Isabel decision support tool to receive additional funding from British Department of Health

Cambridge 03 July 2003The Isabel Medical Charity has received funding from the Department of Health and the Helen Hamlyn Trust that will enable the extension of its clinical decision support system to assist with the treatment of adult patients. Isabel, which is based on Autonomy Corporation's sophisticated infrastructure software, was launched last year to bridge the knowledge gap that exists in many health systems, notably that most of the critical knowledge and experience resides with senior consultants in hospitals and not with the doctors who first examine patients.


Isabel is a free of charge on-line clinical decision support system that is available to all registered health professionals, providing critical support in areas such as diagnosis, treatment guidelines and shared experience. Isabel, which previously concentrated only on paediatrics, also offers an annotated image library, allowing users to compare their patients' visible symptoms with those available on the site, and consequently assist them in making a potentially life-saving diagnosis.

Autonomy donated its pattern-matching software to the Isabel Medical Charity to enable fast, accurate assistance for all medical professionals, who often do not have the benefit of the more specialist knowledge required to make accurate diagnoses. Applying Autonomy's pattern matching software to medical textbooks enables Isabel to deliver a fast and practical differential diagnostic tool.

When using Isabel the doctor simply needs to type in a patient's symptoms from which the Autonomy software will extract the key ideas before searching Isabel's extensive library of content to find a similar combination of symptoms, and consequently suggesting a range of relevant diagnoses. In essence, this mimics the doctor's existing and intuitive diagnostic process, the difference being that the system's base of textbook knowledge is far larger than can readily be stored in the human brain. Its performance is also unaffected by tiredness and overwork.

The charity's goals are primarily to reduce the number of people becoming seriously ill as a result of incorrect or delayed diagnosis, and to increase survival chances of sick children by ensuring that suitable treatment is administered immediately as a result of ready availability of expert guidelines compiled by acknowledged experts in specific fields of medicine. By June 2003, over 11.000 health professionals had registered with Isabel, totaling over 110.000 page requests and more than 750.000 hits per month.

Mike Lynch, Founder and CEO of Autonomy Corporation commented: "Autonomy is delighted that the hard work of the Isabel Medical Charity has been recognised in this way. Isabel has a vital role to play in assisting health care professionals to make informed recommendations in necessarily short time scales."

Dr. Joseph Britto, MD, Clinical Director and Co-Founder, Isabel Clinical Decision Support Systems, noted: "In recent Department of Health funded trials at 4 NHS hospitals the Isabel system has been shown to improve the diagnostic accuracy of frontline United Kingdom clinicians. Isabel has been demonstrated to be unique not just in terms of the diagnostic tool, but in its ability to deliver into the work flow of the clinician treatment guidelines, lessons learnt from error and knowledge. Embedded in the planned United Kingdom national Electronic Patient Record, the Isabel system is likely to have a much bigger impact on morbidity and mortality."

Jason Maude, Trustee and Co-Founder of the Isabel Medical Charity, commented: "The diagnostic error made in my daughter's case was a dramatic example of how the model of health care delivery in the United Kingdom can go wrong. The Isabel system has been shown to help clinicians improve patient care and safety and I am therefore delighted that the Department of Health has confirmed additional financial support."

Autonomy's unique Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL) integrates unstructured, semi-structured and structured information from multiple repositories through an understanding of their content. Autonomy grants enterprises the flexibility to use advanced information retrieval or legacy-based approaches.

At the heart of Autonomy's software is its ability to process text, voice and video and identify and rank the main concepts within them. It then automatically categorises, links, summarises, personalises and delivers that information. Autonomy's technology also drives collaboration across the enterprise and enables organisations to effectively leverage expertise. Autonomy's infrastructure technology is used to automate operations within enterprise information portals, customer relationship management, knowledge management, business intelligence and e-business applications, among others.

Autonomy Corporation plc is specialised in infrastructure software for the enterprise. Autonomy's technology powers applications dependent upon unstructured information including customer relationship management, knowledge management, enterprise portals, enterprise resource planning, on-line publishing and security applications. Autonomy's customer base includes more than 600 global organisations including AstraZeneca, BAE Systems, Ford, Ericsson, Hutchison 3G, the BBC, RoyalSunAlliance, Sun Microsystems and public sector agencies including the US Department of Defense, NASA and the US Department of Energy, as well as the UK Government's Department of Trade and Industry and numerous agencies responsible for homeland security related functions.

Jason and Charlotte Maude founded the project in July 1999 together with Dr. Joseph Britto, Paediatric Intensive Care Consultant at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London. Three months prior to this, the Maudes' 3-year-old daughter, Isabel, had spent a month in Intensive Care suffering multiple organ failure and cardiac arrest and a further month in a High Dependency ward. All this because her local A&E department and GP had failed to recognise her critical, life-threatening symptoms following chicken pox.

Against all odds, Isabel's sole legacy is a large wound requiring extensive plastic surgery. During their time in hospital, the idea of a diagnostic tool slowly evolved during conversations between the Maudes and Dr. Britto, who gradually gathered the support of a number of high profile doctors from hospitals around the country to make up the Isabel team. The Isabel Medical Charity received charitable status in April 2000. Its registered office is in London. More news on Isabel is available in the VMW July 2002 article Isabel tool to deliver on-line diagnostic support in paediatrics.

Leslie Versweyveld

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