United States Patent 3737863

A medical testing system comprising a plurality of medical test units, a computer connected to receive test results from said test units and having a plurality of programs each selectable by an operator to cause said computer to acquire and process test results from a respective one of said test units, visual display means connected to said computer to visually display said test results and to display communications from said computer to said operator, a keyboard for permitting said operator to communicate with said computer, and print out means connected to said computer for printing a report of the tests performed. Both method and apparatus are disclosed.

Rowland, Richard C. (Bountiful, UT)
Mahood, James A. (Salt Lake City, UT)
Jessee, Norman P. (Riverton, UT)
Geer, Robert W. (Salt Lake City, UT)
Peterson, Dennis C. (Salt Lake City, UT)
Application Number:
Publication Date:
Filing Date:
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
128/920, 902/40
International Classes:
G06F19/00; (IPC1-7): G06F3/00
Field of Search:
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US Patent References:

Primary Examiner:
Zache, Raulfe B.
What is claimed is

1. In the method of operating a medical testing system including a medical test unit operable to perform a medical test relating to a physiological parameter of a patient and to provide an electric signal indication related to said physiological parameter, a keyboard having a plurality of operator-actuated key switches, each operable to provide a unique electrical signal indication in response to the operation thereof, an oscilloscope display operable in response to electrical signals applied thereto to generate a corresponding visual display, and a programmable multi-purpose computer having inputs connected for response to said medical test unit and to said keyboard, and having outputs connected to control the operation of said display, the steps of:


1. Field of Invention

This invention relates to data processing and is particularly directed to apparatus for semi-automatically acquiring and processing medical test data regarding a patient.

Progress in medical testing methods and apparatus has proliferated the number and type of tests which medical laboratories are called upon to perform. Moreover, doctors and hospital staffs increasingly relay upon such test results to aid in diagnosis and treatment and, hence, place additional demands upon the time of the technicians who perform such tests. Unfortunately, aside from the performance of the tests and collection of the test results, considerable time and effort is required to correlate and process the test results into a form which is meaningful to the doctor or hospital staff. Thus, numerous mathematical computations are often required to convert test results into useful data and this data must often be correlated with other data in order to prepare a report which will convey the necessary information. As a result, several days are often required between performance of the test and delivery of a report of the test to the doctor or hospital staff.

2. Prior Art

Numerous techniques have been proposed heretofore for alleviating these problems. However, none of the prior art techniques have been entirely satisfactory. Some devices have been proposed for automatically performing a given test. However, the time required for actually performing tests is minimal compared to the time required for processing test results. Conventional data processing techniques have also been proposed for processing the test results. These techniques serve the purpose, but require highly skilled personnel who are trained as computer operators as well as medical technicians. Such highly trained personnel are extremely rare and command very high salaries. Moreover, conventional data processing machines include capabilities which are unnecessary for most medical laboratories but which increase the cost of the machines. Consequently, such machines can only be afforded by large hospitals, and the like, having many departments, other than the medical laboratory, which can utilize the additional capabilities of the machines. In addition, some special purpose mahines have been proposed which can perform a specific test and process the data from the test. However, such special purpose machines are extremely expensive and are generally compatible only with a specific type of testing apparatus. Thus, the purchase of such machines renders existing equipment obsoltee and locks the laboratory to a single source of supply for replacement parts and service.


These disadvantages of the prior art are overcome with the present invention and a semi-automatic testing device is provided which employs conventional testing equipment for performing a wide variety of tests and which can be operated by semi-skilled persons having a level of training below that of conventional medical technicians and having no special knowledge of data processing, yet which acquires and processes the test results substantially in real time.

The advantages of the present invention are preferably attained by providing a data processing device which is compatible with conventional testing equipment for obtaining results from a variety of tests and which is operable only by a technician to select a desired test program and to provide instructions and information to the technician in conversational language and by real time visual displays, and responds to simple push-button commands by the technician to acquire and store the data and to process the data into a report which will be meaningful to a doctor or nurse.

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide improved methods and apparatus for medical testing.

Another object of the present invention is to provide improved data processing equipment for processing medical test results into a form useful to doctors and hospital staffs.

A further object of the present invention is to provide methods and apparatus for acquiring and processing medical test results which is operable by semi-skilled personnel.

An additional object of the present invention is to provide semi-automatic means for acquiring and processing medical test results from a variety of types of tests.

