Mobile multimedia terminal allows physician to carry a tele-radiology workstation in his pocket

Heidelberg 03 May 2001Nine partners from five countries are working together in a two-year project to design fully integrated personal digital assistant (PDA) devices and software applications, based on the upcoming third generation of GSM, known as Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS). This new type of mobile multimedia terminal will be used in four areas including tele-learning, tourist-guides, speech and speaker recognition systems, and tele-radiology. The tele-radiology application builds on know how from the 1996 CHILI project, in which a modular and scalable software architecture was developed for teleconferencing and second opinion consultations between remote radiologists. The current Multimedia Terminal Mobile (MTM) project is funded by the European Commission under the IST Programme.

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The multimedia terminal, produced by the MTM Consortium, is more than just a conventional PDA, since it will feature the functions of a video camera for face-to-face contact; a portable personal computer with voice and text recognition software, colour display, speaker and microphone; a wireless telephone; and an UMTS-interface for data transmission using a bandwidth of 2 Mbit/s. This is truly a challenge for the MTM team because the resources on a PDA are very limited. The screen has a small resolution. There is only a low level of computing and memory resources with no disk space available, and all interaction is performed by a pen and via a speech interface. Therefore, the implementation has to be very different compared to a classical PC application.

The University of Avignon, the French project partner, will embed speech and speaker recognition software in the advanced mobile multimedia terminal, a feature which is very important to the CHILI application. The MTM device will be equipped with a short sentence recognition system in different European languages, as well as a vocal user authentication system. For this purpose, the University of Avignon has adapted the algorithms of its existing platform to the specific and restricted resources of the MTM environment.

Dr. Uwe Engelmann from the German Centre for Cancer Research (DKFZ) is responsible for the mobile CHILI telemedicine application. The DKFZ, which is involved in a joint venture with the Steinbeis Transfer Centre, the second German partner in MTM, cherishes the ambition to display medical images anywhere and anytime. The current tele-radiology version has been installed on a Compaq Pocket PC iPAQ H3700. The notebook runs a CHILI server from which patient images are submitted to the mobile CHILI through wireless Ethernet. Voice over IP is activated and both mouse pointers are visualised to enable synchronous teleconferencing between a mobile and a permanent CHILI workstation. At present, a new version is designed where UMTS will be applied to transfer the data.

At the beginning of the project in January 2000, radiologists in Germany and Spain were asked about their personal PDA user requirements in a scenario-based questionnaire. This was done with the intention to picture the broader context in which a mobile multimedia terminal can pay value-added services to a physician. The questions on specific user needs thus have been related to a number of concrete clinical settings. They include, for example, a neuro-surgical emergency where a doctor consults a neuro-surgeon on patient CT-scans via PDA; a doctor's round in a ward where cases are discussed based on patient data, called up via PDA; a teleconference in which a junior doctor requests a senior consultant for a second opinion; or an examination at an MRI centre for situations in which further input is needed from other absent experts, such as biochemists, cardiologists or neurologists.

As a result of the feedback from the questionnaires, several prototypes have been built to respond to the users' needs and to learn more about software development under the constrains of a PDA device. The MTM partners have performed tests in real life clinical environments at radiology departments in Germany and Spain. Currently, the network connection is realised through wireless Ethernet (IEEE 802.11) in the Intranet because the UMTS standard is not yet available all over Europe. In a later stage, physicians outside the hospital will be able to access patient information from the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) over UMTS.

More details and pictures are available at the Web site of the Multimedia Terminal Mobile project. For more information about the CHILI project, we refer to the VMW October 1999 article Remote hot CHILI radiology images processing at the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum.


Leslie Versweyveld

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