Researchers to study e-prescribing in Medicare drug benefit

Medco Health Solutions is launching a pilot program to examine the effect of electronic prescribing on patient safety for people enrolled in the Medicare drug benefit, Healthcare IT News reports. Specifically, the six-month study will assess the rate of generic drug dispensing, formulary compliance and generated safety alerts for 500 physicians who use e-prescribing software and compare results to a control group of 500 physicians that will not receive e-prescribing software or training. E-prescribing provider RXNT will provide the physicians in the intervention group with e-prescribing software and training at no cost. According to the president of new markets at Medco, the initiative aims to “overcome the cost barriers that have prevented widespread physician adoption of this technology and to verify the benefits of e-prescribing for Medicare Part D beneficiaries." Meanwhile, Medco in 2005 worked with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to launch the Southeast Michigan E-prescribing Initiative, which a recent analysis suggests has substantially helped boost patient safety (Merrill, Healthcare IT News, 2/12/08).

GPS may enable assessment of peripheral artery disease severity

According to a study published in this week’s Circulation, global positioning system (GPS) devices may help physicians determine the severity of peripheral artery disease (PAD), HealthDay reports. Noting that walking capacity often varies daily for PAD patients, researchers from University Hospital in Angers, France, decided to forego the treadmill assessments typically used to measure maximal walking distance (MWD)—the maximum distance a PAD patient can walk at a normal pace before leg pain forces them to stop—and instead tapped GPS devices to assess the severity of PAD-related disability. After using GPS technology to calculate MWD for 24 PAD patients strolling through a public park at a normal pace, researchers found that measuring “MWD obtained at a person’s usual pace is largely superior to the MWD measured on a treadmill.” In addition, the strategy may be a cheaper and less time-consuming alternative to traditional tests performed in vascular laboratories. They note, however, that GPS devices could not entirely replace treadmills for measuring MWD because treadmill tests are standardized and simultaneously measure patients’ blood pressure, oxygen consumption and heart rate (HealthDay, 2/5/08).

Massachusetts university to launch life science tech innovation center

Massachusetts is granting $4 million to the University of MassachusettsLowell (UMass-Lowell) to help establish an “innovation center” that will help entrepreneurs develop, test, and commercialize medical devices, the Boston Globe reports. Roughly 40 faculty members from UMass-Lowell and UMass Medical School in Worcester will participate in the innovation center, which could open within a year, according to officials. To supplement the state support, the university will raise as much as $3 million in additional funding from federal and private sources (Gavin, Boston Globe, 2/13/08 [registration required]).

WebMD cuts revenue forecast after possible Yahoo!-Microsoft deal

WebMD cited Microsoft's potential purchase of Yahoo! and "a more conservative outlook associated with our display advertising agreement with Yahoo!" as reasons for lowering its full-year revenue forecast, the New York Post reports. The company cited several other reasons for reducing its forecast, including drug companies' pullback on marketing, however, it singled out the potential buyout as the main reason even after reports said Yahoo! had rejected the bid. Yahoo! and WebMD had been collaborating since October 2007 under a deal in which Yahoo! provided search and display ads on WebMD's health-related sites, while WebMD received the option to show ads to WebMD users who visit Yahoo! properties. According to a WebMD spokesperson, "the agreement requires a high level of partnership and coordination, and we are not sure what that commitment will be if Microsoft acquires Yahoo!." Yahoo!, meanwhile, declined to comment (Sanders, New York Post, 2/12/08).

Some breast cancer sites include inaccurate data, study finds

A new study in the journal Cancer suggests that roughly 5 percent of breast cancer Web sites include inaccurate information, Reuters reports. To assess the inconsistencies, researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center examined 343 Web pages and found that one in 20 had inaccuracies. In addition, sites that focused on complementary and alternative medicine were 15 times more likely to contain false or misleading information. In light of the findings, the researchers urged patients to be skeptical of online resources and to talk with their physicians before taking action. According to one researcher, "the question that we really tried to answer was if we could separate Web sites that have misinformation from sites that have more accurate content.” Ultimately, she noted that "no combination of the criteria allowed us to differentiate the Web sites with accurate information versus those that did not" (Reuters, 2/11/08).

