Obsessive texting may signal a mental disorder, psychiatrist says

U.S. psychiatrists suggest obsessive cell phone text messaging, as well as Internet use, may constitute a clinical addiction and should be added to the official list of mental disorders, the Daily Mail reports. According to study author Dr. Jerald Block, text messaging can cause car accidents; lead to stalking and harassment; and result in problems at social functions, school, and work. He adds that texting becomes a clinical addiction when these incidents are not confined and a “pervasive and problematic pattern develops.” Citing estimates that some “young people with unlimited calling plans can send up to 200 texts a day,” the Daily Mail adds that other psychiatrists agree that a growing number of “text maniacs” use their cell phones to escape reality as they would drugs or alcohol. Meanwhile, Block writes in the American Journal of Psychiatry that Internet addiction also should also be considered a mental disorder. Though there is a dearth of accurate Internet addiction estimates in the United States, Block cites research from Asia documenting a rise in Internet addiction in countries such as South Korea, where researchers say 2.1 percent of children between the ages of six and 19 are addicted to the Web and require treatment. To address the problem, the South Korean government as of June 2007 had trained more than 1,000 counselors and enlisted more than 190 hospitals and treatment centers to help diagnose and treat Internet addiction (Daily Mail, 3/26/08; American Journal of Psychiatry, March 2008 [subscription required]).

Sweden unveils national e-health plan

Sweden has released a patient-centered national e-health strategy designed to ensure that health information is readily available to patients and providers, eHealth Europe reports. Under the new strategy, patients will have access to personal information on their own care, treatment and health status. In addition, residents must "be able to contact care services via the Internet for assistance, advice or help with self-treatment." The plan also will enable health care professionals to access "efficient, interoperable e-health" tools that will allow them to spend more time with patients and individualize treatment plans. Moreover, the strategy underscores the importance of health information technology security protections. According to the plan documents, "increased use of e-health must be combined with effective security measures designed to ensure that highly sensitive confidential information relating to individual patients or users is securely handled by all involved in care or service delivery" (eHealth Europe, 4/3/08; ehealth strategy, April 2008).

EPA calls on businesses to help cut energy by tapping computers’ ‘sleep mode’

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program on Thursday launched the "Low Carbon IT Campaign" campaign to cut energy use by encouraging businesses to utilize computer sleep modes, All Headline News reports. According to the press release, if the nation's businesses and organizations would enable the power management, or sleep mode, on their computers and monitors that move would avoid the use of 44 billion kWh of electricity. Officials note that the savings amounts to roughly $4 billion worth of electricity a year and also would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from generated electricity equivalent to the emissions of roughly 5 million cars per year. According to Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, just 5 percent to 10 percent of U.S. organizations use power management settings on computers, een though enabling power management could also save them money (Young, AHN, 4/3/08).

Intel releases second generation affordable PC

Intel on Thursday announced its second generation Classmate PC at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai today, the Daily Tech reports. According to Intel, the second generation Classmate PC offers variable design choices to manufacturers to allow them to produce laptops designed for different educational needs. Specifically, it will be easier to use and have wireless capability, longer battery life, water resistant keyboards and more shock resistance when dropped. Its new components includ an Intel Celeron M CPU, 802.11b/g and mesh networking capabilities. In addition, the high-end second generation Classmate systems will feature integrated webcams, 9-inch screens, 6-cell batteries, 512MB of RAM and a 30GB HDD. It also supports Windows XP and Linux. The company adds that future variants of the Classmate will be built using its new Atom processors. Officials tout the new Classmate as an affordable, fully functional, rugged Internet-centric computer platform (McGlaun, Daily Tech, 4/3/08).

MySpace launches music service with three major record labels

MySpace officials on Thursday officially announced the creation of MySpace Music, a service that will be jointly managed by News Corp.'s MySpace and, at least initially, three out of the four top record labels, CNet News reports. Slated to roll out gradually across the next three to four months, the system will offer free streaming music, unprotected MP3 downloads, ringtones, and e-commerce offerings such as merchandise and ticket sales, according to MySpace’s CEO (Sandoval, CNet News, 4/3/08).

