Virginia EHR project aims to boost preventive care delivery

Virginia Commonwealth University this fall will launch a pilot e-health program designed to enhance preventive health care delivery, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The three-year project, supported by a $1.2 million federal grant, involves a Web-based system that references patients' electronic health records (EHRs) to help physicians offer more preventive health services. Specifically, the project will target 18 areas of care including cancer screening, health behaviors, immunizations and medication use. Under the program, patients answer a series of health questions on the secure My Preventive Care Web site. The site then will automatically check the answers against patients' EHR data and alerts physicians to recommended preventive services such as mammograms or flu shots. In addition, the site will provide patients tailored health advice, links to outside resources and decision tools, and help assessing individual risk for conditions such as heart disease and breast cancer. Participating physicians and patients also will evaluate the system, helping researchers determine whether it increases the delivery of recommended preventive services and improves patient knowledge, physician-patient communication and shared decision-making. This September, project organizers plan to enroll 5,500 patients treated by eight physician offices within the Virginia Ambulatory Care Outcomes Research Network, which uses a common EHR platform (Hostetler, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/6/08).

CDC, Military Health System partner to improve disease surveillance

The Military Health System (MHS) and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are collaborating to boost disease surveillance through a system that use military sick call data to track outbreaks of infectious diseases, Government Health IT reports. Under the project, MHS medical treatment facilities send Standard Ambulatory Data Records to its data repository, where the health records are processed to eliminate personal information. The CDC, which uses embedded software to transform the data into a compatible format, receives records on individual clinic visits every four hours via File Transfer Protocol. According to CDC Director Julie Gerberding, the data allows the agency to track seasonal influenza and other diseases. Gerberding notes that, "by aggregating the [individual U.S. Department of Defense] records into population-level data, we are able to develop situational awareness of infectious disease outbreaks," adding that the data is monitored on a geospatial basis, enabling the CDC to “be more sensitive to events and respond to them earlier” (Buxbaum, Government Health IT, 3/6/08).

Adidas, Samsung release mobile phone with fitness coaching capabilities

Adidas and Samsung on Thursday announced the launch of a mobile phone that works with Adidas shoes and apparel to plan, track and motivate users in training can coach, the Associated Press reports. Specifically, the MiCoach product directs and motivates users during workouts by combining a mobile phone, heart rate monitor, stride sensor, MP3 player and the voice of an electronic "personal coach." According to the AP, the device this month launches in European retail stores for $304 to $608, depending on the service plan, and its U.S. release is slated for 2009. U.S. pricing has not been set. Meanwhile, Adidas will offer specially designed equipment and clothing for consumers to attach MiCoach and the heart monitor to themselves. The sensor can be attached to any shoe. The AP also notes that MiCoach is slightly more expansive than its competitors because it includes a mobile phone and a camera. It also helps runners set goals and then reach them by monitoring their heart rates and telling them when to slow down or speed up to meet a goal for distance, fitness or calorie burn. Its main competition is said to be Nike and Apple's Nike+—a wireless system that enables Nike running shoes embedded with a sensor to communicate with Apple's iPod Nano. (Skidmore, AP, 3/6/08).

IT hiring expected to rise in North Carolina, nationally, survey finds

According to a Robert Half International Inc. survey, companies will boost hiring of information technology (IT) professionals in the second quarter, the Charlotte Business Journal reports. Based on the responses from 200 chief information officers (CIOs) randomly sampled from Charlotte-area companies with 100 or more employees, the survey notes that 13 percent of CIOs in the Charlotte area plan to add IT staff during the quarter, while 4 percent forecast staff reductions. That yields a 9 percent net hiring increase, up from the 7 percent forecast in the first quarter. Meanwhile, using data from 1,400 chief financial officers across the nation, researchers found that 12 percent of CIOs expect hiring increases in the second quarter nationally, compared to the 10 percent first quarter projection. The executive director of Robert Half Technology notes that "companies are investing in new initiatives and technologies such as server and network virtualization, voice-over-Internet protocol and feature-rich, Web 2.0-type Web sites," adding "these investments are leading to greater demand for information-technology professionals with experience in these areas"  (Charlotte Business Journal, 3/5/08).

Broadband use soars, study finds

A new study suggests that mobile broadband use soared 154 percent in 2007, Nashville Business Journal reports. The study from ComScore analyzed 2007U.S. Internet usage via mobile broadband access, which differs from Wi-Fi access, as it uses cellular networks for which users pay subscriptions. The research focused on data collected from computers where access via mobile broadband Internet services providers (ISPs) occurred and compared it to similar data from 2006. According to the study, Verizon Communications and Sprint Nextel Corp. in 2007 accounted for the majority of the mobile broadband marketplace. The study also suggests mobile broadband usage is more a function of "need" than "want," with a 59 percent presence on work computers and 41 percent on personal home computers. Meanwhile, AT&T has already said it will increase its coverage this year (Nashville Business Journal, 3/5/08).

