Usually when we think of
medical records (EMR) as being
three-dimensional, we think of the relational aspect of databases.
Researchers at IBM, however, are testing a different concept.
The idea is to have a rendered 3D representation of the anatomy of the
patient, and to use that as a basis for the record. This is
reported in IEEE Spectrum.
Elisseeff leads a research team at IBM’s Zurich
Research Lab that in September demonstrated a prototype system that
will allow doctors to view their patients’ electronic health
record (eHR) using three-dimensional images of the human body. Called
and Symbolic Mapper Engine, the system maps the information
in a patient’s eHR to a 3-D image of the human body. A doctor
first clicks the computer mouse on a particular part of the image,
which triggers a search of the patient’s eHR to retrieve the
relevant information. The patient’s information corresponding
to that part of the image is then displayed, including text entries,
lab results, and medical images, such as magnetic resource imaging.
My first reaction was to think this is really cool. My second
reaction was to doubt that it would be useful. My third
reaction, as with pretty much everything, is that I’d have to try it
for a while to decide whether it had any utility.
In psychiatry, it would not make much sense to map the medical record
to an anatomical representation. It the rest of medicine, it
might be useful. The developers view it in a way that was not
immediately apparent to me. They see it as a tool to enhance
communication with patients:
Elisseeff hopes that by “opening the
computer screen to the patient, better communication between doctor and
patient can occur.” He also believes that by changing the
computer’s role from a physical barrier to a conversation
starter that the acceptance of eHRs will increase.
My experience with using computers to teach people, is that the person
generally nods a lot and makes socially appropriate noises.
Computers are good for making things seem simpler than they
really are, and for making people act like they understand things that
they really don’t.
Even so, some patients probably would understand, and find it helpful.
That would be good. Different people have different
styles of learning.
Likewise, different doctors have different ways of conceptualizing and
organizing information. I suspect that some physicians would
take to this naturally, whereas others would find it cumbersome.
In order to be successful, it would have to have a flexible
interface: it would have to be possible to use it without relying on
the 3D model.
One of the barriers to the adoption of EMR is that there are many
different systems, and they all require training to use to maximum
effect. If the interface is too complex, it will be difficult
for it to become widely used.