UK scientists have designed a knowledge management system which could enable medical practitioners to make speedy, informed decisions about breast cancer patients. The project pulls together information which was previously held in separate locations and it has the potential to revolutionise patient diagnosis and management.
The MIAKT project (Medical Imaging with Advanced Knowledge Technologies), aims to facilitate medical practitioners in diagnosing and treating breast cancer. The project is funded jointly by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Its first phase ends in January 2005 and the MIAKT team is now seeking further development funding.
The system uses Semantic web technologies, enabling information from X-ray mammograms, MRI images, biopsy results and data from the clinician to be made available when the practitioners meet for their weekly Triple Assessment Procedure. Semantic web technologies allow information to be linked in such a way that it can be easily processed by machines. Practitioners can then view different types of images and scans, call up patient information, and automatically generate reports. It is also possible to investigate, annotate and analyse the data using web and Grid services.
‘This research draws on technologies in which the UK is a world leader,’ says Professor Nigel Shadbolt of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. ‘Eventually, e-health will be delivered using the web and incredibly powerful networks of computers. Medical practitioners will have the information and evidence at their fingertips to support decision-making that has a direct impact on us all.’
The ECS team, which is working with the University of Sheffield, the University of Oxford, King’s College London and the Open University on MIAKT, believes that there is potential to develop the project further. They are currently investigating the possibility of developing software to extend the capabilities of the system; additional funding will be needed to enable them to do this.