Alabama plan to bring low-cost laptops to low-income children

The Birmingham, Ala., City Council this week approved a $3.5 million plan that would provide 15,000 XO laptops to pupils in the first through eighth grades, InformationWeek reports. XO laptops were developed and are distributed to children in underdeveloped nations by the One Laptop Per Child Foundation. The Alabama plan, which is still needs the approval of the city's school board, would mark the first such effort by a U.S. city to tap the program. Across the lengthy development period of the XO, prices of standard commodity PCs fell, prompting some to suggest costs of commercial PCs could eventually drop below the cost of the XO. The foundation, meanwhile, has had to increase its original target price of $100 per computer to $188, though the founder expects the cost will drop as the component prices fall. InformationWeek also reports that the effort slowed further because of a dispute with Intel, which dropped out of the program and is marketing its own low-cost machines in underserved countries. Commenting on the latest plan, however, Birmingham Mayor Langford said he hopes the XOs can be distributed to children by fall (Gardner, InformationWeek, 3/6/08).

Wisconsin launches Web site to ensure safe drinking water

Wisconsin planners can now use a new Web site, called “Protecting Wisconsin's Groundwater Through Comprehensive Planning,” to ensure residents have access to safe drinking water, Government Computer News reports. Developed jointly by the Center for Land Use Education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey’s Wisconsin Water Science Center, the site aims to help local governments protect their water supplies and assist owners of private wells evaluate groundwater potability. According to officials, the online service serves as a clearinghouse for groundwater data, shows planners the types of data available, offers a data repository separate from government agency databases and links to additional resources. Specifically, the site includes select groundwater data and policy information from 16 federal, state and local agencies. In addition, maps and other resources provide data for each of Wisconsin's 72 counties on sources of drinking water, groundwater-protection policies, money spent on cleanup, groundwater use, susceptibility of groundwater to pollutants and groundwater quality (Hickey, GCN, 3/6/08).

Pharma RFID market to reach $600M by 2012, report finds

A new report suggests that the pharmaceutical radio frequency identification (RFID) market will reach $600 million by 2012, with a compound annual growth rate of 60 percent, Healthcare IT News reports. Conducted by market research firm Kalorama Information, the "RFID in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing" study found that roughly 25 percent of the major pharmaceutical companies will likely launch large-scale RFID projects to reduce costs, improve inventory control, track clinical trials and manage samples. The study's authors note that the total pharmaceutical market is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020. According to Healthcare IT News, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state governments are beginning to require additional tracking to reduce the number of counterfeit drugs and improve patient safety, and RFID will help pharmaceutical companies meet these new requirements. The publisher of Kalorama Information, meanwhile, said that RFID adoption is being driven by a drop in hardware prices, which have fallen 80 percent since 2000, and the promise of major cost savings. According to the report, RFID implementation could save large drug manufacturers between $17 million and $55 million annually and large pharmaceutical distributors about $10 million annually. The report also found that as much as 40 percent of inventory can be managed more efficiently through the use of RFID (Pizzi, Healthcare IT News, 3/5/08).

DHS establishes centers of excellence

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently named five centers of excellence in counterterrorism research, Washington Technology reports. Each will receive a grant of as much as $2 million a year for four to six years, the department said. The designated centers conduct scientific research that eventually is used to develop counterrorism products and services. The centers include Border Security and Immigration: The University of Arizona-Tucson and University of Texas-El Paso; Explosives Detection, Mitigation and Response: Northeastern University in Boston and the University of Rhode Island; Maritime, Island and Port Security: The University of Hawaii- Honolulu and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.; Natural Disasters, Coast Infrastructure and Emergency Management: The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Jackson State University in Mississippi; and Transportation Security: Texas Southern University, Tougaloo College in Mississippi, and the University of Connecticut (Lipowicz, Washington Technology, 3/5/08).

Online health market grows, privacy concerns remain

Representatives from roughly 350 companies including Google and Microsoft on Tuesday convened for Health 2.0, a conference in San Diego designed to showcase interactive Web-based health care offerings, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. In many cases, companies showcased Web sites that were only weeks or months old, with some still in developmental stages. Featured initiatives included, designed to help users find and compare doctors, and, which provides expert advice and draws 6 million visitors a month. Though privacy and security were not listed as topics in the conference's program, concerns have been raised in recent weeks that online personal health information could be compromised (Darcé, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/5/08).

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