Kentucky taps IT system to boost Louisville emergency medical response

The Metro Government of Louisville-Jefferson County, Ky., recently purchased an electronic data system that will enable emergency medical responders to wirelessly record patient information at the scene of an emergency and transmit the data to hospitals, Business First of Louisville reports. Described as a “Blackberry for emergency medical care,” the $2.1 million system is expected to improve information flow by replacing paper-based charts, which are sometimes misplaced or illegible. In addition, the technology will analyze incoming patient data and send alerts when patterns of similar symptoms develop among patients, a trend that could indicate severe flu or other public health concerns. As the system rolls out, first responders will record information such as patients' vital signs, injuries and medications on handheld computers and then print the charts upon hospital arrival. Eventually, however, the system will allow responders to wirelessly transmit the data directly to hospital emergency departments. According to Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, the system likely will significantly increase insurance reimbursements for emergency medical services. Meanwhile, Business First reports that the Louisville system is one of the three largest in the world, with comparable electronic patient care recording systems deployed in San Francisco and Toronto (Business First of Louisville, 4/1/08).

NYC contracts with Accenture for health IT development

Accenture Ltd. recently earned a three-year, $79.6 million contract with New York City to help improve the delivery of health care services by providing new technology capabilities, Washington Technology reports. Under the contract, the company will make a number of technology and business process improvements to the city’s Health and Human Services Connect program, which to design and build modern, flexible technologies that will improve the delivery of health care and human services. According to Accenture, the work entails expanding existing systems, as well as developing new ones. Specifically, the company plans to develop a technology architecture, craft a case management capability that supports specific functions, and furnish new capabilities that will accept electronic applications and help determine eligibility and enrollment. In addition, the company will expand the capabilities of the existing pre-screening application (Welsh, Washington Technology, 4/3/08).


Canadian Web portal aims to help track chronic disease prevalence

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) on Tuesday launched a Web portal designed to help physicians and patients better manage chronic conditions, the Toronto Star reports. Created by Practice Solutions Patients, the secure portal allows patients to input their health information and track their blood pressure, asthma and weight loss. According to the president and CEO of Practice Solutions, other tracking tools likely will be added to the portal, including tools targeting diabetes, smoking cessation and mental health. He added that the portal also might expand to include online appointment scheduling and prescription refills, as well as the ability to link a patient's personal health record to hospitals and regional health systems. CMA, meanwhile, called the health portal "the first physician-driven Canadian electronic patient health record platform" and said it could serve as a supplement, or sometimes substitute, for office visits. Experts, however, caution that Canada is still a long way away from having a complete electronic health record system (Ogilvie, Toronto Star, 4/2/08; Fayerman, Vancouver Sun, 4/1/08).

Yahoo releases latest mobile search engine

Yahoo Inc. on Wednesday unveiled a new version of its mobile search engine, oneSearch 2.0, the San Jose Business Journal reports. According to company officials, the new service is part of its strategy to provider broader mobile phone Internet use options. Specifically, the application enables users to personalize and search by cellphone user, and provides open access to communication technology for software developers. Using oneSearch, users also can type or use voice-recognition technology to ask questions in order to receive targeted answers, search results, or product recommendations. Moreover, Yahoo introduced the Blueprint cross-platform programming language for developers along with a monetization engine for online advertisers (San Jose Business Journal, 4/2/08).

Oregon creates advisory committee to guide statewide health data network implementation

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) last week issued an executive order to establish a Health Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee (HIIAC) charged with developing a plan for the implementation of a statewide electronic health data system, the Oregonian reports. Kulongoski says that such a system would enhance care delivery, reduce medical errors and cut health care costs by eliminating duplicative treatments. He adds that a health data network also would enable consumers to take a more active role in managing their health and wellness and could expand health care access for rural and underserved communities. Under the order, HIIAC will include 23 members representing consumers, providers, payers, public health agencies, information technology professionals, and research and academia. Collectively the group will review and identify barriers to system adoption; outline the state’s role in developing, financing, promoting and implementing infrastructure; and identify partnership models. The group also will recommend strategies for facilitating statewide adoption of common system standards and interoperability requirements, as well as plans for creating secure infrastructure that meets state and federal privacy standards. Finally, the group will develop evaluation metrics to gauge the system’s efficacy and impact. The committee must release its initial recommendations to the Oregon Health Fund Board by July 31 and provide annual written reports to the Governor beginning Dec. 31 (Oregonian, 4/2/08; Office of the Governor Executive Order, 3/28/08).

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