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M. Sriram Iyengar, Ph.D.
assistant professor, School of Health Information Sciences (SHIS)
Research Work: Computational Technologies for Algorithmic Medicine
With expertise in mathematical and statistical modeling, algorithms and software development, research by M. Sriram Iyengar, Ph.D., has led to a medical guidance system for astronauts and a useful Web site for health care professionals.
“I’m interested in developing algorithmic medicine, which is the use of computational and mathematical techniques to support better medical decision-making,” said Iyengar. “A strong interest of mine is a system that I recently developed for the purpose of helping astronauts to do medical care on long-duration space missions.”
Developed at NASA Johnson Space Center and the UT School of Health Information Sciences, the GuideView system’s multi-modal design provides medical guidance in situations when a physician is not available, such as when astronauts travel in space.
For example, if an injury, accident or medical emergency occurs in space, GuideView helps astronauts perform needed medical treatments or procedures by giving them step-by-step clinical instructions simultaneously in text, voice, pictures and video/animation.
“The author component of GuideView helps people break down a complex procedure into small steps and include the multi-modal content,” Iyengar said. “The player component then interactively presents the instructions. We have built it to be cross-platform, so it runs on the Web, stand alone PCs, PDAs and cell phones.”
GuideView’s technology doesn’t stop there. If it comes to a point where a doctor or other medical specialist must be contacted, Iyengar said the system is programmed to automatically call or e-mail the expert. GuideView helps people back on earth, too. The U.S. Army sees the potential in using
GuideView to help its medics provide better care to wounded soldiers. Also, Iyengar is working to make the cell phone and desktop versions of GuideView available in developing countries where there are fewer trained medical professionals and where community health care workers, who typically have at most a high school education, are often the only care providers seen by the bulk of the population. Iyengar said he believes the GuideView system will help them do their jobs better.
“These community health care workers will be using our system and following the instructions strictly according to what it tells them to do,” Iyengar said. “For example, it will ask the patient whether their vision is blurry and impaired, and it will give them a simple choice of yes or no. If the answer is no, the system will help the community health care worker figure out how to extract a foreign body or identify a viral or bacterial conjunctivitis or a lesion in the eye. However, if the vision is blurry, then a physician must be called because you have to have the advanced training to handle it.”
In addition to his work on GuideView, Iyengar and a pathologist colleague have created a Web site called Medical Algorithms (http://www.medal.org) for physicians, nurses, students and other health care professionals.
“It has a huge collection of 11,000 computational formulas, with documentation, that are useful in medicine and biomedical research,” Iyengar said. “We have nearly 89,000 registered users.” Iyengar noted the Web site is for research and teaching purposes and that it is self-funded.
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