A web-based tool created by researchers at Stanford enables physicians and researchers to better interpret the wealth of data contained in medical images by capturing information in a way that is explicit and computationally accessible.
The tool, called electronic Physician Annotation Device (ePAD), was developed by the Rubin Lab at the School of Medicine and is available to download for free. Daniel Rubin, MD, an assistant professor of radiology, and his team initially designed ePAD in response to an unmet need in cancer imaging, but he says the tool can be used more generally quantitatively evaluate images and characterize disease. He told me:
The 20,000-foot view here is about information about images is recorded. Currently, images are recorded in narrative text form. But a narrative is a very opaque picture if you’re a clinician, or a patient, trying to understand how the picture has changed over time and determine the response of a disease treatment. However, if a radiologist is looking at images and all the information from prior studies, such as dates and abnormalities, is contained in a table and a graph shows the changes in time, then its easier for referring clinicians to understand and for computers to process.
The other aspect that is unique is that ePAD runs in a web browser. The huge advantage of doing this is the platform can be run anywhere, without needing to install software locally, or require an expensive workstation (such as we use in Radiology).
Rubin is currently in the process of launching a pilot project of the system at the Stanford Cancer Institute. As part of the project, ePAD will be used to assess treatment success for patients who are matched to clinical trials using a smart database. Clinicians and researchers at other institutions have also begun using the tool, and Rubin hopes to expand its reach to create a vast, searchable medical image database. “We’re very excited about ePAD because we think it has far reaching implications,” he said.
After downloading the platform, users can use its graphical interface to review images, make measurements and record semantic annotations. Information is stored in compliance with standards developed by the National Cancer Institute’s Annotation and Image Markup (AIM), which means physicians can use the tool to access other related imaging studies even if they weren’t interpreted using ePAD. Additionally, annotations can be saved in a range of formats so content can be easily and automatically searched across medical records systems, hospital image archives and the Semantic Web. For a brief overview of the tool watch the above video.