Google Research, an arm of Google, Inc., the Internet search engine company, has awarded a small but strategic grant to advance work under way at Oregon Health & Science University aimed at improving the use of image retrieval systems for medical applications.
The project will focus on three things: gaining a better understanding of the medically oriented needs and motivations of users, extending and evaluating a prototype medical image retrieval system, and augmenting a research test collection of medical images.
"Image retrieval is less reliable than text retrieval partly because the algorithms to automatically identify image content are less well developed, but demand for efficient, secure image search engines is rising, among physicians and other medical users, said William Hersh, M.D., the project's lead investigator."Another problem is that few studies have looked at why or how different biomedical users in their various roles - clinicians, researchers, educators, students, librarians - use images and how they would search for them."
Hersh, who is professor and chairman of the Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology at OHSU, described the project that Google's $80,000 grant will help support in a recent presentation in Seattle at the 2008 annual meeting of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine.
"Image retrieval is a poor stepchild to other forms of information retrieval, but a growing volume of biomedical images are available electronically and are increasingly available on the Internet through such applications as Google Images," said Hersh. "Yet little attention has been paid to understanding the medically oriented use of these systems and to research that will facilitate their improvement."
MyPACS.net, an online medical image sharing site that is increasingly being used as a platform for remote sharing of cases with colleagues to solicit second opinions, disclosed late last year that its base had doubled in the last year to 14,000 registered users representing 4,000 hospitals and imaging centers.
Hersh is the author of numerous scientific papers on biomedical information retrieval as well as a leading textbook in the field, Information Retrieval: A Health and Biomedical Perspective.