KU Research Center, Kansas City Company Up to Offer Online Health Information


Lawrence,KS (04-21-2001)

From ITTC Press Release
By Betsy Schnorenberg



One of ITTCs researchers specializing in information retrieval on the World Wide Web has partnered with an area start-up company to develop a Web site that rates and provides online medical information to the public and to health professionals.

Today Communications, Inc. of Kansas City, Mo., has contracted with Susan Gauch, a researcher with KUs Information and Telecommunication Technology Center (ITTC). Gauch and her graduate-level students are creating the software that will enable the company to guide consumers through an ever-growing maze of online health resources.

In 2000, more than 30 million people in the U.S. went to the Web looking for medical information, said Ace Allen, a physician and the young companys CEO. The Web offers tens of thousands of health-related sites, said Allen, who also founded and published Telemedicine Today magazine, which was recently acquired. So, the good news is that there's lots of information, but it is difficult for people to sort through it all.

The information is not all of equal quality. Some of the Webs health information is good, said Gauch, an associate professor in KUs Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. But a lot of it is mediocre or outdated. Because online information comes from a variety of sources, people surfing the Net for medical advice also cant be sure if their sources are reliable or up to date.

Today Communications will offer what Gauch describes as a "one-stop-shopping" site, called VitalSeek, for accessing high-quality healthcare resources from all over the Internet. The company will analyze and rate health sites on such things as accuracy, currency, depth of information, and privacy, and also on how well the facts are presented for general health consumers. Visitors to the Web site will create a user profile that in turn will help guide their Web search. In effect, said Gauch, the users can select the qualities that matter to them.

Gauch will provide Today Communications with both the software to process the companys internal rating system and the user profiles that will then determine what information the companys Web browser retrieves.

As a collaboration between the university and industry, this project is one example of KUs commitment to helping to develop the Kansas City area as a hub of life and health science research, said Gauch.

KU connections brought Gauch and the companys executives together. Allen, an oncologist and former teaching physician at the KU Medical Center and the founder of KUMCs Telemedicine Project, had teamed up with KU alumni Scott McWilliams, Today Communications chief technology officer, and Jim Patterson, the companys VP of Internet Development.

McWilliams, who earned a Ph.D. in Communications Studies, learned about Gauchs work and ITTC from Howard Sypher, a Communication Studies faculty member who also serves as an advisor to the fledging company.

They wanted KU people for this year-long project, said Gauch. She noted that after the first phase is completed she hopes to continue with other aspects of the project.

The projects funding includes a small amount of matching money from ITTC, the KU Center for Research and KUs School of Engineering.

For more information, contact ITTC.


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Partner with ITTC

The Information and Telecommunication Technology Center at the University of Kansas has developed several assistance policies that enhance interactions between the Center and local, Kansas, or national companies. 

ITTC assistance includes initial free consulting (normally one to five hours). If additional support is needed, ITTC will offer one of the following approaches: 

Sponsored Research Agreement

Individuals and organizations can enter into agreements with KUCR/ITTC and provide funds for sponsored research to be performed at ITTC with the assistance of faculty, staff and students.

Licensing and Royalty/Equity Agreement

An ITTC goal is the development of investment-grade technologies for transfer to, and marketing by, local, Kansas, and national businesses. To enhance this process, the Center has developed flexible policies that allow for licensing, royalty, and equity arrangements to meet both the needs of ITTC and the company.

Commercialization Development

Companies with a technology need that can be satisfied with ITTC's resources can look to us for assistance. We can develop a relationship with interested partners that will provide for the development of a technology suited for commercialization.

ITTC Resource Access

ITTC resources, including computers and software systems, may be made available to Kansas companies in accordance with the Center's mission and applicable Regents and University policies.

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