The Ophthalmology Image Database Search Engine is designed to solve the physical and intellectual access problems users of image collections face. The Ophthalmology Image Database is intended for medical residents, clinicians, and researchers in the field of ophthalmolgy.
Having the Search Engine on the WWW allows users access to the collection 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is available simultaneously to many users. Additionally, the combination of the search engine and thumbnail images allows users to determine the relevancy of an image before downloading the larger JPEG image for further study.
A link is provided to the Ophthalmology Thesaurus, which provides descriptors and the hierarchical arrangement of terms to be used when searching the Ophthalmology Image Database. Providing a link to the thesaurus enables users to better target relevant images to their study.
The search engine is designed to enable the user to broaden or narrow a search. The three levels of searching available are browse all images, broad category, and specific category. By breaking the search options into three categories allows the user more flexibility in searching.
When browsing all images the search will return, in alphabetical order, the GIF image with the name of the disease and the type of image (ie. CTscan, photgraph, angiogram). The browse all option allows users to determine the extent of the image collection.
The broad and specific category search options utilize the controlled vocabulary developed in the Ophthalmology Thesaurus. The user selects the term they want to search on by using the scrollable point-and-click boxes and then submitting their query. Furthermore, the user can choose to have returned either the GIF (thumbnail) images or the JPEG (larger) images with the associated text. Allowing the user to select the image size returned promotes reusablity of the search engine by those who know what they are looking for and want to go directly to the larger image.
The combination of a WWW-based image database and search engine allows users to overcome the traditional problems of medical image collections. Furthermore, the search engine can be viewed as an extendable component of the patient electronic record of the future. Today the Ophthalmology Search Engine is an integral tool for sharing medical knowledge and research.