Online physician networking Web sites grow more popular

The number of online social networking communities for physicians is increasing, Modern Healthcare reports. Site supporters suggest that the networks allow physicians with limited time to communicate with others in their fields and discuss a variety of issues. Launched in August 2007, The Doctor's Channel, for instance, offers roughly 600 online videos that physicians can view and discuss. The site also offers news feeds on current health issues, as well as lifestyle advice. In September 2007, the Joint Commission created a social networking Web site, called WikiHealthCare, which was initially designed to serve as a forum to discuss new accrediting standards and programs within the commission. Its users, however, also generated discussions about other topics, according to the associate director of quality measurements and research in the commission's health services research department. David Best, a physician and co-founder of the Doctor's Channel, meanwhile, suggests that the most effective online networking sites are the ones that provide a forum in which physicians can learn from one another (DerGurahian, Modern Healthcare, 3/17/08). 

 

Hospitals tapping bedside Internet systems for patients, visitors

A growing number of U.S. hospitals are installing Internet systems equipped with dedicated shopping channels, hospital information and patient education links in patient rooms, the New York Times reports. Because of the systems’ high costs, the Times notes that the number of hospitals equipped with these systems remains just “a small fraction” of the nation’s roughly 6,000 community hospitals. Those hospitals investing in the technology, however, anticipate that patients and visitors who have Web access “will be happier, less prone to bother nurses, and more likely to arm themselves with health care information that can help smooth the patient’s recovery.” For example, Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago last year spent an undisclosed sum for Raleigh-based TeleHealth Services to install 42-inch flat-screen televisions and Internet connections near each of the 200 beds in its new women’s hospital, with screens large enough to enable patients to read and navigate Web pages using a remote control keyboard and mouse. The system’s welcome page features four links including one for the TV, one for the Web, one for hospital information, and one for medical education that links to more than 1,000 pages of condition-specific information and videos. Meanwhile, Bethesda, Md.-based GetWellNetwork—which has installed Internet systems in roughly 50 hospitals—is piloting in two hospitals an online shopping system that provides patients with a tailored checklist of medical products they will need when they are discharged and schedules deliveries in accordance with a patient’s expected discharge date. Recognizing that it is often hospital visitors that bear the primary caretaker responsibilities for a patient’s home care, the CEO of health care and technology consulting company Klas Enterprises suggests that the Internet systems are also valuable for visitors (Tedeschi, New York Times, 3/17/08).

Gates touts future of technology at national conference

At an event sponsored by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Bill Gates on Thursday addressed more than 1,000 technology executives and government officials about the future of technology, Washington Business Journal reports. Gates specifically discussed two "magic ingredients"—software and hardware—that will alter interactions between businesses and consumers. He added that, from tablet computers in schools and interactive television to robotics and 3-D mapping and simulation in the government, innovation is vital to growing America’s success. Gates also called for increased federal investment in research and development and noted that the number of engineers working on new innovations globally will continue to increase. Commenting on Gate’s pull in the industry, the chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council said that partnerships with Microsoft are a major driver of the regional economy, translating to $6 billion flowing through the area (Darcy, Washington Business Journal, 3/14/08). 

Sweden to pursue illegal file-sharers

In an effort to curb piracy, Sweden’s culture and justice ministers on Friday said their courts will soon be able to force the country's Internet providers to report information on suspected file-sharers, the Associated Press reports. The AP notes that “file-sharing can be traced by tracking the IP addresses of the computers that download or distribute a file.” in a joint opinion piece published in the Svenska Dagbladet daily, Justice Minister Beatrice Ask and Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth suggested that the country needs to “stand up for musicians, authors, filmmakers and all other copyright owners so that they have the right to their own material." According to the AP, the ministers plan to move ahead with the proposal this spring (AP/Yahoo! News, 3/14/08). 

