New Hampshire taps IT infrastructure plans to boost care quality, affordability

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch on Wednesday issued an executive order directing the Citizens Health Initiative to develop plans to enhance the state’s health information technology (IT) infrastructure as a means to improve health care quality and affordability, Government Technology reports. As charged in the order, the initiative will work with hospitals, providers and businesses to expand the state’s health IT infrastructure in a manner that will promote common standards, coordinated efforts and security protections. Specifically, the initiative will convene working groups representing various stakeholders to outline a strategic plan, which officials will submit to the governor by Dec. 1. According to Lynch, the project aims to ensure that “New Hampshire citizens get the maximum value from the increasing use of technology in health care.” He adds that health IT helps “improve quality and efficiency, which cuts down on errors and reduce[s] costs,” ultimately helping reach the goal of ensuring all citizens access to high quality, affordable care (Government Technology, 4/23/08).

EPA, Green Grid make energy-efficiency pact

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday signed an agreement with the Green Grid to forge greater energy efficiency in EPA computer facilities, Government Computer News reports. The agreement, which piggybacks on a similar pact between Green Grid and the Storage Networking Industry Association to further networked storage practices for energy efficiency, aims to accelerate the adoption of best practices for energy efficiency in existing computer/server rooms throughout EPA. Under the pact, the EPA and Green Grid—a global consortium dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems—will identify a small EPA computer/server room as a target for an energy efficiency showcase. The Green Grid will provide a team of technical experts who will perform the assessment and direct strategies and techniques for maximizing energy efficiency. According to officials, the results, best practices and real-world takeaways from this project will be shared with other governmental agencies, industry stakeholders and the private sector (Tipley said. Yasin, GCN, 4/22/08).

Device makers reluctant to manufacturer pediatric-sized equipment

Noting the safety risks associated with the commonly accepted practice of using adult-sized medical devices and equipment in children, physicians are calling on device makers to manufacture pediatric-specific equipment, the Associated Press reports. Though they acknowledge the dearth of data tracking deaths or injuries related to the use of devices meant for adults in pediatric patients, physicians say “there have likely been some of each,” citing problems with adult-sized equipment. Such issues include heart valves that quickly deteriorate in growing bodies; surgical cameras that damage tissue in children because they are too big; and pacemakers that can cause infection, stroke, and even death in small patients. Device makers, however, “remain cautious” in their plans regarding pediatric-sized devices for several reasons. One example includes the prospect of added oversight under a September 2007 federal law that provides financial incentives for companies that design pediatric-specific equipment and devices but gives regulators more power to scrutinize the use of adult-sized equipment in children and requires manufacturers to cover tracking costs. Device manufacturers also see limited potential for profit in manufacturing devices meant for children, in part because the law allows companies to sell experimental pediatric-size devices without full federal approval only if the devices are used to treat rare diseases. In addition, experts note that the pediatric market is merely a fraction of the U.S. medical device market. Furthermore, the AP reports that some manufacturers may be reluctant to start testing the devices in children, particularly as companies face ongoing scrutiny regarding the safety of adult devices such as pacemakers and stents. Still, several companies are starting to market pediatric devices, according to the AP. Device maker Respironics, for instance, has created an entire subsidiary devoted to respiratory equipment for hospitalized infants, while the German firm Berlin Heart last year began testing the first heart pump for infants awaiting transplant in the United States (Perrone, AP/Boston Globe, 4/24/08 [registration required]). 

Sun unveils Java Card 3.0

Sun Microsystems and the Java Card Forum recently released version 3.0 of the Java Card smartcard specification, Government Computer News reports. Java Card, a platform for running small Java programs on smart cards and other devices with a very small amount of memory, runs the Java Card Virtual Machine—a runtime engine for applications. Version 3.0 is available as the Classic Edition, which extends the features and performance of the last major version, version 2.2.2 and is intended for objects with extremely limited memory, such as credit cards or cell phone Subscriber Identity Modules. It also is available as the Connected Edition, in which it acts as a miniature application server. This edition features an entirely new version of the virtual machine — one that can make use of standard Web development tools, such as the Java Servlet Application Programming Interface (Jackson, GCN, 4/22/08).

