Web Magazine for Information Professionals


Julian Cook describes a project that deals with the storage and access of medical images.

MIDRIB is a project being undertaken by staff of St George s Hospital Medical School, London and the University of Bristol, in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust. Begun in April 1996, its aim is to create, maintain and deliver a comprehensive collection of medical images in digital form, for use in teaching and research. The project will gather the best of existing collections from respected professional sources, and draw them together into a coherent resource. This will be available free to medical and healthcare faculties of UK Universities and teaching hospitals. It will be accessible via the SuperJanet higher-education network, from a single World Wide Web site, with prototype pages expected to appear during the Autumn of 1996. Images will also be made available on CD-ROM.

Why are medical images necessary?

Why images?

Images are essential to medicine - a picture is worth a thousand words, providing concentrated, accurate information available in no other way. The field of medicine uses a vast quantity and variety of images, some familiar to the layperson, such as X-rays, CTs, ECGs, and ultrasound scans, and others less familiar, microscopic slides, MR scans and angiograms for example. Diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions frequently depends on the production and interpretation of images such as those outlined above.

Images are vital for medical education - Medical and Healthcare professionals need to be familiar with such pictures from an early stage and will use them throughout their careers.

So why is this MIDRIB project necessary?

Recent curriculum changes in medical education place more emphasis on the use of problem-solving scenarios involving real cases with the associated diagnostic imaging that this implies. This aims to encourage students to understand the mechanisms of normality and disease by their own investigations, and so students will have an even greater need for access to a comprehensive range of relevant images.

With the trend towards treating patients in the community or as day cases without hospitalisation, medical students now have reduced contact with patients and can thus only gain exposure to many medical conditions through the use of pictures and multimedia resources.

However the availability of such images to students is currently very limited, as they are hard to find and costly to reproduce. MIDRIB will provide access to images, immediately and without cost, via the WWW or a local network.

Why is a centralised digital resource necessary?

The images ordinarily in use by most clinicians and academics in the field are stored individually and in their original raw format (i.e. on microscope slides, paper, film, etc.). In this form these collections can only be made available for use within the originating departments or borrowed at some inconvenience.

The interdisciplinary nature of medicine means that these collections are also of interest to practitioners in a wide range of related subjects allied to medicine. A centralised bank of digital images will make such resources accessible to all.

Most Medical faculties throughout the UK are building up their own collections of images, which leads to an enormous duplication of effort. MIDRIB will remove the need for this, transferring images rapidly to all medical schools in the country via the high-speed SuperJanet inter-university network.


What will the project achieve?

As well as the resulting collection of many thousands of high quality images, the project will provide teaching sets of key images, and a series of tools to enable sub-sets of images to be put together. These will form case-studies for teaching, research and discussion purposes. MIDRIB will also create a number of ancillary products to be used with the images, including on-line slide-atlases, overlays and annotations, virtual tours, presentation and authoring templates. The project will make these available via the interface, where appropriate.

A number of workshops and seminars will be arranged to train members of the medical community to turn their own material into digital form, thereby providing them with valuable expertise and enabling them to contribute their material to the MIDRIB resource in the most valuable format. Workshops will also be held to communicate non-subject specific experience to those engaged in similar work in other disciplines.

MIDRIB will generate experience and expertise in a number of other issues and techniques. Since many of these will be of a generic nature and not confined to medicine, the project will have a wide application and impact. They include:

As this project matures during the next couple of years, this resource has the potential to become the natural repository for collections of images produced by individuals and departments throughout the Higher Education sector - an easily-accessible, comprehensive and continually growing store of medical images.


Contact Details

Please contact Julian Cook, MIDRIB Publicity Officer, at the Centre for Learning Technology in Medicine, University of Bristol, Royal Fort Annexe, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1UJ.
Tel: (0117) 928 8116,
Fax: (0117) 925 5985,
Email: jules.cook@bristol.ac.uk


Project Manager: Jill Szuscikiewicz, MIDRIB, Medical School Foyer, St George's Hospital Medical School, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE.
Tel: (0181) 725 3204,
Fax: (0181) 725 3583,
Email: MIDRIB@sghms.ac.uk