Nintendo to release new Wii products, services

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reported that Nintendo Co plans to launch Wii Fit, a new physical fitness product slated for U.S. shipping in May, according to Reuters. Unlike the traditional Wii system, Wii Fit will feature a weight-and-motion sensing device called the Wii Balance Board. In addition, Nintendo in May plans to release a new online service in the U.S. called WiiWare, which will enable game publishers to distribute new titles directly to users on the Web instead of on discs. According to Reuters, Nintendo was unavailable for comment (Adegoke, Reuters/Yahoo! News, 2/19/08).

HHS legislation urges broad health IT adoption to control Medicare spending

The Bush administration recently outlined legislation that would boost health information technology (IT) adoption to rein in Medicare spending, Government Health IT reports. According to officials, the proposal would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop and implement a strategy for ensuring nationwide adoption of electronic health records systems and making personal health records available for Medicare beneficiaries. The measure also would afford HHS the authority to publish provider-specific cost and quality information, while providers would earn payments based in part on the quality and efficiency of care delivery. In addition, the bill would require Medicare enrollees that earn within a specific income bracket to pay higher monthly Medicare Part D premiums and would limit non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits. Commenting on the legislation, Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said that, though he would not include Part D premium increases in his own Medicare reform package for this year, “value-based purchasing and health information technology are both smart targets for reforms in Medicare right now.” Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), meanwhile, is slated to introduce the administration’s bill early next week (Armstrong, CQ HealthBeat, 2/15/08 [subscription required]; Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 2/16/08 [subscription required]; Ferris, Government Health IT, 2/19/08).

Health IT legislation would improve privacy, security

Health information technology (IT) legislation pending in the U.S. House of Representatives would provide grants and establish a process for setting standards to cultivate a nationwide health information exchange network, Government Health IT reports. Sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, the Technologies for Restoring Users' Security and Trust (TRUST) in Health Information Act, however, differs from the other pending health IT bills because it specifically calls for an opt-in system that would require patient consent before records could be kept in electronic systems. In addition, it would require mandatory notification of any privacy breaches in health IT systems and include requirements for data encryption and other security measures to ensure records are protected from unauthorized access. Commenting on the need for such legislation, Markey notes that “with the right safeguards in place, consumers will be able to trust health IT systems, and doctors and providers will be able to confidently use this infrastructure to improve patient care” (Ferris, Government Health IT, 2/15/08).

Report urges computer-based physician entry program adoption at Massachusetts Community Hospitals

The Boston Globe recently reported that, according to a study released last week, 10 percent of patients treated at six Massachusetts community hospitals suffered adverse drug events (ADEs), prompting experts to urge statewide adoption of computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems. Sponsored by the New England Healthcare Institute and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the study evaluated data collected between January 2005 and August 2006 from 4,200 patient charts and found that 10.4 percent of patients suffered non-fatal preventable ADEs. Such errors lengthened patients' hospital stays by an average of four days. In light of the findings, researchers call on community hospitals to implement CPOE systems, noting the technology's potential to stem medication errors. In addition, the study authors cite data from a PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis suggesting that CPOE could save each hospital an average of $2.7 million annually, as the system can reduce error-related costs, increase use of generic medications and cut duplicate testing. According to the report, such savings would enable hospitals to recoup CPOE installation costs within roughly two years. Noting that 63 of the state's 73 hospitals have yet to adopt CPOE systems, report sponsors call for all Massachusetts hospitals to implement CPOE within three years. They also are urging insurers, government officials and health providers to support the technology's adoption. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, meanwhile, last week announced that it will require all hospitals in the state to fully implement CPOE systems within four years to remain eligible for care quality incentive payments (Wen, Boston Globe; Boston Globe, 2/14/08 [registration required]). 

NASA, British space center to launch lunar cell phone network

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) are preparing to test a mobile phone network for astronauts headed to the moon, Silicon.com reports. The satellite system aims to ensure that astronauts and robots exploring the moon's surface will have a full four-bar signal. Specifically, NASA aims to ensure communications among lunar colonists that will live in the base it plans to build at the south pole of the moon after 2020. Slated to launch after 2012, the joint MoonLite mission will test a prototype version of the satellite phone network, which Silicon.com compares to the Inmarsat network on Earth. During the mission, an astronaut would use the technology to transmit information about the structure of the moon back to Earth from scientific instruments buried in the lunar soil. According to the director of space science at the BNSC, the early lunar cell phone system will be similar to the "satellite phone network of the 1980s and 1990s on earth" (Heath, Silicon.com, 2/19/08).

