Technology Integrations for Medical Applications implements telemedicine platform to link doctors and hospitals worldwide

Hoboken 22 December 2003Since 2000, a Stevens Institute of Technology Special Lecturer in Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Thomas Cattabiani, has worked to help realize the global vision of a successful New York surgeon, his longtime friend and onetime classmate in the Stevens pre-med programme, Undergraduate Projects in Technology and Medicine (UPTAM). The vision enfolds the establishment of clinics and hospitals worldwide that are served by Internet links to experts in the United States, physicians who can, from great distances, help to train other doctors, and even advise on real-time surgical procedures, in regions where the latest in modern techniques are not commonly known.

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Thomas Cattabiani has travelled specifically a number of times to Serbia, a nation recovering from years of internecine warfare as part of the former Yugoslavia. There he has helped provide telemedicine capabilities to local physicians, while his friend, Dr. S. Vincent Grasso, has imparted his expertise in laproscopic, i.e. minimally invasive, surgery.

"Operation Outreach" in Zrenjanin, Serbia, was inspired by the success of earlier expeditions to other regions of the world. It began with a request for support from a former graduate student of Cattabiani's, Veljko Popov, and the team of surgeons working at a charity hospital, the St. John Hospital for Special Surgical Services in Zrenjanin. During 2001-2002, Operation Outreach provided donations of badly needed medical and surgical supplies; surgical equipment and training in Minimally Invasive Surgery and Medical Informatics; installation and support of a computer LAN; Serbian language software to support a hospital database; and security protocols for Internet transfer of sensitive medical data.

Thomas Cattabiani and Dr. S. Vincent Grasso recently initiated a new phase in the life of the Serbian hospital, in which, instead of travelling to Serbia in person, they directed their colleagues in innovative procedures entirely from a remote real-time Internet facility located at Dartmouth University.

The event was the culmination of several years of hard-won gains in a Balkan nation achingly short on technology infrastructure and long on political uncertainty. But, not content with this success, Thomas Cattabiani and Dr. Grasso are looking to the next logical phase of Operation Outreach Zrenjanin: expansion of the hospital, and extension of the experiment to other locations. This adventure in the healing applications of high-tech communications began with a commitment made by Dr. Grasso in the closing years of the 20th century.

Technology Integrations for Medical Applications (TIMA) is a privately held New Jersey corporation founded by Dr. Grasso in 1999, upon completion of his R&D efforts as a NASA Project Manager with the Yale University NASA Commercial Space Center for Medical Informatics and Technology Applications. The focus of Dr. Grasso's R&D consisted of exploring the feasibility of deploying a mobile health care information system platform capable of empowering health care providers to care for patients regardless of their geographical location.

The high point of these efforts resulted in the internationally recognized Everest Extreme Expeditions of 1998 and 1999 where physicians and scientists from Yale, NASA, the United States Army, the MIT Media Lab, and AT&T Health Solutions experimented live from Mount Everest with the information system platform developed by Dr. Grasso and his team. This system at Everest was prohibitively expensive to deploy and functionally limited. Despite these shortcomings, these expeditions were exceedingly successful and illuminated a pathway to building the next-generation health care informatics platform.

"The software development team at TIMA has spent the past six years designing, testing, and refining what we feel is the most advanced health care information system platform available", stated Dr. Grasso. "We are now in the process of conducting the last series of trials within the New York Metropolitan Area at major hospitals, nursing homes, imaging centres, physician offices, and mobile initiatives such as visiting nurse and physician house call activities."

"TIMA has developed a globally deployable health care information system designed to meet the needs of both providers and patients across the entire range of health care delivery, clinically and technically", stated Thomas Cattabiani. "It is the first system of its kind to fully integrate health care information flow with business logic, thereby providing a hyper-efficient and effective delivery platform. Central to its design was the overwhelming desire not only to empower providers with those tools and services essential for delivering quality care, but a focus to empower patients to have greater input into their health care experience."

Technically, TIMA software architecture has embraced Next Generation Internet designs and the ability to make full use of emerging Grid computing capabilities. "The mobile application of that platform, TIMA Mobile", concluded Thomas Cattabiani, "possesses all the capabilities of the static enterprise platform, delivered from a single laptop computer." For more information on the Everest Extreme Expeditions, you can read the VMW July 1998 article Telemedicine network links Everest climbers live with ground level.


Leslie Versweyveld

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