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 http://www.adobe.com/go/mp (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).

McAfee creates IT governance department

McAfee Inc. on Tuesday announced that it has formed a new business unit focused on information technology governance, risk and compliance, the San Jose Business Journal reports. According to officials, the new unit aims to "[drive] innovation and [extend] McAfee's security risk management business." The unit will be led by George Kurtz, company senior vice president and general manager (San Jose Business Journal, 4/8/08).

IT trade group to launch online IT training

The San Jose, Calif.-based technology trade association AeA on Tuesday announced plans to offer free IT training for qualified technology employees in California, the San Jose Business Journal reports. Funded by a $604,800 grant from the State of California Employment Training Panel, AeA will partner with Irvine-based Saisoft Inc. to deliver the live, online training. According to officials, participation in the IT training courses under the AeA agreement "will extend to companies of all sizes" (San Jose Business Journal, 4/8/08).

Health care group says data sharing can enhance health quality

The National Quality Forum (NQF) recently issued a brief calling for a stronger electronic platform for sharing medical information to boost health care quality, Modern Healthcare reports. According to the brief, which is part of a series started in 2007 to highlight issues related to quality, NQF supports an IT system that combines quality measures, clinical guidelines and decision-support tools. Officials note that physicians have expressed strong support for IT systems including electronic health records as a tool for collecting and analyzing quality data. She added, however, that doctors recognize the limitations of the technology. Meanwhile, to promote IT adoption, NQF is collaborating with federal agencies to establish standards for reporting on quality measures in health IT infrastructure (DerGurahian, Modern Healthcare, 4/8/08).

Nanotechnology may help spinal cord injury

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience notes that U.S. researchers have created a nano-engineered gel that can enable severed spinal cord fibers to regenerate and grow, United Press International reports. According to the Northwestern University researchers, spinal cord injuries usually lead to permanent paralysis and sensation loss because damaged nerve fibers cannot regenerate. UPI adds that, “although nerve fibers or axons have the capacity to re-grow, they don't because they're blocked by scar tissue that develops around the injury.” The nanogel developed at the university, however, hinders the formation of scar tissue and allows severed spinal cord fibers to regenerate and grow. According to UPI, “the gel is injected as a liquid into the spinal cord and self-assembles into a scaffold that supports new nerve fibers.” For the study, researchers injected the gel into mice with a spinal cord injury, and after six weeks the animals had a greatly enhanced ability to use their hind legs and walk. Though he acknowledges that tests on mice do not necessarily translate to outcomes for humans, the study leader notes that if the gel is eventually approved for humans, a clinical trial could begin within several years (UPI, 4/7/08).

EC calls on U.S. search engines to delete user data after six months

A European Commission (EC) advisory body recently suggested that major U.S. search engines delete data collected about their users after six months, CNet News reports. Published on Friday by a European Commission body known as the Article 29 Working Party, the a 29-page "opinion" focuses on advertising-supported search engines, as opposed to search functions embedded in Web sites. Backed by privacy groups, the Working Party has been pressuring Internet companies on the search data front for months, according to CNet. CNet adds that the recommendations do not officially serve as law, though they are expected to be adopted by the EC (Broache, CNet News, 4/7/08).

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