Apple plans to acquire microprocessor designer

Apple Inc. on Wednesday confirmed reports that it plans to purchase five-year-old microprocessor designer P.A. Semi Inc. for a reported $278 million, Dow Jones Newswire reports. According to Dow Jones, the alleged total cost of the acquisition is merely a fraction of the $12 billion in readily available cash that Apple had on hand as of Jan. 17. Dow Jones adds that P.A. Semi creates and sells high-performance microprocessors that operate using very low power, making them a good fit for use in Apple's iPhone smart phone (Dow Jones Newswire/CNNMoney.com, 4/23/08). 
 

Stakeholders, vendors reassure lawmakers about EHR privacy

Health information technology (IT) stakeholders and vendors recently attended a Congressional briefing to dispel what they called "privacy myths" regarding electronic health records (EHRs), Healthcare IT News reports. Speaking at the forum, a board member of the Confidentiality Coalition and vice president of marketing at Greenway Medical Technologies said market forces make security a priority for the EHR industry, adding that health IT companies inherently gain from using the highest levels of security and encryption. Specifically, he noted that "people are scaring lawmakers about data flying around the Internet," explaining that the health IT industry "has spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating secure and encrypted solutions for use today." Meanwhile, an aide to U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) said that "privacy is paramount to the importance of health care IT, but it's not insurmountable." The aide added that, "as Congressional staffers, we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We can have EHR uptake without leaving patient privacy on the wayside." Moreover, the aide predicted that it would be difficult to pass stand-alone health care IT legislation this year, adding, however, that a health IT measure could be attached to a health care funding bill that would likely pass (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 4/21/08). 
 

Microsoft donates Xbox consoles to children’s hospitals

Microsoft on Wednesday said it plans to deliver hundreds of Xbox 360 kiosks to children’s hospitals across the United States, Macworld.com reports. According to Macworld, “the kiosks are set up with a variety of Y-rated TV programs, G-rated movies, and games rated E and E10+ by the ESRB. They come with headsets and Xbox Live Vision Cameras, and have been configured to communicate with other kiosks over a dedicated Xbox Live network designed specifically for this purpose — the network limits chat via voice, text and video to only those children playing from hospitals participating in the kiosk program.” Hoping to provide sick kids with a respite and a catalyst for fun, the company has partnered with a non-profit organization called the Companions in Courage Foundation, which builds interactive playrooms in hospitals to help kids connect with families and others, to coordinate the delivery of the kiosks. The first hospitals to receive the kiosks include Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center of Seattle and the Children’s Hospital of Orange County in California (Cohen, Macworld.com, 4/23/08). 
 

Kenyan patients seek health information, diagnoses via Web

Patients in Kenya are increasingly using the Internet to search for health information or research their diagnoses, Business Daily Africa reports. Kenyan physicians say the Internet has helped to empower patients, but patients also have become more difficult to treat. For instance, one physician who runs a private clinic in Nairobi said that "what patients fail to understand is that symptoms can be similar, but the underlying problem may be totally different," adding that, for instance, malaria and tuberculosis have "some similar symptoms but one cannot rule out either disease until laboratory tests are done." Meanwhile, a general practitioner at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, says he reads online medical journals daily to stay informed and prepare for patients. Similarly, a private gynecologist at a women's clinic in Nairobi said he began taking online courses because his patients seemed more knowledgeable than him (Gachenge, Business Daily Africa, 4/23/08). 
 

Federal court rules law officers can search electronics without cause

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Monday ruled that reasonable suspicion is not necessary to check laptops or other electronic devices coming over border checkpoints, a Los Angeles Times blog reports. The issue initially surfaced when a U.S. Customs inspector found child porn on a laptop belonging to an LAX patron in 2005. Michael Arnold had been randomly chosen for the search by customs agents, who proceeded to turn on his laptop, search the desktop and folders, and subsequently find the pornography. Arnold now faces charges of possessing and transporting child porn, charges that could lead to 30 years in federal prison. Arnold's lawyer, however, plans to ask for a new hearing, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to her, a search of someone’s personal computer is more intrusive than that of someone's car or luggage because computers are essentially "an extension of ourselves. It really is like looking into someone's mind, rather than looking into a box or a folder or a purse." As it stands now, the lawyer notes, “the ruling would authorize airport searches of other electronic devices such as cell phones without evidence of wrongdoing” (de Turenne, Los Angeles Times, 4/22/08). 
 

