A series of 32 Computed Tomography (CT) patient images now can be transmitted in no more than four minutes through an ISDN-connection to the general practitioner. This means a time-saving of about 30 minutes, that can be decisive in many cases for the patient's survival. Imagetool, a German expert in digital image processing, provides its novel IT-Assist solution since December 1998 to a radiological communication co-operation in Oberbayern, where the software is being put to the test. This alliance consists of certified radiologists and several hospitals. General practitioners on duty have equally been integrated into the service. The physicians can analyse the images at home without having to come to the practice.
The advantages are obvious. The transmission time of the image data can be reduced with 90%. In this way, the telecommunication costs can be lowered substantially. IT-Assist also allows to considerably enhance the possibilities for immediate diagnosis. For example, a full CT series of 32 16-bit images with 512x512 pixels normally takes 37 minutes to transmit. IT-Assist performs the job in only four minutes. Depending on the diagnostic examination, a time reduction of another 50% can be achieved in emergency cases. Then, the transmission is finished in about one minute. Because of these spectacular transmission times, hospital staff is able to prepare itself much faster for emergency cases.
If the physician wants to consult an expert for a second opinion, no time has to be lost during the current examination. Important cost-savings are further more achieved by avoiding that CT and Magnetic Resonance Imaging devices remain inactive for long periods of time as well as through the shrinking in of patient expenses by means of tele-care. The IT-Assist application has been wholly financed by the project participants without official funding nor any support from third parties. IT-Assist offers effective workflow-management for diagnostic procedures, fully independent from either the hospital's or the general practitioner's location.
The system is based on several innovative features delivered by Imagetool. The digital image processing takes place according to the specific procedures in the hospital or the doctor's office. Efficient network management can be ensured through ISDN for the Local Area Network (LAN) as well as Wide Area Network (WAN) environments. IT-Assist is fully compliant with the DICOM3 standard and compatible with all medical imaging modalities and systems of any vendor, like for instance PACS, RIS and KIS. In addition, the integrated workflow-management is completely adopted to the daily clinical practice in the radiological units.
Through the implementation of tele-administration and tele-care, the fall-out periods can be avoided. At present, Imagetool is in the process of preparing complementary modules for image analysis to be applied in computer aided diagnosis. The first prototype will probably enter into the clinical test phase in the last quarter of 1999.