Training doctors to diagnose heart conditions with world's most accurate 3D virtual heart
HeartWorks is an ultrasound simulator created by founding cardiac anesthetists at the University College London Hospital (UCLH) and the award-winning visual effects studio Glassworks. The innovative, 3D, interactive ‘virtual heart’ consists of a dedicated desktop or laptop computer, an upper body mannequin and two ultrasound probes and is used for the clinical teaching of cardiac anatomy and echocardiography. HeartWorks globally provides the most realistic simulated experiences for doctors to train safely and extensively prior to treating real patients.
“There really was no other option for us but to choose Qt considering our team size. We knew what we wanted to design and the flexibility required for future changes and there were no other technology choices on the market that could deliver that based on the quality needed.” - Paul Denhard, Head of Software Development, Glassworks
With growing success came a growing market with new customers and different needs that required product redesigns. However, Heartworks’ existing framework wasn’t flexible enough to allow a small team to keep up with the rate of change.
Glassworks focused most of the new development effort on separating the UI code from the core application framework. This made it possible to completely overhaul the UI and become more flexible going forward. The entire software was originally built in C++, including all elements of the user interface, the 3D renderer, the ultrasound simulation and, everything in-between and dependent. Glassworks ported the software application to the Qt framework, where they rebuilt the UI in QML.
In the past, a change to a UI element could have taken up to two development days, but once Qt was set up, it could be done in 10-15 minutes. Qt and its accessible designer-developer workflow opened more creative, agile and iterative ways to implement the UI and let the team gather feedback at every stage of UI development.
Changing to the new Qt architecture also made hiring new people a lot easier. Previously, it took a developer months to learn to use the old codebase. Now, a new team member can hit the ground running with Qt. Both developers and end-users love the new UI. With the interactive approach to the UI design, Heartworks can tap into the emotional experience of the end-users, resonating how the usage of the product makes them feel.
Because the HeartWorks aims to provide realistic simulations and learning experiences for medical centers and schools globally, a huge amount of effort goes into supporting different languages and regional standards. HeartWorks has been using Qt’s internationalization tools to speed up the adaptation to different languages, regional differences, and technical requirements. As part of the business case made they had made for the initial investment, Heartworks estimated project cost savings of 10-20% due to Qt’s internationalization tools. According to their estimation, Qt was three to four times quicker to translate a language than any other provider.
HeartWorks is well on its way to realizing its vision by taking a completely new approach in the medical software industry.
“Our development roots are from the gaming industry. This has allowed us to create an anatomically correct, virtual, beating 3D heart that is unrivalled in the teaching of cardiac anatomy and manikin-based simulation in echocardiography. We are excited to extend the availability of our product on the market.”, says Paul Denhard, Head of Software Development, Glassworks
HeartWorks is an ultrasound simulator developed by Glassworks and distributed by MedaPhor. The simulator is used to teach echocardiography to clinicians and train them to diagnose heart conditions. Glassworks used Qt to breathe new life into a market-leading product and create a superior end-user experience combined with high-end, photoreal 3D graphics not typically seen in the medical industry.