Kaiser completes electronic records system implementation

Kaiser Permanente recently finished rolling out an outpatient electronic health records system for its 8.7 million members, Health Data Management reports. Launched in 2004, the HealthConnect initiative aims to integrate electronic records across all of its regions. With the latest project completion, its 13,000 physicians have access to patient records across 421 medical offices. According to officials, the records system thus far has enabled the organization to increase its efficiency of outpatient care. For example, data from internal survey suggests that medication administration times and doses have become 85 percent more legible and correct. Meanwhile, Kaiser has launched an inpatient version of the system at 13 of its 36 California hospitals and plans to go live with an additional 14 by the end of 2008 (Health Data Management, 5/5/08).

Off-site data storage use grows among smaller U.S. businesses

According to research analysts at New-York based AMI-Partners, U.S. companies are increasingly turning to off-site data storage, the Dayton Business Journal reports. Specifically, AMI-Partners suggests that medium-sized companies are on track to invest $7.8 billion on data storage and security this year, up 12 percent from 2007. Meanwhile, officials at Springfield-based data-backup provider CFA Networks note that the company has seen interest in remote storage grow largely because Internet connection bandwidths have become more accessible to small and medium-sized companies. In general, experts recommend that companies maintain online-backups to supplement tape drives, which are traditionally used by small- to medium-sized companies but come with greater risk for errors (Dirr, Dayton Business Journal, 5/2/08).

Aetna launches physician alert system to improve care delivery

Health insurer Aetna last week announced a new initiative that will send electronic messages to alert physicians that patients are due for screenings, at risk for drug interactions or in need of other care, Computerworld reports. The program, which will involve 320,000 of Aetna’s member physicians and roughly 14 million patients, will deliver “Care Consideration” messages via a Web portal and alerting technology called NaviNet from NaviMedix Inc. Specifically, the technology will compare claims data and evidence-based clinical guidelines to identify individual patients’ specific needs and potential safety risks. When the system detects a discrepancy, it will send an alert to the physician via fax, e-mail or telephone, as well as through the portal, Officials note the portal method will ensure rapid alert delivery, as physicians already routinely use it to verify patient coverage, and will not involve an easily misplaced paper file. In addition, the portal will ensure targeted security to protect personal data and will enable physicians to instantly provide feedback to alerts via the portal (Havenstein, Computerworld, 4/30/08).

IBM unveils more energy efficient, high-power server

IBM on Wednesday released its new rack-mount server, designed specifically for companies running heavily trafficked "Web 2.0" sites such as Facebook and MySpace, IDG News Service reports. Named the iDataPlex, the server aims to compete with Web 2.0 companies’ traditional method of lining thousands of unbranded "white-box" PCs to run busy Web sites. According to the company, the new server uses 40 percent less power and has more computing power than a typical rack-mount system. The energy savings come largely from a new design that requires less power for cooling, IBM said. While the main target is Web 2.0 companies, IBM said the servers, which run Linux and are based on Intel's quad-core Xeon processors, are also good for complex financial analysis, video rendering and high-performance computing. Officials also noted that customers have 22 configuration options, as well as a menu of various networking, switch and storage features. Though IBM wouldn't provide pricing or specific configurations, IDG reports that the servers are configured for customers on site at a factory in China and are available only to companies that place large orders (Niccolai, IDG News Service/Washington Post, 4/23/08).

California retirement fund backs statewide health data exchange

The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) has endorsed and will support the California Regional Health Information Organization's (CalRHIO) statewide health information exchange, Health Data Management reports. To show its support, CalPERS, which serves 1.2 million state and local employees, retirees and dependents, has directed its health insurers—Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente—to negotiate contracts with CalRHIO. CalPERS also plans to work with CalRHIO to ensure the privacy and security of member information as it is transferred across the health data exchange. In its broader work, CalRHIO is supporting the development of local interoperable health exchanges that ultimately will help form a statewide network. Currently, CalRHIO's is working to create a resource in which physicians in high-volume emergency departments will be able to access patient data (Health Data Management, 4/24/08; CalPERS press release, 4/23/08).

Long-term data storage solution found

University of California-Santa Cruz computer scientists have developed a solution for long-term digital data storage, United Press International reports. Noting that digital tape is currently widely used for data storage but has many shortcomings as an archival medium, researchers developed an approach called Pergamum. One of several related projects being developed at the university's Storage Systems Research Center, Pergamum, named after the ancient Greek library that made the transition from papyrus to parchment, is a distributed network of intelligent, disk-based storage devices. Specifically, the system uses hard disk drives to provide energy-efficient, cost-effective storage that offers numerous advantages over tape for searching and retrieving data. Ultimately, the researchers note they aim to construct a large-scale data storage system to last 50 to 100 years, adding that archival storage is a big issue for businesses and individuals who are filling their computers with digital photos, movies and documents (UPI, 4/24/08).

