Kentucky HIE to use health record bank for data sharing

The Louisville Health Information Exchange (HIE) is tapping the health record bank model to exchange patient information because it, Health Data Management reports. HIE officials plan to use the data bank model, which enables patients to control who accesses their information, to collect, store and facilitate access to medical information for residents who open a health record account. The HIE is currently developing a request for proposals for one or more vendors to collaborate, build and operate the health record bank (Health Data Management, 2/29/08). 

Cisco unveils high-power, efficient router

Cisco Systems Inc. on Monday unveiled a new router for processing data, voice and video that is built atop its new QuantumFlow Processor, Computerworld reports. Resulting from five years of research and a $250 million investment, the new Aggregation Services Router (ASR) 1000 will become available in April in two-, four- and six-rack-unit sizes, according to Cisco officials. The ASR 1000, starting at $35,000, is designed for use in WAN applications at “the network edge,” a term defining those areas outside the data center such as surrounding buildings in a campus setting. Touted as the company’s highest-performance and most efficient router, the ASR 1000 features instant-on provisioning, according to Cisco's director of product management for midrange routing. He adds that its embedded capabilities will eliminate the need to deploy multiple single-function applications, thus lowering costs and reducing the carbon footprint. Such combined functions include a firewall, IPsec VPN, deep packet inspection and session border control (Hamblen, Computerworld, 3/3/08)

Dell unveils tougher laptop product to rival Panasonic Toughbooks

Dell on Tuesday plans to launch its first rugged notebook that meets all U.S. Department of Defense standards for durability and operation in extreme conditions, IDG News Service reports. With a hardened cover, the Latitude XFR D630 notebook is shock-resistant and resists moisture, high altitude and high temperatures, according to officials. In accordance with federal standards for operating in extreme conditions, the notebook can run in environments from -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 degrees Celsius) to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), as well as altitudes as high as 15,000 feet. Additionally, the laptop is sealed to resist moisture and dust. IDG reports that the laptop is a more rugged version of the company's still-available Latitude D630 laptop, which only complies with some of the DOD's rugged laptop requirements. The more rugged version specifically targets the military, public-safety first responders and enterprises such as oil and gas exploration companies, among others, and officials note the product enables Dell to compete against companies such as Panasonic—the leader in rugged laptops (Shah, IDG/InfoWorld, 3/4/08).

University of Pittsburgh taps patient monitoring technology

The University of Pittsburgh is using patient-monitoring technology to improve care delivery in "step down" units, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Patients in step down units are being carefully transitioned from intensive care units to hospitals' acute care departments. University officials have implemented the patient-monitoring system made by OBS Medical to automatically tracks patients' vital signs and alerts nurses when a patient's heart rate or breathing pattern is abnormal. The system also helps nurses react "very early on when the patient starts to develop instability, sometimes when there isn't even what we would consider to be a significant change in vital signs," according to one acute care nursing professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. Meanwhile, the school also is tapping technologies such as simulated patient robots to help train nurses (Roth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/3/08).

Massive DNA database to expedite disease research

Harvard University medical professor George Church is planning to create a database of DNA sequences for 100,000 people in an effort to identify new drugs for common diseases, Bloomberg News reports. Supported by $1 billion from Google and OrbiMed Advisors, the effort is slated to be the largest gene sequencing project worldwide. Specifically, Church will match genetic data with each participant’s health history to link DNA variations and diseases for scientists and drug makers—the first step in discovering treatments that can block mutations or alter how they work in the body, according to Bloomberg. In addition, Church plans to use the database to explore other human traits and behaviors in relation to their DNA. Church already has partially sequenced genomes of 10 people, and a Harvard ethics panel is reviewing his plan to include 100,000 participants. Church notes that he would like to continue expanding the project beyond 100,000, noting that, if the project gains approval, he would like to include a million genomes. Most participants will be asked to provide $1,000 each to defray the costs and subsidize some nonpaying participants (Lauerman, Bloomberg News, 2/29/08).

