The programme will keep archives of each user's electronic health records, as well as store data about daily activities and family history. These combined factors, which may influence general health, would then be collated to predict and prevent potential diseases such as various forms of cancer.
It will also build a consistent continent-wide record of individual citizens enabling effective treatment should travellers become unwell anywhere in the EU.
The three year, 2.4m Euro study is dedicated to developing novel approaches to provide a solution that offers access, collection, sharing and intelligent analysis of long-term and consistent personal health status data through an integrated digital representation in silico environment. This will help to deliver clinical analysis, prediction, prevention and treatment tailored to the individual subject.
The UK's University of Bedfordshire's Professor of Visual Computing, Feng Dong, is leading the scheme which is being worked on with a consortium of organisations around Europe, including:
- Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas (FORTH), Greece
- Saarland University, Germany
- Institute of Communications and Computer Systems (ICCS), Greece
- Leibniz University Hannover (LUH), Germany
- Astrid Research Kft, Hungary
- AnSmart Ltd, UK
- Technological Educational Institute of Crete (TEIC), Greece
- University of Lincoln, UK.
Professor Dong, who will be working with a team from the University's Centre for Computer Graphics and Visualisation, believes the avatar "could reshape the future of healthcare."
He said: "Although there have been similar projects to this in the past, we are hoping to learn from previous ideas which didn't quite work to make MyHealthAvatar successful. I think one of the key issues is to make it people friendly and for it to be easy-to-use. Most of the data for the Avatar will come from the system itself and there is very little for the user to actually insert, or do.
"With today's technology it is possible to use a person's information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook to give us more details about a patient. With mobile phone tagging it is also possible for the system to show where the patient has been. So for example if they are regularly in the pub, it could suggest to the user that they are drinking too much.
"Additionally if they go to the doctors and told they have a disease, precise medical information will be sent their way; which a) reduces the need revisit the doctor, and b) helps them research online for healthcare information. So we are hoping this will make MyHealthAvatar stand-out. It's very exciting to be leading the project and a quite a coup for the University too."
The University of Lincoln's Dr Xujiong Ye, who will be working with a team from the University's Laboratory of Vision Engineering (LoVE), will primarily focus on the area of multi-scale medical image analysis.
Dr Ye, a Reader in the School of Computer Science, said: "We will develop novel image analysis algorithms and approaches using advanced computing technology to support accurate examination and reliable detection of a range of cancer diseases through the information available, from imaging data to histology data. It is expected that the availability of such information will help solve many uncertain cases caused by the ambiguity of data that is often seen at a single scale. For example, the analysis of histology images will provide significant measures to reach more trustworthy decisions for the detection of abnormal structures from the images at the organ level.
"We aim to build an infrastructure framework to allow us to collect all the health information required so we can create a 4D digital representation of the patient. This project is expected to exert a major influence on the reshaping of future healthcare in the handling of increased life expectancy and the ageing population."
MyHealthAvatar will be built on the latest ICT technology with an aim of engaging public interest to achieve its targeted outcomes. In addition to data access, it is also an interface to access integrative models and analysis tools, utilizing resources already created by the VPH community. Overall, it will contribute to individualized disease prediction and prevention and support healthy lifestyles and independent living. It is expected to exert a major influence on the reshaping of future healthcare in the handling of increased life expectancy and the ageing population in Europe. This complies with the priority and strategy of FP7 ICT for healthcare, and constitutes a preparatory action aiming at the grand challenge on a "Digital Patient", which is currently the subject of a roadmap in the VPH community.
MyHealthAvatar places a special emphasis on engaging the public. It has huge implications to the society both socially and economically. The initiative of designing a personal avatar can potentially change the way we think, communicate and search for information. Meanwhile, the acceptance of the avatars by the public will open opportunities for many industrial sectors, leading to the reinforced leadership of European industry.
www.myhealthavatar.eu (under development)