Canadian Web portal aims to help track chronic disease prevalence

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) on Tuesday launched a Web portal designed to help physicians and patients better manage chronic conditions, the Toronto Star reports. Created by Practice Solutions Patients, the secure portal allows patients to input their health information and track their blood pressure, asthma and weight loss. According to the president and CEO of Practice Solutions, other tracking tools likely will be added to the portal, including tools targeting diabetes, smoking cessation and mental health. He added that the portal also might expand to include online appointment scheduling and prescription refills, as well as the ability to link a patient's personal health record to hospitals and regional health systems. CMA, meanwhile, called the health portal "the first physician-driven Canadian electronic patient health record platform" and said it could serve as a supplement, or sometimes substitute, for office visits. Experts, however, caution that Canada is still a long way away from having a complete electronic health record system (Ogilvie, Toronto Star, 4/2/08; Fayerman, Vancouver Sun, 4/1/08).

Yahoo releases latest mobile search engine

Yahoo Inc. on Wednesday unveiled a new version of its mobile search engine, oneSearch 2.0, the San Jose Business Journal reports. According to company officials, the new service is part of its strategy to provider broader mobile phone Internet use options. Specifically, the application enables users to personalize and search by cellphone user, and provides open access to communication technology for software developers. Using oneSearch, users also can type or use voice-recognition technology to ask questions in order to receive targeted answers, search results, or product recommendations. Moreover, Yahoo introduced the Blueprint cross-platform programming language for developers along with a monetization engine for online advertisers (San Jose Business Journal, 4/2/08).

Oregon creates advisory committee to guide statewide health data network implementation

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) last week issued an executive order to establish a Health Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee (HIIAC) charged with developing a plan for the implementation of a statewide electronic health data system, the Oregonian reports. Kulongoski says that such a system would enhance care delivery, reduce medical errors and cut health care costs by eliminating duplicative treatments. He adds that a health data network also would enable consumers to take a more active role in managing their health and wellness and could expand health care access for rural and underserved communities. Under the order, HIIAC will include 23 members representing consumers, providers, payers, public health agencies, information technology professionals, and research and academia. Collectively the group will review and identify barriers to system adoption; outline the state’s role in developing, financing, promoting and implementing infrastructure; and identify partnership models. The group also will recommend strategies for facilitating statewide adoption of common system standards and interoperability requirements, as well as plans for creating secure infrastructure that meets state and federal privacy standards. Finally, the group will develop evaluation metrics to gauge the system’s efficacy and impact. The committee must release its initial recommendations to the Oregon Health Fund Board by July 31 and provide annual written reports to the Governor beginning Dec. 31 (Oregonian, 4/2/08; Office of the Governor Executive Order, 3/28/08).

New York state to host “Green IT” conference

The New York Research and Development Authority on April 10 plans to host the state's first "Green IT" conference at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, The Business Review (Albany) reports. Co-hosted by the New York State Forum's IT Greening Committee, the event will address the state's aging infrastructure, as well as strategies for reducing energy consumption and boosting the energy efficiency of IT-related data centers. In addition, the conference will cover the state's "15 by 15" initiative—a policy that aims to cut energy consumption by 15 percent by 2015. New York state has the second-largest concentration of data centers nationwide, according to NYSERDA (The Business Review (Albany), 4/2/08).

Second Life hosts first virtual congressional hearing

A U.S. congressional hearing on Tuesday, focused on the expanding potential of Second Life and other virtual worlds, attracted business leaders, academics and tech whizzes, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The hearing was held in-person, as well as within the Second Life world with a 3-D model of the committee room. As expected, TV monitors displayed the session, but for the first time, one screen displayed the Second Life world. Streaming the meeting in real time, the screen showed the virtual meeting, as well as avatars’ text-chat play by play with comments like, "there's another softball question." According to the Mercury News, the 3-D entertainment world has grown from a few hundred gamers in 2003 to roughly 6 million registered users today, with roughly 60,000 online at any given time and $850,000 in virtual currency exchanged each day. The Mercury News notes that “members of Congress tried to grasp the implications of Second Life, and many reverted to their fears about other online activity - that it can be addictive, or can help sexual predators and terrorists.” Meanwhile, scientists and researchers use the world to share information in virtual meetings, Cisco Systems and Intel use it to teleconference, and IBM is experimenting with Second Life for simulations and training sessions. Moreover, politicians use it to hold virtual town halls, while more than 400 universities are using the technology for teaching (Davies, San Jose Mercury News, 4/2/08).