Layer 7 releases Sun Solaris-compatible XML software

Layer 7 recently released Sun Solaris editions of its SecureSpan Extensible Markup Language (XML) firewall and networking gateway software, Government Computer News reports. Layer7's SecureSpan XML Firewall inspects packets with XML data for viruses and other potentially malicious content, while the SecureSpan XML Networking Gateway executes message routing, mediation, virtualization and Service Level Agreements for XML-based messages. The latest software versions will run on Solaris 10—both the SPARC and x86 platforms. In addition, SecureSpan products are available for Linux, Windows 2003 and as an appliance. According to Layer 7 vice president of product management, the company recognizes that "a ‘one size fits all’ approach simply does not work for enterprise [Service Oriented Architecture] implementations.” He adds that the addition of SPARC to SecureSpan’s “supported platforms, operating systems and form factors gives our customers increased ability to tailor their architecture to their exact needs” (Jackson, GCN, 2/12/08).

Sun Microsystems to acquire German open source software company

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Tuesday announced plans to purchase Germany-based innotek GmbH, which develops open source virtualization software, the San Jose Business Journal reports. According to Sun, innotek's VirtualBox will extend the company's virtualization platform onto the desktop, affording developers greater ease in building and running applications on multiple platforms. Sun officials note the acquisition is a stock purchase deal, though they did not disclose specific details of the agreement (San Jose Business Journal, 2/12/08).

New Hampshire bill would tighten health privacy rules

A New Hampshire House committee is considering a measure that would extend health information privacy regulations beyond federal rules under HIPAA to ensure the security and privacy of electronic health records (EHRs), Foster's Daily Democrat reports. Co-sponsored by state Reps. Cindy Rosenwald (D) and Neal Kurk (R), the bill would provide individuals with more control over their health information. In addition, a specific provision would enable patients to request an audit trail of who accessed their data, when they accessed it and how much of it they saw, an action unavailable under HIPAA medical privacy rules. The bill also includes stricter regulations on health information used for medical research, according to the New Hampshire Institute for Health Policy. One researcher with the Institute notes the transition to EHRs increases the risk of security breaches and "exacerbates the privacy issues that already exist," adding that eventually technology will allow patients' EHRs to be divided into sections and that he would like patients to control who has access to each section. However, the executive vice president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association said that the bill "tips the balance in such a way that it will create problems by impeding access to critical health information necessary for the effective and efficient delivery of quality health care" (Foster's Daily Democrat, 2/10/08).

Paramount launches mobile entertainment business unit

Paramount Pictures on Monday announced the creation of a new business unit called Paramount Mobile Entertainment charged with developing mobile entertainment and alternative distribution models, Los Angeles Business reports. Housed in the digital division under the umbrella of Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment, Paramount Mobile Entertainment recently secured partnerships with wireless carriers and content creators to develop applications and content based on Paramount's titles. According to a release, these partners include Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T Mobile, O2 UK, Hungama, Cellempower (i2 Group) and Nokia (Los Angeles Business, 2/11/08).

California researchers discover new technique for creating solar cells

United Press International on Monday reported that researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) have created a new technique for fabricating organic polymer solar cells, taking a step closer to producing low-cost, plastic solar cells. Scientists at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute used an electronic, glue-based lamination process and an interface modification to create a one-step method for semi-transparent polymer solar cell fabrication. According to the researchers, the method renders the expensive and time-consuming high-vacuum processes now used in fabrication obsolete, while the resulting device has the advantage of being low-cost and achieving high transparency for various applications. The technique is described in greater detail in the January’s Advanced Materials (UPI, 2/11/08).

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