In this project, we designed and developed an information technology (IT) infrastructure that can support various project tasks within the RERC Telerehabilitation. We applied systematic steps to identify and evaluate components of the IT infrastructure required to support telerehabilitation. Subsequently, we designed and developed the IT components and weaved them together to form a cohesive system. We believe that methods used in this development are applicable to IT infrastructure development in other RERCs. We have confidence that the infrastructure we developed can be used as the foundation for common current and future telerehabilitation applications.
Telerehabilitation, computer, information technology, videoconferencing, database
The field of telerehabilitation exists under the assumption that the barrier of distance can be minimized to enhance access that will open new possibilities for delivering intervention strategies across the continuum of care (1). Information technology (IT) is very central to telerehabilitation in minimizing the barrier of distance, both of patients to rehabilitative services and of researchers to subject population.
Minimizing the barrier of distance can be accomplished through several modes of human telecommunication: voice, video, images, textual/numerical, and virtual reality. In the last decade we have witnessed the growing importance of the Internet as the primary infrastructure for telecommunication that is capable of combining various modes of telecommunication into single channel (multimodal telecommunication). Despite its drawbacks (e.g. lack of guaranteed service), Internet has tremendous potentials for the de-facto standard for future multi-modal telecommunications. Increasingly, even voice telecommunication, that requires high level guaranteed of service, is carried out through the Internet (voice over IP/Vo-IP).
In the 2001 report to Congress, the Office of the Advancement of Telehealth identified telecommunication/informatics infrastructure among the five key issues affecting telehealth industry (2). The report also singled out the Internet as the dramatic force that changes the way consumer access health information, receive diagnostics and purchase pharmaceuticals. Typically, telerehabilitation involves direct communications between therapist/care provider and consumers over a longer period of time. Telemedicine usually involves communications between clinician to clinician (and clinic- to clinic) over shorter periods of time and uses high bandwidth (such as in telepathology or telesurgery).
The goal of this project is to develop an information technology infrastructure that can support various project tasks within the RERC Telerehabilitation. The model and methods used in this project for developing the IT infrastructure can be used in other RERCs. The infrastructure is intended to support a general Telerehab environment, not only specific tasks within the RERC. To achieve this goal, we need to find common applications/components that are generalizable across Telerehab applications.
In order to develop a common model IT infrastructure for telerehabilitation that is generalizable across various telerehab applications, as well as providing a model for an IT infrastructure for RERC in general, we design the infrastructure using the following guiding principles:
Using this principles, we ruled out alternative technologies such as ISDN or videophones over the standard phone line as the backbone of the multimodal telecommunication. This principle also eliminates proprietary videoconferencing technology which most of current high-end technologies are.
Design and development of an information system usually follow certain methodology to systematically evaluate all components and design an architecture that blends the components into an optimally working system. The development of the infrastructure in this project follows these systematic steps:
The first result of this method is a matrix of components and application for each task within the RERC Telerehabilitation:
|Type of Infrastructure||Application||D2: Clinical Assessment||D3: Cosmobot Speech Therapy||D4: Remote Job Coaching||R1: Wheelchair Prescription||R2: Wheelchair Accessibility|
|Multimodal Telecommunication and Document Sharing||Web Conferencing
Multimodal and multipoint online conference, utilizing video, sound and instant messaging
|Conference between Therapist - Patient's Parent||Video conference for remote monitoring||Conference between clinics||Conference between Therapists - patient / patient's family|
Project-related document access such as multimedia, presentation, spreadsheet and word documents
|Part of the conference, curriculum, therapy progress, etc||Specification of wheelchair||Environment images, office files, and 3D models|
Accessing patient-related record and data
|Part of the conference, child's record, achievement, etc||Patient's data and record||Patient's personal data|
|Video||Video for online survey||Video captured from conference||Optimized video, project specific format||Video captured from conference|
|Image, Models||Image for online survey||Images to help custom-tailor the prescription||Environment images and 3D models|
|XML-based Data||Data to build wheelchair prescription|
|Regular Data Set
|Survey result||Cosmobot play session data, Therapist's treatment course||Survey Result||Wheelchair prescription||Survey result|
|Personal Health Record||Child's Personal Health Record||Patient's Personal Health Record||Patient's Personal Health Record|
|Portal Technology||Portal for Entry Point|
|Project Specific Portal||Portal to initiate webconference|
|Form-based Web Application||Advanced online survey||Post-session questionnaires||Online Prescription||Online Survey|
|Project Specific Application||Cosmobot, a Flash-based client application.||Remote Monitoring Video Conference||Intelligent Wheelchair Prescription System||Web-based Multimedia Remote Assessment Support System|
As shown in the table, four types of infrastructure will serve as the backbone of the RERC Telerehab: multimodal webconferencing and document sharing, database & archiving, portal technology, and client-server data transmission. Multimodal webconferencing includes video, voice, and textual conversation using Instant Messaging (IM). Document sharing is used to refer to any interactive sharing of any documents including Office documents (Powerpoint, Word, spreadsheet, etc), as well as sharing of patient record. Database and archiving will form the backbone for back-office technology for supporting all other infrastructure components. All interactions in multimodal telecommunication, portal, and client-server data transmission will be supported by a database technology for storage and archiving. Portal technology is used to support survey (for researchers to reach patient) and for supporting portal-like web for consumer information.
