista. No further licensing expenditures are required. Vista includes a different solution called Windows Meeting Space, which was not tested in this context. ProSoma is a popular package that provides CT, MR, and PET 3D simulation software on standard PCs. It is used in over half of all radiation therapy departments in the U.K., according to Langmack.

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