Tennessee initiative aims to study e-prescribing use among rural physicians

Tennessee's Medicaid managed care program—TennCare—and Shared Health—the state's largest public-private health information exchange—this month launched a four-month pilot program that is providing electronic prescribing tools at no cost to rural physician practices, Healthcare IT News reports. The study aims to identify patterns, behaviors and user satisfaction for various specialties and locations. Selected for their lack of access to resources for adopting e-prescribing, the 50 participating practices in 13 counties will receive free equipment, software, Internet access, and training and support. In addition, physicians will gain access to a medication database; automatic prescription histories; real-time notification of formulary status; automated drug interaction data; and other patient-specific information, such as dosage levels and previous adverse drug events. In the 30 days following the pilot's conclusion on June 30, TennCare and Shared Health will evaluate participating physicians' use patterns to identify the features that are most useful to rural providers and will determine the program's effectiveness through other measures of quality and satisfaction. Noting that e-prescribing represents an opportunity for physicians to boost care quality, cost-effectiveness and workflow efficiency, TennCare and Shared Health will use the analysis to determine whether to expand the pilot program to further spur e-prescribing adoption (Merrill, Healthcare IT News, 3/20/08; Health Data Management, 3/20/08).

Google to release devices with Android this fall

Google Inc. on Monday announced that mobile devices featuring its "Android" open-source software platform could become available by the fall, the San Jose Business Journal reports. According to Google’s attorney Richard White, the company plans to roll out devices "sometime later this year, maybe the fall of this year." Officials note that 34 companies are cooperating to develop the software platform, which aims to simplify mobile access to software applications and services (San Jose Business Journal, 3/24/08).

Kentucky tech co. unveils school surveillance system

Lousiville, Ky.-based Instant Alert Systems LLC has been developing a Web-based application capable of sending emergency notifications via e-mail and text messages, Business First of Louisville reports. The application, which debuted in February and targets academic institutions, also can convert the text into a voice message that is relayed to cell and dorm phones. Called CollegeSafetyNet.com, the system can send roughly 10,000 messages in 10 minutes, according to officials. Locally, company officials note that Centre College, Union College and University of the Cumberlands have already signed on, while duPont Manual High School's lacrosse team is using the system to notify players of a canceled practice or other event. Under the program, schools sign an annual contract and agree to a cost that averages roughly $3 to $5 per person signed up to receive the alerts —student, faculty or staff (Pister, Business First of Louisville, 3/21/08).

Physician group taps grants to develop IT tools

United Health Foundation and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer have each awarded $50,000 grants to the American College of Physicians (ACP), which will use the funding to develop physician information technology (IT) tools designed to support the patient-centered medical home care model, Healthcare IT News reports. Under a medical home, a team of physicians manage care for a patient using IT tools to better coordinate specialty and inpatient care, as well as provide preventive care services. To facilitate adoption of this care model, the vice president of ACP’s Department of Practice Advocacy and Improvement notes that relevant “programs, products and services must be developed and employed in practice.” According to ACP’s executive vice president and CEO, the grants will enable ACP to continue creating practice-based resources, including print, online, video and audio tools, to “help internists and their office teams assess potential quality gaps and strengthen their performance on nationally accepted quality measures” (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 3/21/08).

Community leaders launch Congressional watchdog site

Prominent community leaders recently launched a community-activist Web site designed to reduce lobbyists’ influence on Congress, Government Computer News reports. Created by Stanford University law professor Larry Lessig and campaign worker Joe Trippi, the site, Change Congress, will use a Google maps-based application to display the members of Congress that are acting in accordance with the principles promoted on the Web site. Specifically, the site calls on each member of Congress “to agree not to accept money from lobbyists, to support public financing of campaigns, and to work up legislation that would make the workings of Congress more transparent, and that would bar earmark spending on district-specific projects of questionable worth,” according to GCN. In addition, Congressional members can sign a pledge, which is available on the site, to execute these tasks. Moreover, the site calls on the public to post input on how well their congressional representatives meet the promoted standards; the input will help color-code the map. More on this in the Huffington Post blog and Wired News (Jackson, GCN, 3/21/08).

Google calls on FCC to open airwaves for mobile devices

Google Inc on Monday submitted a proposal to U.S. regulators urging them to open airwaves between broadcast channels for mobile broadband services, Reuters reports. In earlier comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the company said it planned to propose an “enhanced system to prevent wireless devices operating in the so-called ‘white space’ from interfering with adjacent television channels and wireless microphones,” according to Reuters. Google officials suggest the enhancements "will eliminate any remaining legitimate concerns about the merits of using the white space for unlicensed personal/portable devices." Meanwhile, the FCC is currently testing equipment to determine whether they can release the white space spectrum without interfering with television broadcasts (Kaplan, Reuters, 3/24/08).

Lockheed tapped to develop Saudi Air Force training tools

The Royal Saudi Air Force recently awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a three-year contract to produce and establish an undergraduate weapon system officer training program at the King Faisal Air Academy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Orlando Business Journal reports. Under the contract, Lockheed will design, develop and deliver courseware, electronic classrooms, training devices and a training management system, as well as provide instruction and maintenance support services inside the kingdom. Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training and Support Flight Solutions in Orlando will develop the program across the contract’s first two years and will provide training in its final year. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed (Orlando Business Journal, 3/21/08).

VA mobile pharmacies to bolster emergency response

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is rolling out mobile pharmacies to provide critical medications to patients during emergencies, Government Health IT reports. Built to withstand winds in a category 3 storm, the mobile pharmacy units are housed in 40-foot solid steel trailers and include a satellite connection to the VA's Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy system—a computerized, automated mail-out pharmacy system that can process more than 1,000 prescriptions per hour. The satellite system will enable pharmacists to obtain a veteran's prescription information to dispense drugs on-site or to order medications to be sent by mail to a veteran's home or temporary address. The VA in September 2007 unveiled its first mobile pharmacy in Washington, D.C., and expects to position its second mobile pharmacy later this month. To ensure rapid emergency response, the VA will strategically place its mobile pharmacies in Charleston, S.C.; Dallas, Texas; and Murfreesboro, Tenn., with a fourth unit planned to eventually remain in the western United States (Mosquera, Government Health IT, 3/19/08).

Clinical IT can boost chronic disease care, providers say

Speaking at a conference on the challenges of treating patients with chronic illnesses in Washington, D.C., health care providers suggested that clinical information technology (IT) can help boost patient care, reduce costs and expedite clinical studies, Modern Healthcare reports. Sponsored by the Partnership for Quality Care, a coalition of 12 health care groups representing providers and labor unions, the conference hosted discussions on strategies to reduce costs through IT, eliminate health disparities and encourage patients to share more responsibility for their health care. The Partnership for Quality Care plans to release a report summarizing the presentations at the conference, as well as chronic care applications from other providers (Lubell, Modern Healthcare, 3/20/08 [subscription required]).

New York State broadband group awards $5 million in grants

The New York State Council for Universal Broadband recently awarded a $5 million grant package to nine recipients across the state, The Business Review (Albany) reprots. Tech Valley Communications, an Albany-based telecommunications and Internet service provider, will receive $937,500 for a partnership initiative designed to extend Albany FreeNet—a wireless network that provides users an hour daily of free Web access in downtown Albany. Specifically, the initiative will study ways to expand the network into more neighborhoods in the city. In addition, Tech Valley plans to create a digital literacy and virtual work force training program for Albany city residents (The Business Review (Albany), 3/20/08).

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