Quantum computing in reach, researchers say

Northwestern University Professor Prem Kumar recently announced that he and his colleagues have demonstrated one of the basic building blocks for distributed quantum computing—using entangled photons generated in optical fibers, United Press International reports. The research appears in the journal Physical Review Letters. Kumar notes that “because it is done with fiber and the technology that is already globally deployed, we think it is a significant step in harnessing the power of quantum computers.” According to UPI, “quantum computing differs from classical computing in that a classical computer works by processing ‘bits’ that exist in two states, either one or zero.” Quantum computing uses quantum bits (qubits), which can be both one and zero simultaneously, as well as just one or zero, the scientists said, noting such values are possible because qubits are quantum units similar to atoms or photons that operate under the rules of quantum rather than classical mechanics (UPI, 4/10/08).

New York earns $20M CDC grant for public health surveillance

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently awarded a five-year, $20 million grant to the New York State Department of Health and Health Research and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to bolster the state's accuracy, timeliness and thoroughness of public health surveillance and reporting, Government Technology reports. The grant will enable state, city and county health departments to collaborate with providers to monitor the spread of disease across time and ultimately help prevent illness. In addition, the funding will support efforts to improve automated tracking of residents, hospital capacity and resources during public health emergencies. To improve emergency data tracking, officials will use a new health information exchange service that can access and analyze that automated data (Government Technology, 4/10/08).

Shift to digital mammography may spur more repeat exams, N.Y. Times says

As radiologists transition to digital mammography amid a growing body of evidence suggesting that the screening method is better than film mammography at detecting breast cancer in certain patients, specialists making the transition are increasingly ordering repeat exams in women who turn out to be cancer-free, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, 32 percent of mammography clinics nationwide now have at least one digital machine, compared with just 10 percent two years ago. Radiologists note that the digital technology affords more control over features including contrast and magnification and makes things that may have been blurry or even invisible on film more clear. Noting that some radiologists are leveraging the digital technology as a “selling point” to attract patients, the Times reports there is a six-month waiting list to purchase certain types of digital machines despite their high price at roughly three times the amount of traditional machines—totaling from $350,000 to $600,000. Though many radiologists predict that digital mammography in the long run will make mammograms more accurate for most women, which ultimately could reduce call-backs and lower costs, some radiologists are finding that currently “digital and film versions can sometimes be hard to reconcile.” According to the Times, “radiologists who are retraining their eyes and minds may be more likely to play it safe by requesting additional X-rays,” as well as additional tests such as ultrasounds and biopsies. Although no published studies pinpointing patient call-back rates during these transitions exist, eight of 10 radiologists interviewed by the Times said that their call-back rates for patients (who in the end turned out healthy) increased considerably during the transition from film to digital. Noting that call-backs also can lead to unnecessary anxiety for many patients, the Times says, however, that radiologists are confident that the process will eventually become easier once a woman has had enough digital mammograms to give physicians a baseline for comparison (Grady, New York Times, 4/10/08 [registration required]).

Green IT grows in popularity, report finds

A report released Thursday by London-based Datamonitor suggests that one in five major companies around the world has adopted eco-friendly computing practices, while an additional third plan to roll out similar strategies within the next two years, The Business Journal of Phoenix reports. The report, called "2008 Trends to Watch: Green IT," predicts a surge in interest by chief information officers (CIOs), as well as vendor initiatives, in what it calls "green IT space," largely due to tighter regulatory measures and advances in technology. Meanwhile, a survey of 245 CIOs and IT managers conducted by Datamonitor found that more than 75 percent considered eco-friendly computing an important element in their IT strategy, while 15 percent rated it as their top IT priority (The Business Journal of Phoenix, 4/10/08).

Hughes goes the distance with new network

The Defense Information Systems Agency and other agencies participating in the Government Education and Training Network (GETN) recently awarded Hughes Network Systems $2.6 million in task orders to create a distance-learning system for students at locations nationwide, including Alaska and Hawaii, Washington Technology reports. Under the contract, Hughes will provide an audio and video communications network for broadcast training through the General Services Administration’s Satellite Services II program. Officials note that Hughes’ network will use broadband satellite technology to broadcast compressed digital and audio distance-learning programs and support viewer-response systems, including audio conferencing and integrated voice and data systems. Washington Technology adds that the network also will meet agency-specific requirements including interactive television, streaming video and large file transfers. The task orders specify a minimum one-year performance period with four option years through Nov. 1, 2012. Meanwhile, Washington Technology notes that GETN participating agencies use a common satellite carrier to share distance-learning programs. Users include the Air Force, the Army, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Defense Logistics Agency, the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Park Service and the FBI (Walker, Washington Technology, 4/9/08).

