Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and Hebrew University of Jerusalem developed a computational technique that could bring diagnostic medical imaging to poorer and more remote communities. The method is based on technology that quickly transmits medical images from devices by moving the image processing tasks, which typically require a great deal of calculations, to a remote server.
Most medical imaging devices, said Rubinsky, consist of three essential components: the data acquisition hardware that is connected to the patient, the image processing software and a monitor to display the image. When these components are combined into one unit, machine parts often become redundant, substantially increasing the cost of the device, he said.
Rubinsky and his team came up with the novel idea of physically separating these components so that the most complicated element – the processing software used to reconstruct the raw data into a meaningful image – can reside at an offsite central location, presumably in a large center where resources are available for its operation and maintenance. This central location would be used to service multiple remote sites where far simpler machines collect the raw data from the patients.
That’s where the cell phone comes in. The phone, hooked up to the data acquisition device, would transmit the raw data to the central server where the information would be used to create an image. The server would then relay the image back to the cell phone, where it can be viewed on the cell phone’s screen.
“This design significantly lowers the cost of medical imaging because the apparatus at the patient site is greatly simplified, and there is no need for personnel highly trained in imaging processing,” said Ivorra, the post-doctoral researcher. “The data acquisition device can be made with off-the-shelf parts that somebody with basic technical training can operate. As for cell phones, you could be out in the middle of a remote village and still have cell phone access. They’re so prevalent because so little infrastructure is required to maintain wireless networks.”
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