Michigan physician like e-prescribing, survey finds

A survey of providers participating in the three-year Southeastern Michigan ePrescribing Initiative (SMEI) suggests that many feel e-prescribing boosts patient safety and care quality, Healthcare IT News reports. Based on input from roughly 500 physicians, the survey found that more than 80 percent of respondents’ prescriptions were written electronically, while 40 percent of respondents said they now write only e-prescriptions. In rating e-prescribing’s value, 75 percent of providers said they strongly believe that the technology improves patient safety and nearly 70 percent said it improves care quality. Additionally, respondents lauded the safety alerts that warn of potentially harmful prescription drug interactions, and 65 percent of physicians reporting changing a prescription after receiving an alert. In addition, 90 percent of respondents indicated that e-prescribing had “met or exceeded” their expectations. Roughly 70 percent also reported a reduction in communications with pharmacies about prescription questions, and more than 50 percent said the technology saved clinicians time and helped improve productivity. According to Healthcare IT News, the SMEI plans to extend the initiative and continue to enroll physicians through June 30 largely due to the survey findings (Merrill, Healthcare IT News, 2/27/08).

Intel announces “Atom” processing chip line

Intel Corp. on Sunday announced that its new family of low-power chips will be called "Atom," the San Jose Business Journal reports. Though Intel did not release prices for Atom chips, the product line will target mobile Internet devices and super low-cost and small notebook and desktop personal computers with expected selling prices under $300. According to the company, the chips, previously named Silverthorne and Diamondville, are less than 25 square millimeters and will likely release midyear (San Jose Business Journal, 3/3/08).

Google unveils more details on PHR service, announces partners

In Google’s first detailed public comments about it’s Web-based personal health record (PHR) system, the company’s CEO last week said that the Internet health service would be password protected but offer third party-built services such as immunization reminders, the Associated Press reports. Speaking at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society annual conference, CEO Eric Schmidt noted that Google will not sell ad space on the PHR system. Instead, he said that “Google is counting on increased Web traffic to make the site profitable without ads,” according to the Associated Press. In the latest announcement, Google officials said the company has forged deals with several hospital and corporate partners, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, health insurer Aetna, medical testing company Quest Diagnostics, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and Duane Reade, as well as the previously announced pilot planned with the Cleveland Clinic. Google’s interface, which has yet to be released publicly, is said to include sections for health notices, drug interactions, medications, allergies, health conditions, immunization records, procedures, and test results. Another feature, meanwhile, will allow consumers to store imaging files. The system also will connect users with online research about health conditions and notify them about potential drug interactions or other safety risks. The Wall Street Journal notes that while PHR systems have been slow to gain steam largely because of consumer privacy concerns and medical practices’ slow uptake of EMR technology, Google’s efforts could help “boost the nation’s fledgling efforts to adopt electronic medical records.” Google officials did not announce a target date for the service’s public launch, but said it would likely be several months before a nationwide rollout (AP/New York Times, 2/28 [registration required]; Lawton and Worthen, Wall Street Journal, 2/28 [subscription required]; Liston, Reuters, 2/28).

IBM developing high-speed network technology

IBM on Friday announced it is developing high-speed networking technology that could enable consumers to download a high-definition movie off the Web in less than a second, InformationWeek reports. IBM said it is developing the technology, called "green optical link," as part of a networking research project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the U.S. Department of Defense. Specifically, the technology uses photons of light—instead of electrons—to transmit information. According to the company, that change promises to yield networks that can transfer 8 trillion bits of information in a second using roughly 1 percent of the power that's needed by today's standard electrical interconnects—power equivalent to that required by a single, 100-watt bulb. To ready green optical link technology for commercialization, IBM is building compatible circuit boards, which it has dubbed “Optocards.” InformationWeek reports that “the boards employ an array of low-loss polymer optical waveguides to conduct light between transmitters and receivers.” The company adds that a complete databus built from Optocards would not only involve many high-speed channels, it would also package them to create an infrastructure of unparalleled bandwidth density (McDougall, InformationWeek, 2/29/08).

Microsoft expands Web services to more businesses

Microsoft Corp. is expanding its Web-based business software offerings, Puget Sound Business Journal reports. The new services include e-mail, calendars, contact lists, Web-conferencing and videoconferencing—all online versions of features in Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint software. Originally launched in September for businesses with more than 5,000 users, the services will soon be available for all companies. Microsoft on Monday is starting with a limited test run and plans a broader rollout for the second half of 2008. Customers, which thus far include Blockbuster Inc. and Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., will pay a subscription fee for the web software. According to the Journal, Microsoft is shifting some of its software offerings to the Web in response to pressure from companies like Google and that are making software programs available online (Puget Sound Business Journal, 3/3/08).

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