GASTER will make it easier to exchange information recorded in digestive disease diagnosis, by storing it in a multimedia database in the form of standard electronic images and descriptive terminology. After collecting this validated material from separate units in a European electronic network, the project database will be used for the development of computer applications. Pooling of expert information on the treatment of digestive disorders will result in improved care. The database may also support decisions on treatment in individual cases, making it faster and more cost-effective.
Digestive endoscopy is currently the main diagnostic procedure for investigation of the digestive tract whenever a digestive disease is suspected. In the years 1970-1985, digestive endoscopy was performed with endoscopes equipped with fiberoptic bundles while the last decade was marked by the development of electronic endoscopes, characterized by the presence of a CCD (charge coupled device) at the tip of the endoscope. Therefore, the physician looks at a TV screen to control the procedure and examine in detail the gut wall. Endoscopes examine the foregut until the duodenum and the hingut, up to the 3 last intestinal loops. When the endoscopic workstation comprises a computer, it is possible to acquire electronic images during the endoscopy and use these images as support of the information about the results of the procedure. These numeric images can then be stored in databases containing text attached to them. Starting from these images, one can expect many development for the near future, that will change the management of the patient with digestive diseases. Physicians will become able to exchange images and text related to one patient or one procedure, although they are equipped with different workstations.
Therefore, it is obvious that the information exchanged must be written in a standard format that makes it understandable by all the systems. The European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy is a scientific society grouping most of the gastroenterologists in Europe and has initiated a research program to develop standards for exchange of images and text. The GASTER project iintends to implement a multimedia database of endoscopic images based on a standard format of images and a standard terminology for descriptive terms. These standards must be validated by use in different endoscopy units. The database will collect images from these centers which will be linked to the coordinating center through a network based on ISDN (fact electronic connection). This database will then be used for the development of computer applications.
The output of the GASTER project will bring advances at 3 levels: (i) the physicians will be able to exchange images about the procedures undergone by their patients and will thus obtain a more complete information, improving quality of care. They will also benefit from help-to-decision applications based on validated reference images from the database. (ii) At the patient level, the quality of care will be improved through a better circulation of information between the physicians in charge of the patient, thus a better follow-up of the patient and the decrease of redundant examinations. (iii) At the level of National Healthcare Systems, the benefit will result from a decrease in cost of care, due to a better follow-up of the patients, the decrease of redundant examinations and the faster decision made to treat the patient. The possibility to consult a database of a scientifically validated images used as reference material will also improve quality control in digestive endoscopy.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
8000 Aarhus C
31054 CEDE Toulouse
NE7 7DN Newcastle Upon Tyne
20013 Magenta Milano