December 1997

VMW is a monthly Virtual Magazine on Telemedicine and High Performance Computing and Networking for readers interested in computer applications in medical environments. It is produced by an editorial team composed of professionals in publishing. and an advisory board with professionals in telemedicine, provides the embedding into the everyday practice and research. Virtual Medical Worlds Magazine is sponsored by HPCnet.

HPCnet - Network of Excellence

MediXperts offers patient private medical on-line consulting
Patients in search of medical consult for treatment of their disease no longer need to book an appointment with a specialist and cope with long delays, travel costs and hours of spending in the doctor's waiting room. For the first time, they can get personal, confidential consultations with leading physicians via the Internet. MediXperts, a new on-line commercial medical information and advisory service links more than twenty five of the world's top physicians with an audience of more than fifteen million medical users.

ATM maximizes Supercomputer at Baylor College of Medicine
In April of 1996, the Core Visualisation Laboratory at Baylor's Medical School unexpectedly received a Cray Origin2000 supercomputer as part of a grant. Chris Young, the College's director of network services, had been occupied during a year with the building of an FDDI network to secure a two-and-a-half-mile Ethernet backbone when the machine turned up. At that moment, Young decided an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network would ideally meet with the high speed performance qualities of the supercomputer.

Targeting proteins speeds development of new drugs
Structural Bioinformatics (SBI) has installed an IBM RS/6000 SP to run powerful computer simulation programs that help speed the development of new and more effective drugs. This private company, based in San Diego, is concentrating its calculations on the structure of human proteins in order to design molecules which positively affect the proteins, a key starting point for projects focusing on drug design.

Virtual Colonoscopy: from real to virtual pain
During the Euro-VR Mini-Conference '97 on Virtual Reality in Industry and Research which took place in Amsterdam on November 10th and 11th, Andy Marsh, project manager of Euromed, reported on a new technology to be used for examination and surgical treatment of the colon. Traditionally, colonoscopy is a rather painful operation for the patient who has to endure the physician's probing and manipulation for about fourty to sixty minutes. Research on virtual reality has resulted in a more friendly method based on a fly-through scopy.

Password DICOM unlocks the gates to medical data
The easy accessibility of medical data forms one of the main issues in building a telemedical information society for the 21st century. The Euromed Project therefore has developed a standard called "Virtual Medical Worlds" consisting of three basic components, namely raw, derived and reconstructed medical data. These data occur in various mediums from textural reports to maybe a surgery planning video located in various databases and hospital information systems. Efficient navigation between medical information can only be realised via standardisation of the data. DICOM may be the magic password.

STARBRIGHT World Network comforts ailing children
Together with Intel and Sprint, the Starbright Foundation has developed an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) broadband network to link ailing children in hospitals around the United States of America. Last october, four celebrities gathered at Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C. to announce the expansion and tout the benefits of this interactive computer network, called the STARBRIGHT World. President Clinton, Vice President Gore, director Steven Spielberg and General Norman Schwarzkopf linked during the VIP demonstration to children at Cook Children's Center in Fort Worth, Texas via the network's video-conferencing capabilities.

ATM system will unify children's hospital
The York Hill NHS Trust in the U.K. has invested GBP 95,000 in an ATM backbone system from Digital in order to draw together the children's and maternity hospitals which share its Glasgow site. The new network will allow the Trust to support a unified Hospital Information Support System (HISS) which will allow a patient's records to follow them around the hospital during their stay. The HISS will link patient administration, patient records, radiology, pharmacy and the laboratories, and in the near future will hook up virtually all departments.

The second future of Virtual Reality in industry and medicine
Bob Stone, chairman of the Amsterdam Euro-VR Mini-Conference '97 on Virtual Reality in Industry and Research and representing VR Solutions/Virtual Presence Ltd, sketches the equivocal situation of the Virtual Reality Technology in terms of nasty little disillusions in the past but growing substantial hopes for the present and the future. The new Virtual Reality Technology is integrated in surprising and useful daily life applications in England. Land of hope, certainly, the glory is on the verge of awakening in different industries which have chosen the beautiful risk of Virtual Reality Technology. Surgery training is one of the prominent domains amongst others.

Medicine meets Virtual Reality at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics
The Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics is an applied research centre located in Darmstadt and actually functioning as a link between basic research and industry. Fraunhofer operates in three areas: visualisation, virtual and augmented reality. Rolf Ziegler is co-responsible for the visualisation and virtual reality section at the Institute where a VR room and laboratory were installed in 1993. At present, about 70 people are working there, namely a staff of 23 researchers and over 40 students. The Virtual Design system developed at Fraunhofer is implemented in several practical working fields such as the automotive and aerospace industries, mechanical engineering, urban planning, architecture and the world of medicine in particular.

Haptic feedback for minimally invasive surgery simulation
At the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, James Ward is one of the researchers occupied with a five year program on virtual knee arthroscopy. Just like the Fraunhofer Institute in Darmstadt, the Hull team has developed a Virtual Environment Simulator to realise a spectacular breakthrough in the traditional approaches of knee examination. One of the great advantages of working with a VE Simulator lies in the sensitive feedback the physician is getting through the instruments during the arthroscopy. This haptic experience is leading to more reliable results.