One of the first major tasks in the infrastructure development is evaluating and testing several multimodal telecommunication platforms. We evaluated and tested five platforms: e/pop from WiredRed, WebDemo from Linktivity from DataConnection, Meeting Server, PolyCom and ConferenceXP from Microsoft. The results of the evaluation are presented in the following table:
|Conference Archiving||Available at a low quality, doesn't utilize database to store the archive||Available, doesn't utilize database to store||Available, doesn't utilize database to store||Not available||Available, utilizes SQLServer to save the stream|
|Document Sharing||Integrated inside the webconference||Integrated inside the webconference||Integrated inside the webconference||Need additional device to provide document sharing||Integrated inside the webconference|
|Hardware Requirement||PC based running Windows OS||PC based running Windows OS||PC based running Windows or Mac OS||Proprietary devices||PC based running Windows OS|
|Quality of Communication||Medium quality||Medium quality||Medium quality||Very high quality||Adaptable to bandwidth size|
|Price||$3000 for 1 year license||$3000, one time fee||$2500-$5000 per year||Depends on functionality needed, $2000-$10000||Free|
We are looking for a webconferencing system that can support all the required activities (archiving, document sharing, etc), is platform independent, and cost-effective. We decided to use ConferenceXP because it has all features that we need, and is free. ConferencXP is based on AccessGrid, an open source webconferencing system grown out of the Internet2 project. The only drawback of ConferenceXP is that it only runs on the Windows system. This monolithic platform is not preferable in the long run since some of our researchers are Mac users. To mitigate this problem, we plan to link ConferenceXP back to the AccessGrid client that can run on any platform.
Among the first system that we developed is the RERC Telerehabilitation Portal due to the needs to collaborate from the onset of the project. We developed the portal using Sharepoint, a portal platform system from Microsoft. The system provides all features that we need, and is also inexpensive.
The next important platform to select is the database system for storage and archiving. We evaluated several systems, including: Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, Microsoft Access, OpenSQL, and FileMakerPro for Macintosh. We have experienced in all of these platforms. FileMakerPro and Microsoft Access were eliminated from the consideration because they don't have features that we need (capability of handling large and multimodal data sets). Microsoft SQL Server was selected for the following reasons: it can be tightly integrated with the Portal (Sharepoint) and the web conferencing system (ConferencXP), it is economical (not free like OpenSQL, but relatively inexpensive for a big databases system) and provides a good support.
The two other types of IT infrastructure (client-server data transmission and project-specific application) are tailored-made programs specifically developed for the project.
The following is an illustration of the systems that we have deployed for the RERC Telerehab. Figure 1 illustrates the Portal for Telrehabilitation. This portal is used as a collaboration (data sharing, news, mailing list, etc) for researchers within the RERC.
Figure 2 illustrates the webconferencing portal for multimodal video/text conferencing and document sharing
Bambang Parmanto, PhD
6026 Forbes Tower
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
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