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).

Scientists boost T-wave availability

Tor Vergata University in Rome, Italy, is working with technology firms to boost the availability of Terahertz, or T-waves, for medical and security uses, United Press International reports. Researcher Aldo Di Carlo notes that T-waves are safer and more effective than X-rays in many applications. According to media reports, Di Carlo is leading an effort to create a T-wave booster called a Vacuum THz Amplifier. He notes that T-waves could be a safe alternative for situations including security in airport lobby areas (UPI, 4/10/08).

Research underscores benefits of health-related technologies

A new study tapping data from 11 research projects conducted by the Center for Connected Health in Boston demonstrates that connected health technologies can help patients manage their care, Healthcare IT News reports. Presented this week at the 13th annual telemedicine conference in Seattle, the study addresses various ongoing programs that provide additional evidence of the benefits of health technologies for patients, providers, employers and payers. Researchers at the center, a division of at Partners HealthCare in Boston, conducted the studies at Partners' affiliated hospitals, which include Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital. They found, for instance, that initial feedback from participants in the center's Connected Cardiac Care program, which provides non-homebound heart failure patients with home telemonitoring equipment to transmit their daily vital signs and symptom reports, was overwhelmingly positive. According to the center’s founder and director, Joseph Kvedar, 100 percent of the participants credited the program with improving their overall health and helping them avoid going to the hospital. In a separate study, researchers found that electronic communication between providers and patients outside of regular in-office visits aided diabetes management. Kvedar notes that these findings support repeated reports that “connected health technologies are empowering patients to take a more active role in managing their health” and helping providers offer more timely care and information to help improve patients’ quality of life. He adds that “the technologies are rapidly evolving, giving us increasingly consumer-friendly, simple and effective tools to deliver quality care outside of a medical setting”(Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 4/9/08).

IBM unveils new Mashup program

IBM on Tuesday announced its new Mashup Center, a program that combines a front-end tool for end-users and a server for gathering information, CNet News reports. Launching in beta on April 15, IBM Mashup Center consists of Lotus Mashups—which enable users to integrate information from different Web sites and present them on a single screen—and IBM InfoSphere MashupHub, a lightweight tool designed to help IT professionals prepare data feeds from different sources. CNet News notes that IBM will continue to sell the two products separately (LaMonica, CNet News, 4/8/08).

New York City mayor awards $27 million for EHR initiative

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s charitable foundation has pledged $27 million toward an initiative designed to help local physicians adopt electronic health records (EHRs) pre-programmed to emphasize disease prevention, the Washington Post reports. The $60 million project, also supported by state and local government funding, as well as donations from insurers and private practices, aims to roll out the prevention-oriented EHR to 1,000 physicians serving a total of 1 million patients by the close of 2008. To qualify for assistance, medical practices must prove that 30 percent or more of their patients are enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare. Commenting on the project, New York City’s health commissioner notes that the city’s motivation “is not to save money, it is to try to get more health value for our health dollars” (Brown, Washington Post, 4/8/08). 

Adobe releases new software, instructional programming

Adobe Systems on April 9 will announce the immediate availability of its Adobe Media Player 1.0 software—a customizable, cross-platform media player that is an Adobe Integrated Runtime application, eWeek reports. In conjunction with the release, Adobe is unveiling the Adobe TV network. The new Adobe Media Player network includes a series of shows that provide expert instruction and original series programming about Adobe products targeting the worldwide creative community. According to eWeek, Adobe Media Player is available for immediate download at (Taft, eWeek, 4/9/08).

Yahoo adds video features to Flickr photo site

Yahoo on Tuesday announced that Flickr is rolling out video storage use, which experts say will help it compete with YouTube, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. With the new tools, Flickr subscribers can post short clips on the Web site, however initially the service will only be available for Flickr's pro account holders, who pay $24.95 each year. The site's free users, meanwhile, can watch clips, which are intermingled with photographs on Flickr pages. Other limitations: videos must be no longer than 90 seconds—far less than the 10-minute maximum on YouTube—and can not be larger than 150-MB. However, Flickr subscribers can post an unlimited number of clips. According to the Chronicle, “Flickr is taking a more measured approach in hopes of maintaining its quirky, photo fanatic user culture.” Officials note that their goal is to establish the site as a warehouse for "authentic" video (Kopytoff, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/9/08).

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