Sun, NSA partner to develop improved security mechanisms
Sun Microsystems on Thursday announced that it is partnering with the U.S. National Security Agency to develop new security mechanisms for OpenSolaris, InformationWeek reports. Together, the agencies will work with the open source project, OpenSolaris.org, to integrate a separate form of mandatory access control. According to Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, the joint project aims to expand the mandatory access controls already provided by Solaris Trusted Extensions. He also notes that the OpenSolaris community will evaluate and test all of the additions. To add to access controls, Sun and NSA researchers will use Flux Advanced Security Kernel (FLASK) architecture, which "builds flexible support for security policies into the operating system instead of having it address one real world scenario," according to InformationWeek. Under FLASK, the operating system (OS) controls access rights propagation, but does not issue rights without consulting security policies; it can issue fine grained rights, differentiating between users and users groups. In addition, the OS enforces revocation of previously granted rights, according to University of Utah publications about FLASK, InformationWeek reports (Babcock, InformationWeek, 3/13/08). 
AHRQ awards $5 million for health IT initiative

The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) on Thursday awarded $5 million to two health information technology (IT) initiatives, which aim to boost adoption of clinical decision support systems, AHA News Now reports. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Yale University School of Medicine in Connecticut will use the funding to incorporate decision support tools into existing health IT products that are certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology. Specifically, the recipients will target clinical guidelines and patient outcomes, analyzing how the decision support tools affect patient satisfaction, provider efficiency, cost and risk. Meanwhile, participating clinicians will be surveyed about their use of the technology and will share lessons learned from the project with the health IT vendor community (AHA News Now, 3/13/08; AHRQ release, 3/13/08).

Goolge unveils GoogleSky online

Google on Thursday announced that users can now Google Sky, previously an option within the Google Earth desktop application, to view space through a Web browser, InformationWeek reports. One Google product manager recently blogged that "Sky in Google Earth, which launched last August, was originally available to our 350 million Google Earth users." He added that "this release brings the universe to every browser and makes Sky accessible to just about anyone with an Internet connection--from school children to professional astronomers--in 26 different languages." However, InformationWeek reports that the applicaiaton's launch is also the subject of a lawsuit. Last month, a former Google contract worker named Jonathan Cobb filed a $25 million lawsuit in Atlanta, alleging that he thought of Google Sky and that Google stole it. Google this week, meanwhile, requested that its deadline to respond to the lawsuit be extended to March 28 (Claburn, InformationWeek, 3/13/08). 

British health IT program saves money despite some delays

British health officials said that the U.K.'s National Health Service information technology (IT) project will likely save 1.14 billion pounds -- roughly $2.3 billion -- but that the savings could have been higher, BBC News reports. According to the BBC, the 10-year project aims to link more than 30,000 general practitioners to nearly 300 hospitals by 2014. Yet, the program has been running roughly two years behind schedule, and the system's electronic health records and online physician appointment systems have seen the worst delays, the BBC reports. British officials said the program has saved 208 million pounds -- roughly $419 million -- by March 2007 because of the broadband network that has made progress with digital imaging and scanning for NHS (BBC News, 3/14/08). 

Pentagon plans coordinated health data surveillance center

The U.S. Military Health System is combining a number of its health information technology (IT) systems and merging staff to establish the new Armed Forces Surveillance Center, which will work to enhance the health of military personnel, Government Health IT reports. Specifically, the center will analyze health surveillance data, provide information on known and potential public health threats, and respond to disease outbreaks. In addition, the center will coordinate investigations and assessments and ultimately combine several U.S. Department of Defense IT systems. According to the center's provisional director, the organization will provide actionable information to commanders, policymakers, planners and health care providers in order to aid the health of military service members (Buxbaum, Government Health IT, 3/13/08).

Colorado foundation grants $6 million to boost health IT adoption

The Colorado Health Foundation on Wednesday announced plans to donate $6 million to an initiative designed to spur health information technology (IT) adoption throughout the state, the Denver Business Journal reports. The Healthy Connections Health Information Technology Initiative provides computer hardware and software to physicians, clinics and groups that care for low-income, uninsured state residents. The foundation in 2007 also made an initial contribution of $2.5 million to support the initiative’s efforts to help safety-net providers adopt health IT (Denver Business Journal, 3/12/08).

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