HP to acquire Australian software company

Hewlett-Packard on Monday announced plans to purchase Tower Software for an undisclosed amount, the San Jose Business Journal reports. According to officials, the deal with Australia-based Tower will expand HP’s offerings in the electronic discovery and compliance software market. Specifically, Tower develops and markets enterprise content management software applications, primarily for regulated and government industries. The board of directors of Tower, which has more than 22 years of paper and electronic records management experience and serves roughly 1,000 customers with more than 780,000 users in 32 countries, has unanimously approved the transaction (San Jose Business Journal, 3/31/08).

CMS adds patient survey data to Hospital Compare Web site

The Hospital Quality Alliance on Friday posted results from the first national survey of patients’ care experiences on the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Hospital Compare Web site, the New York Times reports. The data reflect responses to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, a survey of randomly chosen patients conducted between October 2006 and June 2007 at more than 2,500 hospitals. Patients rated the facility where they received treatment overall on a zero-to-10 scale, as well as factors such as the communication skills and responsiveness of physicians and nurses, the quality of discharge instructions received, pain control, the hospital’s cleanliness and quietness, and assistance received in using the bathroom, among other areas. Overall, 67 percent of patients said they would definitely recommend the facility where they had been treated to a friend or relative, and 63 percent awarded their hospitals an overall score of nine or 10. CMS officials note that the addition of patient satisfaction information to the Hospital Compare Web site enables consumers “to make effective decisions about the quality and value of the health care available to them through local hospitals.” CMS plans to quarterly updates of patient survey data and will incorporate data on most of U.S. hospitals by the close of 2008 (Pear, New York Times, 3/29/08 [registration required]; Associated Press/Washington Post, 3/28/08 [registration required]; CMS  release, 3/28/08). 

Georgia program to offer incentives for physician EHR use

The Georgia Department of Community Health recently launched its new state Medicare Electronic Health Records (EHR) Community Partnership, a program designed to boost EHR adoption among small- and medium-sized physician practices statewide, Healthcare IT News reports. Under the five-year program, the department will offer financial incentives to physician groups that use certified EHRs to meet clinical quality measures. Specifically, the state will pay physicians annual bonuses for each year they score on a standardized survey assessing EHR use to support care delivery. The state's Medicare EHR demonstration project aims to help Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's (R) achieve his goal of establishing a statewide health information to exchange (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 3/31/08).

NASA awards data system contract to University of Alaska

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently awarded the University of Alaska's data center a $39 million, five-year contract to manage and operate NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System Synthetic Aperture Radar Distributed Active Archive Center, United Press International reports. Specifically, the archive center is designed to collect, process, archive, distribute and support science data from, but not limited to, Synthetic Aperture Radar satellites. According to UPI, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is responsible for providing access to data from NASA's Earth science program to scientific and other users (UPI, 4/1/08).

Google transitions its office suite for offline use

Google software engineer Philip Tucker on Monday reported in his blog that Google’s Web-access software for editing, uploading and sharing office documents—Google Docs—can now be used offline, Government Computer News reports. Announced with little fanfare, the change reflects the larger industry shift toward Internet-based or “cloud” computing. Initially, Google Docs offline will enable users to view and edit word processing documents and save changes on a local computer. When the Internet connection is restored, documents are synced up again with the server. Reports suggest, however, that many functions are lost when working offline (Kash, GCN, 4/1/08).

Microsoft to offer Web browsing on phones

Microsoft on Tuesday announced plans to offer full Web browsing for cell phones this year, following the success of Apple's iPhone, Reuters reports. Announced at CTIA, the annual U.S. wireless convention, plans include making Internet Explorer Mobile available to phone makers in the third quarter, with the first phones slated for sale by the close of 2008. Meanwhile, Microsoft also announced a new version of its mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 6.1, which is designed to facilitate phone feature menu navigation. Company officials expect license sales of Windows Mobile to outpace smartphone market growth in the next few years, while officials also say the market likely will quadruple in size in three to four years to roughly 400 million handsets (Carew, Reuters, 4/1/08).

ABC program to feature stem cell research firm

An ABC Television special report Tuesday night will feature stem cell research firm Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) Inc., the East Bay Business Times reports. California-based ACT will participate in the Barbara Walters-hosted program: "Live to 150, Can you Do It? Secrets to Living Longer" set to air at 10 p.m. During interviews on the program, ACT’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Robert Lanza, will  discuss some of the company's development programs, including efforts to create human embryonic stem cell lines without damaging the embryo itself (East Bay Business Times, 4/1/08).

New York grants $105 million for RHIOs, health IT

The New York State Department of Health recently awarded 19 two-year grants totaling $105 million to support regional health information organizations (RHIOs), Government Health IT reports. Awarded as part of the Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers (HEAL-NY) program, the grants range from $1 million to $10 million and target RHIOs in both the Adirondacks area and southern New York. According to Government Health IT, all of the organizations must work together to ensure interoperability and policy agreement, though the health department will help guide the projects. The New York eHealth Collaborative, meanwhile, will help ensure the recipients collaborate and a consortium of five New York universities will evaluate the program. Ultimately, the state selected projects that aim to support Medicaid providers, streamline public health reporting and monitoring, boost patient involvement in care, and improve care quality (Ferris, Government Health IT, 3/28/08).

IBM suspended from new contract work

A recent posting on a federal General Services Administration Web site suggests that IBM Corp. has been suspended from taking on new work for the federal government, Washington Technology reports. According to a March 27 posting on the GSA’s Excluded Parties List System Web sites, the government has suspended IBM for an unspecified reason and for an undetermined length of time. The general description of the suspension category suggests that the action was taken “based on an indictment or other adequate evidence” that could result in a debarment or “other causes” that could cause a debarment. Though initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the suspension is effective for the entire U.S. government. Washington Technology notes that IBM officials were not available for comment (Wakeman, Washington Technology, 03/31/08).

VR tools help responders prepare for emergencies

Researchers nationwide are using virtual reality (VR) simulation to train first responders, medical personnel and emergency management officials for public health emergencies, Government Technology reports. For example, researchers at the University of California-Davis Health System in 2006 used an $80,000 grant from the California Department of Health Services to re-create a 3-D model of the California Exposition and State Fair in Second Life, the Internet-based world in which people are represented by avatars. They applied the simulation exercise to help train staff members to administer antibiotics from the Strategic National Stockpile in the event of an anthrax attack. Meanwhile, RTI International for several years has been using funding from the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center to create a VR simulation platform that enables physicians, nurses and paramedics to practice their triage skills in a role-playing game. The program includes 30 casualty scenarios, with users encountering a total of nine examples in any one scene. The not-for-profit Emergency Management Training, Analysis and Simulation Center in Virginia also creates realistic simulations designed to help train managers to communicate effectively during an emergency. Specifically, the program simulates incidents, such as a hurricane, by feeding information to emergency response managers in the same format they would receive during an emergency (Raths, Government Technology, 3/27/08). 

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