Massachusetts researchers tout new electronic public health reporting system

Researchers from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Harvard University Medical School, Atrius Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health have developed an electronic data tracking system designed to improve public health reporting, Healthcare IT News reports. Featured in the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) April 11 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Electronic Medical Record Support for Public Health (ESP) system launched as a test in January 2007 at Atrius Health, a multi-specialty physician group serving roughly 600,000 patients in Eastern Massachusetts. Specifically, ESP, created with a CDC Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics grant, automatically scans electronic medical records to identify public health risks and electronically reports their details to the health department. Thus far, the program can detect seven infections including active tuberculosis; acute hepatitis A, B and C; Chlamydia; gonorrhoea; and pelvic inflammatory disease. Researchers note that ESP across one year helped report roughly 40 percent more cases of Chlamydia and 50 percent more cases of gonorrhoea, compared to traditional paper-based reporting efforts. In addition, ESP more accurately reported complete information such as noting whether the infected patient was pregnant and whether appropriate antibiotics were prescribed. In light of the findings, researchers suggest ESP can save time by automating paper-based surveillance tasks, as well as ensure more complete, timely and accurate disease reports (Pizzi, Healthcare IT News, 4/11/08; Harvard Medical School release, 4/10/08).

Electronic patient monitoring systems market slated to double by 2012

According to a market study by life sciences research firm Kalorama Information, electronic patient monitoring systems earned roughly $3.9 billion for manufacturers in 2007, and the market will likely more than double within the next five years, Healthcare IT News reports. The "High-Tech Patient Monitoring Systems" study notes that both an aging population and the shortage of health care workers are spurring development of systems to remotely monitor patients, process data and alert health care workers if problems arise. Other information underscored in the report: such systems can help reduce costs, better manage chronic conditions and limit patients’ hospital stays. Meanwhile, report authors suggest that the most useful patient monitoring systems are "intelligent" ones that can read data based on pre-programmed algorithms for specific conditions and automatically report abnormal readings to a health care worker or physician. One analyst for Kalorama adds that some systems can even incorporate built-in video and audio interfaces so patients and physicians can communicate (Pizzi, Healthcare IT News, 4/11/08).

AMD leader resigns with no plans for replacement

Chip maker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Inc. on Friday announced the resignation of Phil Hester, its chief technology officer and vice president, the The Business Review (Albany) reports. Hester's resignation comes as the chip maker struggles with tough competition from Intel Corp. and delays in the launch of new products, however the company has no plans to replace Hester, the Review reports. Meanwhile, reports released last week indicated AMD plans to cut its work force by 10 percent, as well as a larger decline in first quarter revenue than projected. AMD also recently announced plans to build a $3.2 billion chip plant in Luther Forest Technology Campus in Saratoga County, N.Y., and has until July 2009 to commit to the project and receive $1.2 billion in state incentives. According to AMD officials, the job cuts will not impact the Luther Forest project (The Business Review (Albany), 4/14/08).

Colorado tech leader outlines top 10 business infrastructure concerns

Jonathan Senger, CEO of Lakewood-based INITECH, which provides managed services and comprehensive technology solutions, writes in Friday’s Denver Business Journal about the top 10 largely overlooked technology infrastructure concerns among companies. He notes that, “while most onsite IT staff has the skill set to address and maintain a certain aspect of the network environment, most lack the multiple skill sets required to address the network infrastructure as a whole.” In no particular order, here are a few examples of the top 10 trouble spots companies routinely miss in technology infrastructure: Infrastructure standardization; Centralization business continuity and disaster recovery; Network security; Licensing and open-source alternatives; and Deployment of VoIP (Senger, Denver Business Journal, 4/11/08).

MIT to open energy resource center

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is collaborating with a German research firm to establish a sustainable energy center near the college, United Press International reports. According to MIT’s president, the school will be opening the MIT-Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in conjunction with Germany's Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft research group. Partly funded by the German government, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft currently operates more than 80 research sites around the world. Officials note the new energy site will likely create nearly 60 new jobs to start, though the center’s managing director suggests the main benefit will be solar technological research. According to a report in the Boston Globe, the center initially will rely on $5 million from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and an additional $1 million from the international energy company National Grid (UPI, 4/13/08).

Computer simulates merger of three black holes

U.S. astrophysicists at the Rochester Institute of Technology's Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation say they have, for the first time, used a supercomputer to simulate the merger of three black holes, United Press International reports. Specifically, the scientists simulated triplet black holes to test their 2005 breakthrough method, which simulated the merger of two black holes by applying Einstein's theory of general relativity. According to the researchers, the new simulation of multiple black holes evolving, orbiting and eventually colliding has confirmed a robust computer code free of limitations. Slated for publication in the May issue of the journal Physical Review D, the study outlines "rich dynamics leading to very elliptical orbits, complicated orbital dynamics, simultaneous triple mergers and complex gravitational wave forms that might be observed by gravitational wave detectors," one author notes. He adds that "these simulations are timely because a triple quasar was recently discovered by a team led by Caltech astronomer George Djorgovski. This presumably represents the first observed supermassive black hole triplet" (UPI, 4/14/08).

USGS creates online flooding map

The U.S. Geological Survey recently unveiled an online map that tracks flood conditions across the nation, United Press International reports. Available at, the new system is part of the USGS WaterWatch suite of Web-based streamflow products, officials note. The real-time water monitoring and other information available at the Web site include current flood levels, historical peaks and National Weather Service flood forecasts. Monthly flood reports are also available that include maximum flows and compare the data to previous years at each station. According to USGS’s associate director for water, "the water monitoring systems shown on this map help ensure timely and uninterrupted water information for forecasters, emergency managers, scientists and the general public." He adds that "improved flood monitoring and assessment will help reduce the risks to communities, property and human life" (UPI, 4/14/08).

Database to offer free access to NIH-funded research

According to NPR's "Talk of the Nation," a new ruling that took effect last week requires researchers to post the results of their published U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research in a free, publicly accessible database within one year. The federal law states that researchers who receive NIH funding must submit "an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts" for publication in the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central database ("Talk of the Nation," 4/11/08).

Microsoft releases new street traffic tool

Microsoft recently unveiled a new online service that predicts traffic congestion for, All Headline News reports. Tapping data from Google, Yahoo and AOL's Mapquest, Microsoft's new Clearflow service will deliver updated traffic feeds to users, enabling them to plan a detour to bypass road congestion and save time. The service is currently free to 72 U.S. cities., however, pointed out some potential problems with the technology including the inconsistent real-time traffic situations that could result in changes that will not register as the user is in the process of obtaining specific traffic information (Duerme, AHN, 4/11/08).

NASA launches new science Web site

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently unveiled a new Web site designed to provide information about its scientific endeavors and achievements, United Press International reports. The new Web page, available at, will provide in-depth coverage of NASA's past, present and future science missions, according to NASA officials. The site also will feature interactive tables and searches for Earth, heliophysics, planetary and astrophysics missions; insight into dark matter and dark energy, planets around other stars, climate change, Mars and space weather; resources for researchers such as links to upcoming science solicitations and opportunities; and expanded "For Educators" and "For Kids" sections to provide access to a broader range of resources for learning the science behind NASA missions (UPI, 4/10/08).

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