Pentagon, VA Report Progress in Sharing Soldiers' Health Data

Officials from the U.S. departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Defense (DOD) on Wednesday testified before the Senate VA Committee about the progress of integrating the departments' information technology (IT) systems to help enhance the care of soldiers, Government Health IT reports. Specifically, the deputy VA secretary said the VA and DOD have taken steps to expedite the process for evaluating veteran disability claims and to share data between the departments. For instance, he noted that the departments have expanded the categories of medical data that can be shared, including allergy information, outpatient prescription data, physicians and clinical notes, problem lists, and radiology and laboratory reports. Commenting on the progress, the DOD undersecretary for personnel and readiness said that "by Sept. 30, we will be able to send back and forth any electronic record of medical data" (Mosquera, Government Health IT, 4/23/08).

Colorado law criminalizes e-mail spamming

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter on Wednesday signed a bill into law that criminalizes e-mail spam, the Denver Business Journal reports. Slated to take effect Aug. 8, the "Spam Reduction Act of 2008" will replace previous state law regarding unwanted commercial e-mail with rules that make it a misdemeanor crime under state law to violate the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. In addition, the law enables spam recipients who can identify a sender and prove financial losses to seek to payment for damages of up to $10 million in civil court. Officials note the law aims to give authorities more ability to thwart senders of spam, which bill sponsors estimate at $70 billion in lost productivity and network management costs annually for all U.S. businesses (Denver Business Journal, 4/23/08).

BAE gets DARPA mobile network research project

BAE Systems Inc. has earned an $8.5 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a secure mobile military communications network designed to protect against cyberattacks, Washington Technology reports. Awarded through DARPA’s Intrinsically Assurable Mobile Ad hoc Network program, the contract calls on BAE to develop and test network protocols that support the integrity, availability, reliability, confidentiality and safety of network communications and data. The Ad hoc Network program specifically targets the security challenges of mobile ad hoc networks, which are susceptible to passive analysis and manipulation by adversaries (Beizer, Washington Technology, 4/24/08).

CSC launches health business sector

Computer Sciences Corp. on Monday announced the creation of its new health care business unit, the Washington Business Journal reports. Specifically, the Virginia-based company established the new business unit to sell its information technology services to the health care industry. Housed under the department, the company will offer IT services including supply-chain and revenue-cycle management, claims processing, document management and clinical trial management. According to officials, the company’s "main focus will be delivering IT-based innovation that improves patient outcomes and the decision making of providers, payers and life sciences organizations" (Washington Business Journal, 4/21/08). 

Industry experts discuss nationwide health data network

Health industry experts met in Houston last week to discuss the creation of the nationwide health information network, the Houston Business Journal reports. The federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is working with nine state and regional health organizations to create standards that will ensure secure networks can transfer information among health providers nationwide. According to the Journal, the rush to digitize health data in one location has created fragmentation of information. In his keynote speech, National Coordinator for Health IT Robert Kolodner noted that "if you don't have a network, you have silos of health information. And if you don't have standards, it's like the Tower of Babel." Addressing the issue, meanwhile, the University of Texas, the Harris County Healthcare Alliance and other community groups are collaborating on a pilot project called Health Quality and Interoperability Laboratory for Training. The project will help develop a "network of networks" for 50 clinics, emergency centers and primary care offices that treat indigent communities. According to officials, the technology is roughly just 20 percent of the challenge, while other issues include who pays for the information exchanges and how people will be trained to use it (Perin, Houston Business Journal, 4/18/08). 

Affordable laptop program scraps Linux for Windows

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) officials on Tuesday announced plans to transition from Linux to Windows XP for its XO laptops, The Inquirer reports. OLPC, the educational project which launched with the goal of providing small, cheap laptops for kids has been running its home-made Sugar application on Linux since its inception. However, OLPC chairman and founder Nicholas Negroponte on Tuesday told AP that Linux is not in the company’s future plans. The Inquirer goes on to question Negroponte’s decision, as well as point out that the OLPC is falling short of its goals, costing nearly double the original $100 per laptop and selling just 500,000, compared to the predicted millions of sales (Barak, The Inquirer, 4/23/08). 

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