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Grid technology enables electronic image sharing among hospitals

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Digital Imaging and Communications in Media (DICOM) standards have helped create a uniform format for x-ray, CT, MRI and other medical images. Although the standards ease image analysis, doctors who wish to review patient data with their colleagues at other institutions in most cases still have to send them a hard copy of the information.

Stephen Erberich and Carl Kesselman, faculty members at the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, have created Globus Medicus, a system that enables more effective collaborative utilization of DICOM images while still preserving the confidentiality of patient information. Forty hospitals in the US and Canada — 13 being members of the New Approaches in Neuroblastoma Therapy group and 27 comprising the Children’s Oncology group — started using the system in the spring of 2006.

The project represents the medical application of Globus open-source grid collaboration software, a technology developed at the USC Information Sciences Institute and at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. Researchers in fields such as geology and physics already use the software for digital instrument and data sharing.

At the system’s core is an interface service that makes DICOM medical images available on the grid. Physicians and researchers can upload images onto the service and, if properly authorized, can have images downloaded from a catalog of archived records for use on their displays. Installation of the interface node to a high-bandwidth Internet connection costs approximately $1000, and each interface serves the combined needs of one hospital.

The USC team believes that the technology — which it demonstrated in November at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago — has the potential to facilitate radiological consultation, imaging research and drug development through efficient exchange of data and computing power among medical institutions.

Dec 2006
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