Posted: 04/02/2004 06:51
UNC Researchers Win $2.6 Million Grant To Explore Portable 3-D Medical
ServicesSpecial To LTW
CHAPEL HILL – Researchers at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are exploring whether extending
distant medical consultation to a portable, three-dimensional telepresence
technology could improve the quality of diagnosis and treatment.
National Library of Medicine recently awarded the department of computer science
a three-year, $2.6-million contract to develop and test technology allowing 3-D
video of the patient and surroundings, with opportunity for medical
professionals on- and off-site to communicate in real time.
science researchers are developing a prototype for use in medical facilities.
The research team plans to test its effectiveness by exploring its use, compared
to the use of two-dimensional teleconferencing, during tracheostomies being
performed at UNC Hospitals.
"Airway obstruction is the leading cause of
preventable death in situations where patients die en route to the hospital,"
said Bruce Cairns, co-principal investigator on the study, research director in
the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center and assistant professor of surgery in UNC’s School
of Medicine. "Testing this technology in an acute situation allows us to assess
the hypotheses regarding the capture of these procedures and determine whether
we can effectively bring the consultant to the bedside and the bedside to the
The idea behind the grant originated two years ago, when the
team of investigators sent a proposal to the National Library of Medicine to
study how high-speed mobile networks could improve health-care management. The
technical questions involved in extending telepresence are substantial, they
noted, but there is a need for such advances.
"If you could use
technology to cross geographical barriers, you could extend opportunity to
people who live in rural or remote areas,” Cairns said. “We believe people
should be able to get the very best care they can get and not have their access
to specialized acute care limited by where they live."
co-principal investigators on the project are Ketan Mayer-Patel, assistant
professor, and Greg Welch, research associate professor, both of UNC’s
department of computer science, as well as Diane Sonnenwald, a professor at
Goteborg University in Sweden.
Additional collaborators include Anthony
Meyer, professor and chair of UNC’s department of surgery; Eugene Freid,
associate professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics; and Robert Vissers,
assistant professor of emergency medicine.