Georgia program to offer incentives for physician EHR use

The Georgia Department of Community Health recently launched its new state Medicare Electronic Health Records (EHR) Community Partnership, a program designed to boost EHR adoption among small- and medium-sized physician practices statewide, Healthcare IT News reports. Under the five-year program, the department will offer financial incentives to physician groups that use certified EHRs to meet clinical quality measures. Specifically, the state will pay physicians annual bonuses for each year they score on a standardized survey assessing EHR use to support care delivery. The state's Medicare EHR demonstration project aims to help Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's (R) achieve his goal of establishing a statewide health information to exchange (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 3/31/08).

NASA awards data system contract to University of Alaska

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently awarded the University of Alaska's data center a $39 million, five-year contract to manage and operate NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System Synthetic Aperture Radar Distributed Active Archive Center, United Press International reports. Specifically, the archive center is designed to collect, process, archive, distribute and support science data from, but not limited to, Synthetic Aperture Radar satellites. According to UPI, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is responsible for providing access to data from NASA's Earth science program to scientific and other users (UPI, 4/1/08).

Google transitions its office suite for offline use

Google software engineer Philip Tucker on Monday reported in his blog that Google’s Web-access software for editing, uploading and sharing office documents—Google Docs—can now be used offline, Government Computer News reports. Announced with little fanfare, the change reflects the larger industry shift toward Internet-based or “cloud” computing. Initially, Google Docs offline will enable users to view and edit word processing documents and save changes on a local computer. When the Internet connection is restored, documents are synced up again with the server. Reports suggest, however, that many functions are lost when working offline (Kash, GCN, 4/1/08).

Microsoft to offer Web browsing on phones

Microsoft on Tuesday announced plans to offer full Web browsing for cell phones this year, following the success of Apple's iPhone, Reuters reports. Announced at CTIA, the annual U.S. wireless convention, plans include making Internet Explorer Mobile available to phone makers in the third quarter, with the first phones slated for sale by the close of 2008. Meanwhile, Microsoft also announced a new version of its mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 6.1, which is designed to facilitate phone feature menu navigation. Company officials expect license sales of Windows Mobile to outpace smartphone market growth in the next few years, while officials also say the market likely will quadruple in size in three to four years to roughly 400 million handsets (Carew, Reuters, 4/1/08).

ABC program to feature stem cell research firm

An ABC Television special report Tuesday night will feature stem cell research firm Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) Inc., the East Bay Business Times reports. California-based ACT will participate in the Barbara Walters-hosted program: "Live to 150, Can you Do It? Secrets to Living Longer" set to air at 10 p.m. During interviews on the program, ACT’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Robert Lanza, will  discuss some of the company's development programs, including efforts to create human embryonic stem cell lines without damaging the embryo itself (East Bay Business Times, 4/1/08).

New York grants $105 million for RHIOs, health IT

The New York State Department of Health recently awarded 19 two-year grants totaling $105 million to support regional health information organizations (RHIOs), Government Health IT reports. Awarded as part of the Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers (HEAL-NY) program, the grants range from $1 million to $10 million and target RHIOs in both the Adirondacks area and southern New York. According to Government Health IT, all of the organizations must work together to ensure interoperability and policy agreement, though the health department will help guide the projects. The New York eHealth Collaborative, meanwhile, will help ensure the recipients collaborate and a consortium of five New York universities will evaluate the program. Ultimately, the state selected projects that aim to support Medicaid providers, streamline public health reporting and monitoring, boost patient involvement in care, and improve care quality (Ferris, Government Health IT, 3/28/08).

IBM suspended from new contract work

A recent posting on a federal General Services Administration Web site suggests that IBM Corp. has been suspended from taking on new work for the federal government, Washington Technology reports. According to a March 27 posting on the GSA’s Excluded Parties List System Web sites, the government has suspended IBM for an unspecified reason and for an undetermined length of time. The general description of the suspension category suggests that the action was taken “based on an indictment or other adequate evidence” that could result in a debarment or “other causes” that could cause a debarment. Though initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the suspension is effective for the entire U.S. government. Washington Technology notes that IBM officials were not available for comment (Wakeman, Washington Technology, 03/31/08).

VR tools help responders prepare for emergencies

Researchers nationwide are using virtual reality (VR) simulation to train first responders, medical personnel and emergency management officials for public health emergencies, Government Technology reports. For example, researchers at the University of California-Davis Health System in 2006 used an $80,000 grant from the California Department of Health Services to re-create a 3-D model of the California Exposition and State Fair in Second Life, the Internet-based world in which people are represented by avatars. They applied the simulation exercise to help train staff members to administer antibiotics from the Strategic National Stockpile in the event of an anthrax attack. Meanwhile, RTI International for several years has been using funding from the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center to create a VR simulation platform that enables physicians, nurses and paramedics to practice their triage skills in a role-playing game. The program includes 30 casualty scenarios, with users encountering a total of nine examples in any one scene. The not-for-profit Emergency Management Training, Analysis and Simulation Center in Virginia also creates realistic simulations designed to help train managers to communicate effectively during an emergency. Specifically, the program simulates incidents, such as a hurricane, by feeding information to emergency response managers in the same format they would receive during an emergency (Raths, Government Technology, 3/27/08). 

Texas company adds software testing services

San Antonio-based ENTRUST Technology Consulting Services this month launched a new division that will test and research new software for small companies that lack the resources to do so themselves, the San Antonio Business Journal reports. The lab had been researching new software part time since December but began the work full time March 1. According to officials, the company's new division—ENTRUST Labs—can simulate a client's network in a controlled environment and determine how a new software program will react with that system (Dominguez, San Antonio Business Journal, 3/28/08).

Federal agencies collaborate on clinical decision support

Representatives from a new team of federal agencies met in March to discuss clinical decision support efforts, as well as ways to share expertise and capitalize on recent work, Government Health IT reports. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (IT), the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Personalized Health Care Initiative hosted the organization's first meeting. The working group is one of several recent policy developments that aim to leverage reminders, alerts and other technology to help providers and their patients make clinical decisions. Other federal work groups, for instance, are preparing recommendations on clinical decision support for the American Health Information Community, an HHS health IT advisory group. The draft, expected to undergo revision before the group's April meeting, recommends steps including identifying priorities for federally funded clinical decision support activities and plans for gauging their effectiveness; supporting research to determine best practices for clinical decision support in EHR and personal health record systems; developing a minimum set of personal patient data that would contribute to individualized care; and creating clinical decision support knowledge repositories that are aligned with CMS' quality reporting and pay-for-performance initiatives (Ferris, Government Health IT, 3/28/08).

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