Telehealth pilot links health care providers in Ethiopia, India

A one-year telemedicine pilot project has successfully connected hospitals in Ethiopia with India's leading cardiac institute in Hyderabad in an effort to boost health care in rural Ethiopian communities, Reuters reports. Launched in July 2007, the $2.3 million project is part of a larger $135.6 million pan-African electronic network—a joint initiative between the African Union and India to improve Internet connections and communications. The project uses fiber-optic technology to connect physicians at Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with physicians at Care Group of Hospitals in Hyderabad, India. Thus far, Ethiopian physicians have used the system more than 50 times to consult with Indian doctors, according to one Ethiopian physician. The project also has linked Black Lion with Nekempte Hospital, which is 185 miles west of Addis Ababa. Indian officials estimate that 100 African patients have benefited from the pan-African network, which specifically links to 12 specialist hospitals in India. India plans to continue providing funding and training for five more years before handing over the project to African countries, while Care Group may soon expand the project into Nigeria and Libya (Malone, Reuters, 4/3/08).

Telemedicine key to reducing heart disease risk in underserved populations, study suggests

According to a study presented this week at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago, patients in underserved areas who communicated with physicians via telemedicine were able to reduce their risk for heart disease, United Press International reports. Across four years, researchers at Temple University’s School of Medicine in Philadelphia randomly assigned participants to a control group or a telemedicine group, providing subjects in both groups a device to measure blood pressure, a pedometer and resources on the role of fitness in heart disease prevention. Both groups were asked to make regular clinic visits, and members of the telemedicine group were required to regularly transmit blood pressure, weight and pedometer data via the Internet to a team of cardiologists, who then issued feedback and educational information. Though participants in both groups experienced significant reductions in blood pressure, blood lipids and cardiovascular disease risk scores, patients in the telemedicine group experienced the greatest reductions and took a more proactive approach to their care. In light of the findings, the researchers suggest that combining telemedicine services with traditional office visits can improve patient-provider communication and overall care quality. To that end, they suggest that the technology could help bridge the “medical divide” in prove particularly valuable in rural or underserved areas by enabling patient-provider communication “with less cost and time commitment than frequent [physician] visits” (UPI, 4/1/08; Temple University release, 3/31/08).

Software created to halt gypsy moth spread

U.S. and British scientists recently unveiled a new software program designed to give land managers more efficient, cost-effective ways of controlling gypsy moths, United Press International reports. Slated for publication in this month’s Ecological Applications, the study suggests the targeted computer model can help fight the spread of gypsy moths, which are responsible for the defoliation of more than 1 million acres of forest land each year. Researchers at Penn State University and Britain's University of Cambridge developed the state-dependent model, which recommends specific management strategies based on state information. The lead researcher notes that "most managers currently use the same strategy in all situations but our model suggests that by tailoring their approach to a particular situation, managers can be more effective in slowing the spread of invasive species" (UPI, 4/3/08).

Tennessee University earns $65M to build Kraken supercomputer

The University of Tennessee recently received a $65 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build the Kraken supercomputer, United Press International reports. The NSF notes that the state-of-the-art supercomputer will enhance the computational power of the TeraGrid—"the world's largest, most powerful and comprehensive distributed cyberinfrastructure for open scientific research," according to officials. Officials add that the supercomputer will be built through a partnership between the NSF, the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee and other partnering universities (UPI, 4/4/08).

Louisiana launches HIE to boost health care access for rural residents

Louisiana health officials on Wednesday launched the Louisiana Rural Health Information Exchange (HIE), Healthcare IT News reports. The integrated open systems platform will link 24 hospitals in northern Louisiana, as well as the Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. Through the network, clinicians will be able log on to a secure site for teleconsultations with other hospitals or to access a central database of patient information previously collected through separate applications at multiple hospitals. Lauding the project, the chairman and CEO of Carefx says the system will “empower specialists at LSU to provide world class health care to patients in areas of the state that specialty care would otherwise not be available” (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 4/2/08).

EU to allow cell phone use on airplanes

The European Commission on Monday announced plans to allow air travelers to use their mobile phones to talk and send text messages or e-mails during their flight in the European airspace, eNews 2.0 reports. Under the plan, air travelers using the European GSM technology would be able to use their phones after the plane reaches an altitude of 10.000 feet, at the same time portable music players and laptops are allowed. To make mobile phone usage possible during flight, airlines will have to install a small mobile phone base station, called a pico cell, on board of the aircraft, providing enough coverage for all the passengers of the plane. The stations will be turned on after lift off and turned off during turbulences or before landing; calls made via the pico cell will be routed to terrestrial networks through a satellite link and radio spectrum has been set aside in Europe for the technology, according to eNews. However, the European Aviation Safety Agency still must approve the devices, which will then become available to all airlines. eNews reports that the midair service could become available by the end of this year (Bonelli, eNews 2.0, 4/7/08).

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).

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