Computers help veterinarians diagnosis pets with rare diseases

By 1989, the partners had the canine database of their program ready for use by practicing veterinarians. They formed a company, Texas Medical Informatics, and introduced their product at the 1989 convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) in San Antonio. They sold 10 copies on that first outing and got "good feedback" from their customers.

"We finished the feline database and marketed this DOS-based version until 1997," Carter said. "By that time, over 1000 clinics were using 'Associate'. Veterinarians loved it, especially for the tough cases."

But 'Associate' was a labor of love for Carter, a love that took increasing amounts of his time. So, in 2001, he merged Texas Medical Informatics into California-based Veterinary Information Networks (VIN), consultants and providers of on-line continuing education for veterinarians. VIN also maintains searchable on-line versions of 80 professional veterinary journals.

Carter and programmers at VIN have been working to produce a Windows-based version of 'Associate', available now in beta form over the Internet.

"The full Windows-based version will soon be out, available over the Internet or on CD-ROM," Carter said. "Veterinarians will be able to use the program like a textbook to look up full descriptions of any canine or feline diseases. Or they can input information about an animal, including its history, findings of their physical exam and results of laboratory tests. 'Associate' will then generate a list of possible diagnosis.

"The great thing about 'Associate' is that a veterinarian can keep inputting additional data and narrow the possible diagnosis," he continued. "With roughly 600 recognizable diseases in each species, evidenced by 20 to 30,000 findings, the human mind can't deal with it all. The computer can be an invaluable diagnostic tool."

Carter cited the possible benefits to animals and their owners as immense.

"Once the ve

Contact: Judith White
Texas A&M University

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