New Hampshire taps IT infrastructure plans to boost care quality, affordability

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch on Wednesday issued an executive order directing the Citizens Health Initiative to develop plans to enhance the state’s health information technology (IT) infrastructure as a means to improve health care quality and affordability, Government Technology reports. As charged in the order, the initiative will work with hospitals, providers and businesses to expand the state’s health IT infrastructure in a manner that will promote common standards, coordinated efforts and security protections. Specifically, the initiative will convene working groups representing various stakeholders to outline a strategic plan, which officials will submit to the governor by Dec. 1. According to Lynch, the project aims to ensure that “New Hampshire citizens get the maximum value from the increasing use of technology in health care.” He adds that health IT helps “improve quality and efficiency, which cuts down on errors and reduce[s] costs,” ultimately helping reach the goal of ensuring all citizens access to high quality, affordable care (Government Technology, 4/23/08).

EPA, Green Grid make energy-efficiency pact

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday signed an agreement with the Green Grid to forge greater energy efficiency in EPA computer facilities, Government Computer News reports. The agreement, which piggybacks on a similar pact between Green Grid and the Storage Networking Industry Association to further networked storage practices for energy efficiency, aims to accelerate the adoption of best practices for energy efficiency in existing computer/server rooms throughout EPA. Under the pact, the EPA and Green Grid—a global consortium dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems—will identify a small EPA computer/server room as a target for an energy efficiency showcase. The Green Grid will provide a team of technical experts who will perform the assessment and direct strategies and techniques for maximizing energy efficiency. According to officials, the results, best practices and real-world takeaways from this project will be shared with other governmental agencies, industry stakeholders and the private sector (Tipley said. Yasin, GCN, 4/22/08).

Device makers reluctant to manufacturer pediatric-sized equipment

Noting the safety risks associated with the commonly accepted practice of using adult-sized medical devices and equipment in children, physicians are calling on device makers to manufacture pediatric-specific equipment, the Associated Press reports. Though they acknowledge the dearth of data tracking deaths or injuries related to the use of devices meant for adults in pediatric patients, physicians say “there have likely been some of each,” citing problems with adult-sized equipment. Such issues include heart valves that quickly deteriorate in growing bodies; surgical cameras that damage tissue in children because they are too big; and pacemakers that can cause infection, stroke, and even death in small patients. Device makers, however, “remain cautious” in their plans regarding pediatric-sized devices for several reasons. One example includes the prospect of added oversight under a September 2007 federal law that provides financial incentives for companies that design pediatric-specific equipment and devices but gives regulators more power to scrutinize the use of adult-sized equipment in children and requires manufacturers to cover tracking costs. Device manufacturers also see limited potential for profit in manufacturing devices meant for children, in part because the law allows companies to sell experimental pediatric-size devices without full federal approval only if the devices are used to treat rare diseases. In addition, experts note that the pediatric market is merely a fraction of the U.S. medical device market. Furthermore, the AP reports that some manufacturers may be reluctant to start testing the devices in children, particularly as companies face ongoing scrutiny regarding the safety of adult devices such as pacemakers and stents. Still, several companies are starting to market pediatric devices, according to the AP. Device maker Respironics, for instance, has created an entire subsidiary devoted to respiratory equipment for hospitalized infants, while the German firm Berlin Heart last year began testing the first heart pump for infants awaiting transplant in the United States (Perrone, AP/Boston Globe, 4/24/08 [registration required]). 

Sun unveils Java Card 3.0

Sun Microsystems and the Java Card Forum recently released version 3.0 of the Java Card smartcard specification, Government Computer News reports. Java Card, a platform for running small Java programs on smart cards and other devices with a very small amount of memory, runs the Java Card Virtual Machine—a runtime engine for applications. Version 3.0 is available as the Classic Edition, which extends the features and performance of the last major version, version 2.2.2 and is intended for objects with extremely limited memory, such as credit cards or cell phone Subscriber Identity Modules. It also is available as the Connected Edition, in which it acts as a miniature application server. This edition features an entirely new version of the virtual machine — one that can make use of standard Web development tools, such as the Java Servlet Application Programming Interface (Jackson, GCN, 4/22/08).

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