Nurses taking greater role in IT development to boost efficiency

 

As the U.S. nursing shortage worsens and patient safety concerns increase, health care vendors, policymakers and nurses are looking to information technology (IT) solutions to boost efficiency, Government Health IT reports. According to Government Health IT’s "GHIT Notebook," nurses historically have had a disproportionately small role in shaping health IT development and policy, but are increasingly “becoming more involved in the development, procurement and deployment of next-generation IT tools.” For instance, the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) is working to alleviate the nursing shortage by leveraging IT solutions to make better use of nurses already in the field, instead of relying on strategies to increase nurse supply. Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, AAN's Workforce Commission compared the work processes and environments of nurses and other clinicians at 25 sites nationwide. Participants consistently recommended IT tools in areas including care coordination, care delivery, communications, discharge, documentation, medication administration, patient movement, and supplies and equipment. Specifically, nurses say they want entirely electronic health records instead of the more common hybrid systems that combine electronic and paper-based reporting. In addition, they want computerized order entry systems to eliminate handwriting legibility issues, touch-screen or voice-activated technology for documentation, and automated networks to collect and download vital patient data. The Commission’s chair adds that nurses reported wanting more hand-free tools, particularly wireless technology, that “frees them up.” Nurses also reported wanting greater use of radio frequency identification technology to track people, supplies and equipment, as well as greater use of robotics to deliver supplies. Furthermore, nurses support the use of smart beds to monitor patient movements and pressure sensors to reduce the incidence of bedsores. Commenting on the health IT industry, the dean of the University of Minnesota's School of Nursing suggests that “the more [nurses] are deeply involved in the actual design of these applications, the greater likelihood we will get applications that are not impractical but fit the actual care delivery system.” Meanwhile, the EHR project director at University Hospitals in Cleveland agrees, noting that organizations that implement IT without involving nurses tend to end up with faulty systems (Pulley, Government Health IT, 3/31/08).

 

ISO approves OOXML as standard

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) on Wednesday announced that Office Open XML (OOXML) has been approved as a standard, CNet News reports. According to a press release from the Geneva-based ISO, OOXML received 75 percent approval and 14 percent disapproval; it needed two-thirds approval and not more than 25 percent disapproval to pass. As an ISO standard, OOXML software products, including Microsoft's Office, will be more attractive to governments and large corporate customers that prefer to purchase ISO-certified goods. Achieving standard status also means that specification development will be completed through ISO, which touts members from more than 100 countries. Microsoft Apple, Novell and other software companies that support OOXML in their products are expected to conform to the standard as it changes across time. According to CNet, the move toward standardization was “opposed by many, although certainly not all, open-source advocates who feared that standards status would give Microsoft more market power” (La Monica, CNet News, 4/2/08).

Penn. technology group awards nearly $1.5 to advance research projects

Pennsylvania’s Technology Collaborative, a statewide economic development organization, recently announced its most recent round of funding totaling $1.48 million for eight projects, the Pittsburgh Business Times reports. Recipients based in Pittsburgh include Concurrent Design Automation, which received $192,500 for a project to improve the writing of sequential software applications, and the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, which received $200,000 for a project it is collaborating on with Seagate to demonstrate innovative video indexing technology. In addition, Valley Technologies in Tamaqua received $231,500 for a project to develop a platform for optical next generation networks. All eight projects are scheduled to begin in May and June (Lyons, Pittsburgh Business Times, 4/2/08).

Air Force contracts with Hawaii university for data management project

The University of Hawaii recently earned an $8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to develop a telescope data management system, the Pacific Business News reports. The contract will support the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System's multiyear program to develop and deploy the telescope data management system, which will be able to detect and catalog large numbers of asteroids and near-Earth objects (Pacific Business News, 4/1/08).

VoIP tops industry job, pay growth list

Business research firm IBISWorld Inc. recently released data suggesting that providers of voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP) services will see average annualized job growth of roughly 19.4 percent through 2012 and average annualized wage growth of 21.8 percent, the Triangle Business Journal reports. According to IBISWorld's 2008 hot jobs list, the VoIP field ranks far ahead of the other industries, with fashion design services taking a close second on the list of industries that will create the most jobs, with an expected job growth of 5.2 percent in 2008. IT support, CRM and business-process services tied for the ninth spot in the top 10 fields for job growth. Meanwhile, a number of industries top the list of jobs that will see the most growth in pay including search engines and automobile racing and other spectator sports, such as golf and boxing (Triangle Business Journal, 4/2/08).

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