Study suggests 40,000 more health IT professionals needed to achieve goals

According to a study presented last week to the House Steering Committee on Telehealth and Healthcare Informatics, America will need an additional 40,000 health information technology (IT) professionals to support the implementation of more advanced technologies, Healthcare IT News reports. Using data from an analysis of the HIMSS Analytics Database, which includes information on approximately 5,000 U.S. hospitals, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and Partners Healthcare in Boston found that, while there are currently 108,390 full-time health care IT workers, an additional 40,784 would be needed “if the U.S. [health IT] agenda is fulfilled and hospitals move to higher levels of adoption.” The researchers conclude that “the need for IT professionals in health IT settings is large and will increase as more advanced systems are implemented” and call for additional training opportunities for health care IT professionals. Commenting on the study, U.S. Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) suggests that the findings underscore the need for his proposed 10,000 Trained by 2010 Act, a bill that would provide funds for health IT education. He adds that “a workforce trained in health care IT is essential in bringing greater quality and efficiency to the health care industry.” The bill, which was approved by the House, still awaits Senate action (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 4/18/08). 

Social networking site to help fund malaria research projects

British Web site entrepreneur Tom Hadfield on Sunday launched a social networking Web site designed to help fight malaria in Africa, Reuters reports. MalariaEngage.org encourages donations of $10 or more to help support seven research projects in Tanzania that were recommended by Tanzania's National Institute for Medical Research. Once the projects have been fully funded, the Web site will look to support other initiatives in developing countries. According to Hadfield, "MalariaEngage.org increases the return on investment of donors by connecting them directly with researchers working on malaria prevention treatment." He adds that "by encouraging individual participation and involvement, we will create international communities of common interest" (Joseph, Reuters, 4/20/08).

China serves as world's largest Internet market

A Chinese research firm recently announced that China has surpassed the United States as the world's largest Internet market based on number of users, United Press International reports. Beijing-based BDA said that data from the China Internet Network Information Center suggests that China had an Internet population of 210 million at the end of 2007, compared to 216 million in the United States. In a company statement, BDA's chief media analyst said that, "based on these sources and the assumption that these markets have continued to grow in 2008 to date at the same rates that they grew in 2007, we can conclude that China has by now comfortably surpassed the United States as the world's largest Internet population." Meanwhile, BDA estimated revenues from China's online games sector totaled $1.88 billion last year (UPI, 4/21/08).

Surgeon creates portable ultrasound for telemedicine

A Detroit trauma surgeon has developed a portable ultrasound machine that can scan body parts and then transmit the images via satellite to medical specialists, the Detroit News reports. Scott Dulchavsky developed the 10-pound tool to enable astronauts to conduct their own scans and send the images back to earth for physicians to view. The images are rendered by bouncing sound waves off internal body parts. Most of Dulchavsky's current research also takes place in NASA's anti-gravity aircraft, which allows him to see how the machine works in weightless environments. Dulchavsky guides the subjects via video link on how to use the ultrasound to examine broken bones and collapsed lungs. Meanwhile, Dulchavsky also is conducting research in rural Madagascar, where a team of researchers plans to install ultrasound machines and train personnel to use them to boost prenatal care. Moreover, Dulchavsky plans to attend the Olympic Games in China to continue to examine the use of the ultrasound tool to monitor athletes' health and is testing the tool on Mount Everest to gauge its performance in high altitudes (Rogers, Detroit News, 4/19/08).

U.S. scientists create polymer-protein hybrid technology

University of California-Berkeley researchers have created a strategy for forming hybrid materials from synthetic polymers and proteins, United Press International reports. As detailed in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the scientists, Aaron Esser-Kahn and Matthew Francis, say they have fused the specific biological functions of proteins with the advantageous bulk and processing properties of plastics, yeilding polymer-protein hybrid materials that may be of use in the manufacture of sensors, nanomachine parts or drug-delivery systems. Specifically, the scientists note that they synthesized a green-fluorescing biodegradable gel that responds to changes in pH value and temperature. Although previous processes for the production of hybrid materials depended on very specific coupling techniques that could not be used for some protein side-chains, according to the authors, the new method is broadly applicable because can apply to any protein (UPI, 4/22/08).

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