A day at the Teesside University School of Computing and Mathematics

Middlesbrough 09 December 1999The University of Teesside is one of the United Kingdom's leading universities for computing and mathematics. At the six-year-old Teesside Medical Computing Centre (TMCC), a lot of research projects are going on in the health care area, which are related to several medical disciplines. State-of-the-art information technology is applied to the scientific investigation of asthma, lower back pain, and diabetes care, as well as to the development of medical and physical devices for both physicians and patients. In addition, the many computer resources are addressed for the testing and validation of training systems, used in minimal invasive surgery simulation. A clinical support research group in particular concentrates on the design of a multi-media electronic patient record for telemedicine applications.


The TMC Centre enables academics and clinicians to share their know how and to exchange their knowledge in the development of medically useful computer applications. The TMCC researcher's areas of interest cover a broad spectrum, ranging from departmental information systems to virtual reality, and from development of reference ranges for bone mineral density to nurse communicator systems. The narrow links which exist with the local Teesside hospitals guarantee a continuous access to the modern specialist equipment, like MRI scanners and DXA scanners for digital data capture at source. As a result, the arrival of Dual Energy X-Ray Absorpitometry (DXA) scanning has allowed a large increase in monitoring bone density. These measurements are frequently being used for the clinical decision making in patients with osteoporosis, after comparison with normal population values.

One of the more extensive projects forms the building of a real time minimal invasive surgery simulator for surgeon training. The system has to integrate special simulation tools for cutting, burning with laser, and scraping. Also, the patient model's skin, muscle, and bone have been provided with tensile strength, viscosity, texture, and a great elasticity. The simulator will be used for practising endoscopy, maxillo-facial and orthopaedic surgery. Endoscopy reporting for that matter has served as the primary motivation for the launch of Cassandra, a clinical support system based on the multi-media electronic patient record as the principal unit, aimed at the key processes in outpatient and inpatient care. The Cassandra system hosts an Endoscopy Scheduling Service that is integrated with the main hospital patient information system. It also links with Erica, a new graphical interface for endoscopy reporting.

The development of a multi-media electronic patient record largely facilitates data sharing at a distance. As such, Cassandra could be an essential part of future telemedicine applications. The system gathers all administrative and clinical data required for real time patient management. The Cassandra tool is designed in a way that it has immediate relevance to the job at hand, thus replacing the existing task without adding anything to the actual workload. All processes within the hospital system that relate to the inpatient care, are necessarily interconnected, and demand to be considered as a whole.

In fact, Cassandra constitutes a general tool for clinical support but it is very well positioned to provide support for specific requirements. The TMC Centre has examples of adapted software for oncology units and centres, and cancer registries. Next to this, the Clash software is especially designed to meet the monitoring needs of patients suffering from haematological disorders. Small in number as they are compared to the total hospital population, this type of patients requests extensive and thorough examination. Clash captures this complex data and provides clinical support by generating letters, summaries and statistical reports to respond to specific demands. In turn, for infectious diseases, similar tools referred to as Spider and Carp, have been developed.

The South Cleveland Hospital has been serving as a testing and validation site for Cassandra from 1988 on. Since that time, a considerable number of undergraduate students of computer science and business studies, as well as postgraduate students, have worked within the Cassandra project. The group has received financial assistance from a variety of sources, including national, regional and local institutions; contributions from industry; local research funds; and the National Health Service (NHS) Trust investment. For more details about the ongoing work in the various projects, we kindly invite you to visit the home page of the Teesside Medical Computing Centre.

Leslie Versweyveld

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