Applicability of Moore's Law to IT in health care examined in MMVR 2002 proceedings

Amsterdam 27 December 2002The conference proceedings of the tenth edition of the annual "Medicine Meets Virtual Reality" (MMVR) event, held January 23-26, 2002 in Newport Beach, California, have been published as the 85th volume in the series dedicated to Studies in Health Technology and Informatics by IOS Press in Amsterdam. This MMVR 2002 edition includes 108 papers, presenting state-of-the-art applications in Virtual Reality for the health care practice, under the general theme of "Digital Upgrades: Applying Moore's Law to Health", in which the editors think of "digital upgrades" as upgrading the human body in analogy with upgrading computer software.


The renowned Dr. Richard A. Robb, Scheller Professor in Medical Research, Professor of Biophysics and Computer Science, and Director of the Biomedical Imaging Resource at Mayo Clinic/Foundation, introduces the volume describing the various pitfalls but also the remarkable progress which has been made in a decade of virtual reality for medical applications. Although in his opinion Moore's Law does not apply to health care in the same way as it does to computer technology, the future of medical virtual reality looks bright if good ideas can be matched with good tools.

Dr. Robb anticipates a breakthrough in non-invasive real time diagnosis and treatment using VR-related technologies such as multi-dimensional dynamic displays; image gloves; voice control; smart rooms, clothes and micro-probes; high-performance medical robots; Dick Tracy computers; and hospital palmtops. Still, we should not lose sight of reality and be careful always to validate not only scientifically but also clinically any new technology, according to the author.

In a second introductory paper, Harvard Medical School researchers Dr. Kirby G. Vosburgh and Dr. Ronald S. Newbower express their belief in the application of what they call "disruptive technologies" and in a skill-augmenting collaboration with clinicians to advance the positive impact of information technology in medicine. Disruptive technologies are developed and established in one specific market but tend to penetrate and overwhelm another market. Typical medical market examples of disruptive technologies are automated EKG reading, computer-aided diagnosis for mammography, and flexible monitoring for physiologic information.

All three technologies were developed for "high-brow" implementation but have been democratised since because of decreasing costs, improvements in capability, and wider application and dissemination through user pull. No doubt, the technological push model in medicine will continue to exist, according to the authors, but it will only be in demanding, cutting-edge application domains. In this model, standards are set initially, interfaces and connections provided, information captured in order to implement the system.

Drs. Vosburgh and Newbower make a plea instead for the bottom-to-top model in which clinicians are offered the chance to have computers inserted into the daily routine and grow into their technological capabilities along the way while keeping a weather eye on compabilibity and standards. The authors expect the operating room to be the next venue ripe for medical disruption considering the emergence of smart objects, intelligent devices, and wireless communication.

Some forty papers are dedicated to the use of surgery simulators for training conditions in order to improve skill performances in mastoidectomy, as well as laparoscopic, endoscopic, crano- and maxillofacial, orthopaedic and neuro-radiological interventions. The use of virtual reality training to give medical assistance in military operations or cope with situations of disaster and crisis is handled in two studies. Immersion into virtual environments is applied for psychological therapy in Italy, Korea, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United States.

Approximately six studies deal with theoretical issues of simulation whereas another 26 presentations, mostly from German researchers, report about the challenges of computer-assisted surgery. The art of 3D imaging to visualise inner organ structures is focused in 21 contributions. A very creative purpose for using virtual reality is the domain of rehabilitation. About seven papers address this challenging issue, some of them even describing the assets of tele-rehabilitation in shared virtual environments. The MMVR 2002 proceedings include 46 papers from United States scientists, as well as 46 European contributions, 12 studies conducted in Asia, and two in Canada.

  • Medicine Meets Virtual Reality 2002 - Digital Upgrades: Applying Moore's Law to Health
  • Edited by James D. Westwood, Helene M. Hoffman, Richard A. Robb, and Don Stredney.
  • Published by IOS/Ohmsha Press - Amsterdam/Berlin/Oxford/Tokyo/Washington, DC
  • 2002 - 600 p.
  • ISBN 1 58603 203 8
  • Available from Marcella Janmaat at IOS Press - Nieuwe Hemweg 6B - 1013 BG Amsterdam - The Netherlands
    Phone: +31-20-688-3355 - Fax: +31-20-620-3419 - E-mail:

Leslie Versweyveld

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