Another object of the present invention is to provide semi-automatic means for acquiring and processing medical test results which is compatible with conentional test equipment.

A specific object of the present invention is to provide semi-automatic means for acquiring and processing medical test results comprising a computer connectable to receive test results from a plurality of types of medical test equipment and having a plurality of programs each selectable by an operator to acquire and process results from a respective type of medical test equipment, each of said programs including commands and questions for the operator in conversational language calling for responses by the operator by pressing an appropriate button, means for visually displaying information, and means for presenting the processed data in a form meaningful to doctors and the like.

These and other objects and featues of the present invention will be apparent from the following detailed description, taken with reference to the accompanying drawings.


FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a medical testing device embodying the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the electronic system of the testing device of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram illustrating the procedure for operating the testing device of FIG. 1.


In that form of the present invention chosen for purposes of illustration, FIG. 1 shows a medical testing unit 2, such as a spirometer, coupled to a control console 4 which, in turn, is coupled to a suitable printer 6 or 40. It should be understood that the medical testing unit 2 may be substantially any medical test device which has an electrical data output or which can be modified to provide an electrical data output. As shown, the control console 4 is divided into an upper portion 8, a central portion 10, and a lower portion 12, and a control keyboard 14 projects forwardly from the lower portion 12 of the console 4. The central portion 10 houses a general purpose mini-computer, such as that sold under the trademark "NOVA" by Data-General Corporation, Framingham, Mass. The upper portion 8 houses a cathode ray tube, as indicated at 16, and a cassette tape deck 18. The lower portion 12 contains a suitable power supply and a swing-out card cage containing a plurality of electronic circuit cards, such as the tape controller, computer interface cards and analog to digital converter with multiplexer.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram showing the electronic system of the device of FIG. 1. As shown, a plurality of medical test units 2 are connected to supply test results through resistance matching network 20, analog-to-digital converter 22, and A/D interface 24 to the mini-computer 26, which is housed in lower portion 12 of the control console 4 of FIG. 1. Up to sixteen medical test units 2, which may be either similar or different, can be connected to each control console 4. The control keyboard 14 communicates with the mini-computer 26 through a character memory 28 and multiplexer 30. The character memory is capable of storing and generating, on command, up to 1024 characters and 128 by 128 bit graphics. The mini-computer 26 is also capable of communicating with disc storage unit 32 and, through tape control 34, with the cassette tape deck 18 of console 4 or up to four optional nine-track tape decks 36. The mini-computer 26 communicates with the human operator by causing displays to be presented on the cathode ray tube 16 of the console 14. If desired, these displays may also be coupled to a closed circuit television system 38. Upon command, the mini-computer 26 causes a test report to be typed out on printer 40. If desired, additional remote printers 40 or high speed printers 6 may be connected to communicate with the mini-computer 26 and these remote printers may or may not include a keyboard, similar to control keyboard 14. The mini-computer 26 may also be coupled, through inter-computer interface 44, to cooperate with other mini-computers, seen at 46, and may be coupled, through main computer interface 48, to communicate with a general purpose computer 50, such as an IBM 360 or the like. A real time clock 52 is provided to facilitate timing of test intervals and the like.

As best seen in FIG. 1, the control keyboard 14 compirses a standard typewriter keyboard 54, a "YES" button 56, a "NO" button 58, an "ENTER" button 60, a group of buttons 62, 64, 66 and 68 for controlling positioning of the cursor of the cathode ray tube 16, a position button 69 which returns the cursor to the upper left hand corner, and an erase button 70. In addition, a "POWER ON" button 72, a "GROUND OK" button 74, and a "DISPLAY OPTIONS" buttons 76 are provided on the vertical rear panel of the control keyboard 14.

In use, the operator turns on the device by pressing the "POWER ON" button 72 and looks at the "GROUND OK" button 74 to determine that the device is properly grounded. These buttons 72 and 74 are preferably internally lighted pushbuttons which will be lighted under normal conditions and will be extinguished in the event of an abnormal condition. Next, the operator presses the "DISPLAY OPTIONS" button 76. In response to this, the mini-computer 26 causes the cathode ray tube 16 on the control console 4 to display a list of the tests which may be performed with the various medical test units 2. Typically, such a test selection display might appear as follows:

0 Loader 1 Spirometry 2 Residual Volume (Display 1) 3 Diffusion Capacity 4 Alveolar Ventilation 5 Blood Gas 6 ECG

as indicated above, up to 16 medical test units 2 may be connected to each control console 4 and the medical test units 2 may be either the same or different. Thus, for example, 16 spirometers might be connected to a given control console. In such a case, the display would merely show the identifying numbers of the medical test units.