Microsoft to offer free software for students

Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced it will give students free access to its most sophisticated tools for writing software and making media-rich Web sites, the Associated Press reports. Students will soon be able to download Visual Studio Professional Edition, a software development environment; Expression Studio, which includes graphic design and Web site and hybrid Web-desktop programming tools; and XNA Game Studio 2.0, a video game development program. In addition, Microsoft will offer SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition and Windows Server Standard Edition at no cost. According to Microsoft, the free offering called DreamSpark will put the company’s software and Web development tools in the hands of 1 billion students, a move that the AP says “intensifies its competition with Adobe Systems Inc. and could challenge open source software's popularity.” Specifically, the AP reports that DreamSpark strengthens an attack that Microsoft launched against Adobe Systems Inc. last year with the release of Expression Studio and the photo design program, Silverlight. According to Gates, the giveaway is not intended to turn students against open source software entirely; instead, he says he hopes to make Microsoft products more accessible tools. The AP reports, meanwhile, that Microsoft also likely hopes the giveaway keeps consumers hooked on Windows machines. DreamSpark is now available to more than 35 million college students in the U.S., Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K., and will open to high school students worldwide beginning fall 2008 and college students in other countries in the next year (Mintz, AP/Google, 2/19/08).

AT&T, Palm to release crossover hand-held device

AT&T Inc. and Palm Inc. are partnering to unveil a new crossover device called the Palm Centro, the Sacramento Business Journal reports. Palm Centro will feature a color touch-screen and traditional keyboard layout. It also will enable consumers to use the full range of AT&T wireless services, from text and instant messaging to e-mail and Web. In addition, the companies tout Centro as the smallest and lightest Palm product to date and will offer the product with AT&T services including XM Radio Mobile, Push to Talk and MusicID. Centro will cost $99.99 with a two-year service agreement and mail-in rebate (Sacramento Business Journal, 2/19/08).

Microsoft says won’t up bid for Yahoo, may launch proxy battle

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday said it will not raise its $44.6 billion bid for Yahoo Inc., the San Jose Business Journal reports. According to the Associated Press, the information came out in an interview with Washington-based Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Meanwhile, Yahoo’s board previously declined the unsolicited offer, saying it undervalues the company. Yet, CNBC reported separately that Microsoft's board now plans to pursue a proxy battle (San Jose Business Journal, 2/19/08).

U.S., Israeli researchers discover improved 3D-imaging technique

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., and Ben-Gurion University in Israel recently unveiled a new technology that can more quickly and accurately make three-dimensional imaging, United Press International reports. The scientists said their new technology, called Fresnel Incoherent Correlation Holography (FINCH), along with a 3-D microscope called a FINCHSCOPE, could improve medical applications such as endoscopy, ophthalmology, CT scanning, X-ray imaging and ultrasound. According to researchers, FINCH uses microscope objectives with the highest resolving power, a spatial light modulator, a charge-coupled device camera and some simple filters to create 3-D microscopic images without requiring scans of multiple planes. One researcher notes that "with traditional 3-D imaging, you cannot capture a moving object," adding that "with [FINCH] you can photograph multiple planes at once, enabling you to capture a 3-D image of a moving object.” He also notes that the latest technology will enable researchers to “track biological events happening quickly in cells." More information will be available in the March issue of Nature Photonics (UPI, 2/19/08).

Grad student invents green lamp powered by gravity

Earning second place at the "Greener Gadgets Conference," a U.S. graduate student unveiled his latest invention: a floor lamp powered by gravity, United Press International reports. Based at Virginia Tech, Clay Moulton created the LED lamp, named Gravia, as a part of his master's thesis. Gravia includes an acrylic column measuring just taller than 4 feet, which glows from electricity generated by the slow, silent descent of a weighted sled that spins a rotor. To "turn on" the lamp, the user moves weights from the bottom of the lamp to the top sled. The LEDs are then illuminated within a few seconds after the sled begins to glide down the column. According to UPI, the light output of 600-800 lumens lasts about four hours, while Moulton estimates that the mechanisms will last more than 200 years. Meanwhile, the patent for Gravia is currently pending (UPI, 2/18/08).

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