Forbes names top 10 tech cities to watch for

Forbes Magazine has named the top 10 up-and-coming technology cities, the Houston Business Journal reports. For the study, a professor of public policy at George Mason University analyzed regional innovation trends and identified 10 advancing “tech cities.” Columbus, Ohio; Santa Fe, N.M.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; and Houston, Texas were named as the top four. Two Houston companies identified in the article included itRobotics, which is developing new cost-cutting robots that inspect a variety of boilers and energy pipelines for structural flaws, and drug delivery company Nanospectra Biosciences, which is working on a nanoscale particle originally developed at Rice University that destroys cancerous tumors (Houston Business Journal, 3/13/08).

Clinton rated as top health IT advocacy, survey finds

Health information technology (IT) professionals attending last month's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference rated Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) as the best presidential candidate for health care IT adoption, Healthcare IT News reports. Based on an informal survey of 600 conference attendees, 43 percent said Clinton would be the biggest advocate for health care IT adoption, while 30 percent selected Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), meanwhile, received 21 percent of the vote and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who has since withdrawn from the race, received 6 percent of the vote. When asked which candidate would have the most impact on empowering providers to deliver the best possible health care through the use of IT, 34.2 percent selected Clinton, 33.8 percent selected Obama and 26.4 percent selected McCain. In addition, 32.9 percent of respondents said Obama has the best plan to improve health care quality and reduce health care costs, while 32.1 percent selected Clinton and 28.7 percent selected McCain. Despite these responses, 35.6 percent of respondents said they would vote for McCain, 34.4 percent said they would select Obama, 23.8 percent said they would vote for Clinton and 6.3 percent said they would select Huckabee if Election Day was the same day as the survey (Wicklund, Healthcare IT News, 3/10/08). 

Physicians tap ‘Second Life’ to test relaxation-response program

A Massachusetts General Hospital neurologist is launching a study to determine whether relaxation therapy administered in the virtual world “Second Life” can yield real world results, the Boston Globe reports. To test whether the therapy can help reduce stress levels, an instructor from the hospital will lead 20 to 40 patients through one-hour guided meditation sessions in a Second Life virtual classroom. Part of a cooperative agreement between the Center for Connected Health of Partners HealthCare and the Benson-Henry Institute of Mind Body Medicine (BHI) at Mass General, the study will focus on a technique called relaxation response in which participants are taught to meditate on a particular word, phrase or image. According to one BHI instructor, research suggests the practice can reduce participants’ blood pressure, and pulse and heart rates, as well as help patients cope with chronic pain. During the sessions, researchers will encourage the Boston-based participants to send text messages directly to their instructor, but will discourage them from talking with each other to maintain focus. If they prove successful, the virtual-based therapies could draw physicians, patients and money to the site, where many people are already creating meditation spaces, according to the study leader (Baard, Boston Globe, 3/3/08 [registration required]).

Digital universe growing rapidly, study finds

According to a report released Tuesday, the digital universe is growing faster than expected, the Boston Business Journal reports. Conducted by Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, a subsidiary of Boston, Mass.-based IDG, the study found that the digital universe in 2007 was 10 percent bigger than previously estimated, totaling 281 billion gigabytes. The study, sponsored by EMC Corp., also found that, at a nearly 60 percent annual compound growth rate, the digital universe will likely reach 1.8 zettabytes by 2011. By comparison, an individual's digital shadow—defined as the amount of digital information generated about the average person on a daily basis—now exceeds the amount that individuals create themselves, according to the study (Boston Business Journal, 3/11/08).

School software developer launches video surveillance application

Washington, D.C.-based Blackboard Inc. on Monday officially entered the security business by launching its new video surveillance application, the Washington Business Journal reports. The new software enables school administrators to monitor live and recorded video from a network of campus cameras, using a floor plan and map-based user interface. In addition, the system can be used for mass notification during emergencies. According to the Journal, the new software product will be included in Blackboard’s existing online commerce software package, which provides transaction management applications to schools (Darcy, Washington Business Journal, 3/10/08).