When the test selection display is presented, the operator types the number of the desired test on the typewriter keyboard 54 and presses the "ENTER" button 60, whereupon the mini-computer 26 causes the cathode ray tube 16 to display the selected medical test program. For example, if the operator selected the spirometry test program, the following display would appear on cathode ray tube 16:

Calibrate 1 Patient Information 2 Tidal Volume (Display 2) 3 Vital Capacity 4 Forced Vital Capacity 5 Maximum Voluntary Ventilation 6 Typed Report 7 End of Program

The operator selects the specific test to be performed by typing the number of the test on the typewriter keyboard 54 and, again, presses the "ENTER" button 60; whereupon, the mini-computer 26 causes the cathode ray tube 16 to display the instructions for performing the selected test in conversational language. For example, if the operator selected the forced vital capacity test, the following display would appear:

Forced Vital Capacity Analysis

(Display 3) 1 Inhale to Maximum 2 Push Enter 3 Exhale Completely as hard and fast as possible!!

The operator would then read instructions "1" and "3" to the patient and would press "ENTER" button 60. As sson as button 60 is pressed, the mini-computer 26 begins to accept and process data from the medical test unit 2 and casues the cathode ray tube 16 to trace a graph of the patient's performance.

At the end of a selected time period or logical end of test, for example, 15 seconds, the mini-computer 26 will cease accepting data, make the necessary computations, and casue the cathode ray tube 16 to display the test results, as follows:

Actual Mea- (Percent of sured Values) Predicted) FVC 6113 ML 124 % TIME 5 SEC FEV 1 4659 ML 112 % (Display 4) FEV 2 5386 ML FEV 3 5885 ML/S FEF 8857 ML/S 97 % MMEFR 4334 ML/S 80 % STORE DATA?

this display is accompanied by the graph of the patient's performance, which enables the operator to make a more precise analysis of the validity of the test. The operator then answers the question "STORE DATA?" by pressing either "YES" button 56 or "NO" button 58. The mini-computer 26, then, either stores or destroys the data, as instructed, and again causes cathode ray tube 16 to display the list of specific tests (Display 2) to permit the operator to either repeat the test or select another. If the data is stored and the test repeated, the results of both tests will be displayed in order to permit comparison. When all of the desired tests have been completed, the operator types the number corresponding to "End of Program" on typewriter keyboard 54 and presses "ENTER" button 60. Thereupon, the mini-computer 26 causes printer 40 to type out a test report in a form which is meaningful to the doctor or hospital staff member ordering the tests. FIG. 3 is a flow chart illustrating the foregoing procedures.

When the "Patient Information" item (Display 2) is selected, the mini-computer 26 causes the cathode ray tube 16 to display a patient informatin form with spaces indicated for appropriate information, such as name, address, age, sex, height, weight, etc. The operator then employs position buttons 62-69 to move the sensor of the cathode ray tube 16 to the start of a desired space, types in the necessary information on typewriter keyboard 54 and presses "ENTER" button 60 to enter the information. Comments regarding test results are entered in a similar manner.

Since the device of the present invention is capable of supplying reports, substantially in real time, from a plurality of medical test units, the device can be employed for additional purposes, such as monitoring patients in an intensive care unit. Moreover, since many of the components of the device may be remotely located, additional utility is afforded. Thus, for example, the printers 40 could be located in the operating room of a hospital to permit immediate access to the results of tests performed in a remote laboratory.

The programming, sub routines, and other relationships employed in utilizing a well known general purpose computer in the performance of the present invention are set forth in a thesis of Stephen Stumph entitled THE SYNTHESIS OF A MOBILE COMPUTERIZED HEALTH TESTING SYSTEM, Georgia Institute of Technology, June, 1971, and enumerable references cited therein.

Obviously, numerous variations and modifications may be made without departing from the present invention. Accordingly, it should be clearly understood that the form of the present inventon described above and shown in the accompanying drawings is illustrative only and is not intended to limit the scope of the present invention.