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See, hear, move – interactive and multimedia patient data

18 February 2011 Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Scientists integrate 3-D, video, and audio data into PDF documents

Who wouldn’t want to send his heartbeat electronically? Not only scientists and doctors, but also lovers can now indulge in this desire.  Researchers at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, in collaboration with colleagues at the university hospitals of Jena and Münster, the Bundeswehrkrankenhaus Berlin and the Erlangen-based company 3D-Shape GmbH have, for the first time, embedded multimedia patient data into an electronic publication. Dr. Alexander Ziegler of the Institut für Immungenetik of the Charité and his co-workers expect a substantial improvement of the transparency and the interdisciplinary communication of scientific 3-D, video and audio data from this new approach.

As the researchers report in the journal BMC Medicine*, this new form of medical publication offers the exciting opportunity to integrate multimedia content directly into electronic documents. For this purpose, the scientists made full use of the advanced capabilities of the popular PDF file type, which allow the incorporation of multimedia formats such as MP3 files into a document. The free online article includes a short ultrasound video sequence of a beating human heart and an audio sequence of a patient with severe sleep apnea as well as two interactive 3-D models, that of a face and that of a human brain. The freely available Adobe Reader software from version 9 onwards, installed on millions of computers worldwide, is sufficient to activate the interactive multimedia contents.

In their article, the scientists stress that the possibility of merging text and multimedia content in a single document will promote not only the digitization of the medical publication system, but also that of research and teaching. "There is an enormous potential for this approach when it comes to designing teaching or lecturing materials", says Alexander Ziegler. "The possibility to embed an interactive 3-D model of a complex biological structure into PDF documents that can be intuitively manipulated will certainly play an important role in teaching in the future."

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