The homunculus is a small being from folklore previously firmly related to sixteenth-century alchemy; famously found in literature such as Goethe’s Faust. Now, the homunculus is the new solution for the Rheumatology clinic at UHN developed by DADOS.
Rheumatology is the medical study of the musculoskeletal system, most well-known to the public for treating conditions including, but not limited to, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The Rheumatology Division at UHN is the largest of its kind in Canada and a leader in training a new generation of medical students. Despite leading the field, a problem still existed; due to the nature of the study, precise notes must be taken at each visit to locate the precise locations of pain. Each clinical protocol was several pages long, inquiring about the state of each major joint. Often times, it would be difficult to understand which joint the protocol was asking about; and equally as difficult for the patient to describe the location of the pain and find it in the long protocol. Eventually, the clinical protocols accumulated, filling binders per patient. This also meant that the researchers needed to search through binders of forms to find a specific protocol. Overall, this process was time-consuming and difficult for both the patient and the researchers.
This is where the homunculus came in. The DADOS team added this specialized functionality with the purpose of creating a practical system to input data. The homunculus, in principle, is very simple. It is a user-friendly, image-based clinical protocol. The program consists of a symbolized image of a human being with ‘hot-spots’ over all the major joints. Users can tap these joints to change the colour of the ‘hot-spots’, each colour representing the state of pain related to the selected joint. This way, the patient can simply tap the affected joints, reducing the ambiguity and confusion of location. The homunculus continues to be a much faster and simpler method of clinical protocol than the previous method for the patients. For UHN, this means faster reception and easier storage of more accurate data.
DADOS has reduced the physical storage from a thick binder per patient to almost nothing. The homunculus results can be saved like any other encounter in the DADOS database and any changes within the homunculus will be recorded in the patient’s history, allowing quick analysis of trends. Since its implementation, the homunculus continues to prove that a simple idea can have a great effect.