Mozilla unveils Firefox 3 beta 4

Mozilla has released its Firefox 3 beta 4, touted for its impressive speed increase and additional interface refinements, Wired Blogs reports. Most notable, the new beta features super-increased speed, particularly for JavaScript-heavy sites such as Gmail. In addition, the new version features new user interface improvements. For instance, the interface in Windows Vista now matches the look of other platforms, but also includes some Vista-looking icons. According to the blog, Mozilla will release a fifth Firefox 3 beta before the final release slated for later this year (Gilbertson, Wired Blogs, 3/11/08).

Online social network application aims to encourage more blood donations

The social-networking Web site Facebook on Monday added access to an application created by Takes All Types—a New York-based not-for-profit group that promotes widespread blood donations, the New York Times reports. Facebook users who install the application will identify their blood type. The program then will send the user alerts via Facebook, as well as by telephone, e-mail, text message or fax, in the event that their blood type is needed in their area. In addition, the application will send reminders to donate blood regularly. According to the Times, the application is the "latest indication that Facebook" has "become a place for people to link up for practically any reason, with civic-minded pursuits now playing a larger role" (Goodman, New York Times, 3/10/08).

U.S. military med school taps simulation technology for disaster training

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland is using a virtual reality and simulation center to help prepare physicians, nurses and public health professionals for natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks and other high-stress events, the Washington Post reports. Operated by the U.S. Department of Defense, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences serves as the country’s only military medical school, but also trains civilian physicians in public health. The university’s National Capital Area Medical Simulation Center, meanwhile, opened in 2000 and conducts roughly 8,000 virtual operations each academic year. According to the acting dean and associate professor of the Graduate School of Nursing, the simulation center enables students to experience “advanced situations which may be dangerous for the first time." He adds that the technology “allows for hands-on training in a high-fidelity environment for crisis management as well as repetitive experience for advanced procedures" (Spinner, Washington Post, 3/10/08 [registration required]). 

Google acquires DoubleClick

Google Inc. on Tuesday purchased online ad tracker DoubleClick Inc. after European Union (EU) regulators cleared its $3.1 billion bid for the company, the Associated Press reports. According to Google’s CEO, merging with DoubleClick will enable Google to more quickly develop and release advances in technology and infrastructure that would ultimately improve digital media and target advertising. According to the EU's antitrust authority said its decision was based exclusively on the economic issues and did not address the companies' obligations under EU rules for privacy and personal data processing. EU data privacy regulators, however, expect to complete a separate probe into search engines' privacy policies by April, according to the AP. Meanwhile, privacy advocates at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Digital Democracy suggest that the EU regulators' failure to impose safeguards has "helped strengthen a growing digital colossus that will now be in a dominant position to shape much of the global future of the Internet." Yet, the EU said it found no proof that Google and DoubleClick would be able to marginalize competitors, noting that Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL are "credible" alternatives for Web site ad placement. In addition, the AP reports that Google and DoubleClick are not currently rivals, and Google's purchase of even a potential competitor would not have an adverse impact on competition in the online ad market (White and Liedtke, AP/Yahoo! News, 3/11/08).

Massachusetts requires hospitals to report nosocomial infections

The Massachusetts Public Health Council will soon require hospitals within the state to report hospital-acquired infection (HAI) rates, an effort that officials expect to improve hospital transparency and accountability, Government Health IT reports. Hospitals starting July 1 will have to report HAI rates to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network. Under the state plan, hospitals also must allow the state to access the data. After a designated state center evaluates the data to ensure its reliability, the state Department of Public Health will post the information publicly on a state Web site and use it to create online report cards and other materials to communicate with the public. In addition, state inspectors will visit hospitals to ensure they are complying with mandated infection-prevention procedures. If hospitals do not comply with the reporting rule, or if they continue to have high HAI rates, they could potentially lose their state license. State public health officials note the plan will enable consumers to make more informed health care decisions and expect the increased transparency and accountability to lead to a decline in HAI rates. Meanwhile, Government Health IT reports that the move makes Massachusetts the 14th state to enact such a mandate, though 16 other states are reviewing similar legislation (Hayes, Government Health IT, 3/10/08).

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