SAIC tapped to build electronic dental records system

Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) will design and build an electronic dental records system to serve more than 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, Washington Technology reports. Potentially worth as much as $16 million, the federal General Services Administration’s Indian Health Service (IHS) Electronic Dental Record Implementation Support prime contract has a one-year base period and four one-year options. Under the award, SAIC will roll out an electronic dental record system that is compatible with other IHS systems. In addition, SAIC will provide program management, quality control, certification and accreditation, and business-process engineering services. According to Washington Technology, work will be performed at SAIC sites in San Diego and San Francisco, government facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and IHS facilities nationwide (Hubler, Washington Technology, 4/9/08).

Intel, Telefónica team to boost Internet access in Latin America

Intel Corp. and Telefónica SA on Wednesday announced they will partner to expand information and communication technology uses, as well as broadband Internet, in Latin America, The Business Journal of Phoenix reports. Designed to increase affordable technology and meet needs for home use and small- and medium-sized businesses, the work will build off Telefónica's existing and planned network and will broaden the use of wireless Internet access. In addition, the move will expand opportunities for Intel in Latin America (O’Grady, The Business Journal of Phoenix, 4/10/08).

CDC taps social media to enhance public health outreach

In order to better engage with the public, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expanding its use of social media, Healthcare IT News reports. Thus far, the CDC has tapped virtual worlds, podcasts, RSS feeds, social networking sites such as Facebook, widgets, chats and electronic cards. Noting that on Valentine’s Day 2008 more than 6,000 of its e-cards were sent with health messages, CDC officials suggest its early use of social media has helped establish a trusted, visible online brand among the public. For instance, across the last two years, the CDC has worked with a popular virtual world called Whyville to disseminate messages about seasonal flu vaccinations to youths ages 12 to 14. They found that in 2007 roughly 41,000 site users vaccinated their avatars within Whyville, including 1,800 seniors who play the game with their grandchildren. CDC officials note the site served as a vehicle for teaching both youth and adults about seasonal flu prevention, as well as raising awareness about other public health topics. Another project currently underway taps videos made by college students that are sent via cell phones to promote HIV/AIDS prevention, and officials note plans are underway to create similar videos about smoking cessation. To further broaden its reach, the CDC is exploring additional social media uses in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and plans to share its lessons learned with other federal agencies (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 4/8/08).

Scientists study Internet 'black holes'

University of Washington researchers say they are monitoring the Internet in order to provide a constantly changing map of the system's weak points including "black holes"—points where information disappears, United Press International reports. According to researchers, a proportion of the world's computer traffic ends up being routed into information black holes at random moments when a path between two computers exists but messages become lost along the way. Specifically, one researcher notes that "there's an assumption that if you have a working Internet connection then you have access to the entire Internet," adding, "we found that's not the case." The work will be presented next week in San Francisco during the Usenix Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (UPI, 4/9/08).

Surgeons use robots during heart surgery

Some U.S. surgeons suggest that using robots to assist in heart bypass surgery produces smaller incisions, less pain and fewer complications, United Press International reports. According to Dr. Robert Poston, Boston Medical Center is one of just nine U.S. hospitals to offer robot-assisted coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. UPI notes that “CABG involves removing or re-directing a blood vessel from one part of the body, placing it around an obstructed artery, thereby restoring blood flow to the heart,” adding that “the robot-assisted procedure allows surgeons to gain access to the heart with several small incisions, unlike conventional bypass surgery that requires the chest to be opened with a 6-10 inch incision.” Poston says that through the small incisions between the ribs, the robot's arms, which mimic the movements of the surgeon's hands and wrist, and a small camera can provide a three-dimensional, 10-times-magnified image. The robotic instruments providing flexibility and precise motion control during the procedure. According to Poston, the use of robotics results in smaller scars, fewer side effects and complications, less pain and a reduced risk of infection, as well as faster recovery (UPI, 4/9/08).

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