Healthbench puts focus on clinical and epidemiological analysis

Sankt Augustin 26 May 1998 The University of Cardiff and the Central Laboratory for the Research Councils (CLRC) are searching for partners to try and raise funding for Healthbench. This project proposal is based on the ongoing work with regard to the creation of a statistical workbench at the Velindre Oncology Hospital and the Hypermedata efforts to produce a toolset for the exchange of heterogeneous, distributed patient information. If these two initiatives could be combined, this might lead to the establishment of an integrated workbench for health care workers, to perform extensive epidemiological and occupational health studies. During the recent ERCIM Health and Information Technology (HIT) Workshop, Professor Keith Jeffery explained the project's aims and special issues, which need to be tackled.

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The University of Cardiff and the Central Laboratory for the Research Councils (CLRC) are searching for partners to try and raise funding for Healthbench. This project proposal is based on the ongoing work with regard to the creation of a statistical workbench at the Velindre Oncology Hospital and the Hypermedata efforts to produce a toolset for the exchange of heterogeneous, distributed patient information. If these two initiatives could be combined, this might lead to the establishment of an integrated workbench for health care workers, to perform extensive epidemiological and occupational health studies. During the recent ERCIM Health and Information Technology (HIT) Workshop, Professor Keith Jeffery explained the project's aims and special issues, which need to be tackled.

The analysis of epidemiological and occupational health statistics has to be considered in the light of its usefulness for the timely undertaking of preventive and curative actions. If the population in a certain region seems to display an inferior health condition in comparison with people living in other areas, this may be due to specific environmental, ethnic or genetic factors. The researchers in the Healthbench project are convinced that they can develop a system, which is able to handle integration of heterogeneous distributed multimedia patient information. This is already successfully done in the Copernicus project, which is better known as the Hypermedata initiative.

In addition, Healthbench has to support data manipulation for suitable selection of subsets, in order to analyse the acquired information and to display the outcomes. The final report should preferably be represented in hypermedia form and the health care workers ought to be offered a chance to co-operate through a workflow mechanism. Currently, the team of Professor Jeffery has succeeded in the efficient exchange of medical data between different hospital information systems, but in a further step, the newly integrated clinical patient data has to be interfaced to heterogeneous already existing or not yet installed statistical systems.

To solve the complex issues of workflow organization and statistical packages interfacing, the researchers are looking for assistance. The monitoring of the hypermedia documents' workflow implies the implementation of innovative technologies. Severe privacy and security measures have to be taken into account, especially in the health care domain. In this regard, the team will benefit from the results of the ESPRIT funded project HICOS, which includes the appropriate case description language. For the analysis and correlation of data, they are planning to design tools for interfacing with locally well-understood statistical packages.

The envisaged hypermedia information presentation of the results will be achieved through the application of visualization technologies. The current hypermedia sector provides hyperlinked images with or without tail-anchors and sophisticated Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) tools. At the Velindre Oncology Hospital, a workbench has already been put to the test for statistical display of radiation effects. In the future, production has to be taken up in the Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) to provide not only the health care area but also other application fields with indispensable statistical tools for ongoing research. For more details on the Healthbench project, we refer to the ERCIM HIT Workshop site.


Leslie Versweyveld

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