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Avatar Based Health Records

A true virtualisation of healthcare - of a sort, may be just aroundthe corner. Avatars have traditionally been our representative body within virtual spaces, but they usually feed straight back into our own senses. The concept of an avatar representing us, that is not so tied, is perhaps an uneasy one.

IBM has been working on a system that uses such disassociated avatars with gusto. The software is essentially a 3D visualisation of patient records. Rather than just have a list of what is medically diagnosed as an issue for the patient, medical practitioners view a 3D, rotatable avatar of the patient, visually indicative of what is wrong, and where.

Doctors can rotate the avatar and zoom in and out to generate the level of detail needed. With the tool, they can also choose between different views, for example enabling inspection of the organs or the circulatory, muscular and nervous systems. Arrows indicate the areas of the body for which medical data is available. By selecting one of these arrows, all pertinent information pops up in traditional written format, in a frame to the side of the avatar.

As of March 2009, the system has been undergoing operating trials at Thy-Mors Hospital in northern Denmark. There, doctors have had direct access to the system, for over a month at time of writing.

"The IBM tool gives me a fantastic, graphic view of the patient's status. I can see much more information than just what the patient tells me is bothering him or her that day â€" information for which I would otherwise have to spend considerable time searching through our current records system," reports Dr. Hardy Christoffersen, head of the hospital's surgical outpatient clinic. "With this medical information hub, I have all the information I need at my fingertips."

The test also showed additional benefits of the visualization: it helped doctors to spot information indirectly related to current health problems but still relevant to the treatment. The technology is also expected to improve doctor - patient dialogue by showing relevant parts of the body on the avatar in an easy-to-understand manner.


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