MCW and UWM Researchers Receive CTSI Grant to Develop Virtual Doctors' Office Visits

Aug. 16, 2012

Scientists from the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee received a one-year, $100,000 John and Jeanne Byrnes CTSI Award to create a “real” patient avatar that can visit a virtual doctor’s office in cyberspace, and supplement brick and mortar office visits. The goal of the project is to increase access to medical care and reduce healthcare costs without foregoing quality of care.

The principal investigator is F. “Mariam” Zahedi, Ph.D., Trisept Solutions Professor in Information Technology Management at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Reza Shaker, M.D., Joseph E. Geenen Professor & Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, is the primary investigator at MCW. He practices at Froedtert Hospital. Co-investigators are Hemant Jain, Ph.D., and Huimin Zhao,Ph.D., the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Nitin Walia, Ph.D., serves as the consultant from Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.

This project aims to deliver health care in a three-dimensional world through interactions of “real” patient avatars and physician avatars. The “real” patient avatars will have patient physiological data in real time. Patient avatars could interact with a physician avatar, allowing the physician to see all the patients’ data through their avatars without the additional costs of bricks-and-mortar physician offices. This method of delivery could increase access to medical care for people in remote areas or who have difficulties traveling to appointments. If successful, this approach could open a new way of delivering medical care.

This is one of 19 pilot projects being funded in 2012 through CTSI. The goal is to create synergy through collaboration, and studies are specifically designed to lead to major future research support. The projects explore findings that have the potential to be translated into clinical practice and community health, and are led by investigators at the CTSI’s eight partnering institutions: the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, UW-Milwaukee, Froedtert Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the VA Medical Center, and the BloodCenter of Wisconsin.

CTSI is part of a national consortium of top medical research institutions. Working together, the CTSI institutions are committed to improve human health by streamlining science, transforming training environments and improving the conduct, quality and dissemination of clinical and translational research. The CTSI program is led by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

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