TORONTO - A doctor sits down with a hospital patient to review test
results but instead of fumbling with the usual clipboard or file of
papers, she reaches into her lab coat and pulls out a tablet computer.
a few taps and finger swipes, X-rays are pulled up. The doctor pinches
to zoom in and out of the high-resolution image, then pulls up a CT
scan and explains what's happening.
Later, the patient can load the same digital files onto their own tablet, computer or smartphone.
This scene could be mere months away at Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
teaching hospital has partnered with Client Outlook Inc., based in
Waterloo, Ont., to roll out digital imaging software called eUnity.
It's a Flash-based program that works inside a web browser and does the
job of a $20,000 workstation.
Typically, clinicians in a
hospital would have to use a picture archiving and communication
system, known as PACS machines in the industry, to pull up digital test
results. Problem is, they're extremely expensive, which limits how many
hospitals can realistically deploy throughout their buildings.
eUnity means hospital staff can do the same work using a web browser on
standard desktop computers. And, because it's a web application,
there's no software to install on each computer, a major bonus for IT
In September, eUnity was approved by Health Canada as a diagnostic tool. Soon after, Sunnybrook began testing it.
hospital had been waiting years for something like eUnity to come
along, said Andrew Volkening, Sunnybrook's PACS administrator.
only is it something we don't have to install software (for) anywhere,
but it's delivering those high-resolution images at an almost real-time
speed - and that's not an easy thing, technically, to do, I know,”
The hospital conducts about 300,000 examinations
a year and creates as many as 18 million digital images for test
results. Sunnybrook only has about 250 PACS machines, including some in
underutilized areas like operating rooms, and others that are so busy
lines sometimes form to use them, Volkening said.
quite a bit of time at a workstation. . . . Our average CT now is over
600 images, which is much larger than what it used to be, and when
you're going through a CT image it's time consuming. It can take you 20
minutes and someone else might be waiting behind you,” he said.
like eUnity would let (doctors) pull it up on the computers they
already have in the O.R. and I don't have to give them a specialized
Although eUnity is still in the testing phase and
hasn't been fully rolled out, Volkening said early reviews have been
enthusiastic and those who have access to the software are envied by
“The feedback's been extremely positive, everybody
is emailing now saying, 'When is everyone going to get the software?'
because it's something that's been a long time coming.”
technology is exciting for hospital professionals but a recent demo of
eUnity on a tablet also created buzz outside the health-care sector.
week, eUnity had the distinction of sharing the spotlight with Research
In Motion (TSX:RIM) when the new PlayBook tablet - due for release next
year - had its first live demonstration at a developers' conference
organized by tech company Adobe.
RIM chose eUnity as the first app to be run in public on the much-anticipated PlayBook.
“This application is really, really cool,” enthused Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch as he showcased eUnity to the crowd.
Outlook has more work to do to get the app version of eUnity approved
for hospital use, but Volkening predicted it won't be long before
mobile devices are deployed.
“I think that's going to end up sooner than later,” he said.
types of devices really give a doctor mobility - they're light to carry
around - so I can see as more devices come out like the PlayBook,
doctors will start asking for support for that and want to carry those
around. I can really see 2011 having a demand for those types of
Volkening also said eUnity's full implementation may
lead to patients getting digital copies of their test results to review
“One of the things we strongly believe in at
Sunnybrook is giving patients access to their data, it's something we
do every day, we release information on discs to the patients,” he said.
“We believe strongly that patients have access to their data.”
Outlook's CEO, Steve Rankin, said members of the eUnity team previously
worked at health-care companies and did consulting work at hospitals,
which helped them understand the need for the new software.
“It's really just about making it easy to view medical images and the result can be tremendous,” Rankin said.
He's now frequently in and out of Sunnybrook helping to get eUnity fully implemented.
soon as you sit down in the environment you can start realizing a bunch
of things you're not thinking about when you're sitting in an office,”
“It can be something as simple as a new way to
click through to make it better usable, get higher adoption, or you may
by going into that hospital . . . identify a new risk you haven't
thought about before.”
He said the company is already “far along
the process” in talking with more than 20 other Canadian hospitals
about eUnity. They're also moving toward FDA approval in the United
States and have feelers out with American hospitals.