IBM Blue Spruce Code Powers Platforms for Telehealth, COPD Research

IBM's Blue Spruce technology enables Web collaboration in iTel's iTelepsych service and research on COPD at the National Institutes of Health.

IBM has donated its Project Blue Spruce software code to two health initiatives to enable real-time Web collaboration.

Blue Spruce will allow for cobrowsing and online consultations in iTel's telehealth platform and also provide the infrastructure for a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) research study, called COPDGene, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Comprising a server and client software using a Web plug-in architecture, Blue Spruce is IBM's telepresence technology that allows multiple parties to collaborate in simultaneous online video chats and update content in Web browsers on a PC or iPad in real time (called cobrowsing).

Doctors and patients will be able to communicate online in joint Web sessions, according to David Boloker, chief technology officer of Emerging Technologies at IBM.

On, mental health professionals meet with patients in video conferences. On the site, clinicians can view data as well as brain images and lab results. In addition to the iTel platform incorporating Blue Spruce, doctors and patients can communicate using Skype, Boloker told eWEEK.

"The biggest draw was the ability to do cobrowsing and document sharing," Dr. Eric Greenman, founder and CEO of iTel, told eWEEK.

With, iTel is looking for total mobility, Greenman said. Patients can even log into from remote areas such as public parks, Greenman noted.

" helps doctors easily establish a practice with patients who are not able to leave their homes or attend typical in-office appointments," he said. "Now, with IBM Project Blue Spruce, people can access the mental health care they need even if they cannot come to a doctor's office."

In addition to consultations, integrating Blue Spruce into the telehealth platform allows doctors to capture billing codes and information such as the length of the session, Greenman said.

Without a need to frequently switch permissions or screens, the collaboration features of provide an alternative to Cisco's WebEx, according to Greenman. consultations also comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy guidelines, he said.

For telehealth sessions, Blue Spruce can even sense the position, movement, voice and actions of participants and transfers this information to other participants, IBM reports. also has a recording feature, so physicians won't lose physician instructions.

iTel plans to take live within one to two months and be running on an iPad 2 by the first quarter of 2012.

Telehealth is a growing trend as doctors are able to provide care to patients living far from hospitals, especially in rural areas. American Well, Kaiser Permanente and the Veterans Health Administration are a few of the parties offering telehealth services.

InMedica, a division of IMS Research, forecasts the market for telehealth services to hit $6.28 billion by 2020.

Meanwhile, IBM has also donated Blue Spruce code to the Dojo Foundation to create Dojo Foundation's Open Cooperative Web (OpenCoweb) Framework. The Dojo Foundation is a nonprofit foundation that performs open-source projects, while OpenCoweb includes Web standards and JavaScript libraries.

The NIH is using OpenCoweb to analyze electronic health records (EHRs) of 10,000 patients with COPD. With the data studied during the COPDGene project, the NIH hopes to gain a better understanding of how COPD develops and its genetic causes, IBM reports.

IBM announced the new implementations of Blue Spruce by iTel and NIH on Oct. 3. While iTel is hosting its own Blue Spruce server, IBM is hosting the platform for the NIH. IBM is looking to expand Blue Spruce past browser plug-ins to be a native app supporting Windows 7, Mac OS and iOS.