Consultant calls for positive IT security policies at HIMSS Conference

At the Information Security Workgroup, a session during Sunday’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, Tom Walsh, president of Kansas-based Tom Walsh Consulting, said information security professionals should ensure that policies and messages to their organizations have a positive tone, Health Data Management reports. He notes that “keeping it positive sounds like you're going with the flow of business," adding, "we don't want security to be seen as an inhibitor." Moreover, he notes that information security policies should be brief and simple to ensure staff understand and remember them (Health Data Management, 2/24/08).

Microsoft announces fund for EHR applications at 2008 HIMSS Conference

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) on Sunday kicked off its annual conference in Orlando, Fla., CNET News reports. At the conference, Microsoft on Monday announced it has established a $3 million fund to invest in applications designed for its HealthVault electronic health record (EHR) platform. According to the company, the fund aims to encourage developers to design applications that will run on HealthVault, similar to the way developers propose applications that run on Microsoft's Windows operating system. Specifically, Microsoft is interested in applications related to acute care diagnosis and treatment, community and social health, management of juvenile disease, preventive care, and women's health (Mills, CNET News' "News Blog," 2/24/08).

Hacker group unveils tool that uses Google to scan Web for vulnerabilities

The famed hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow (CDC), known for its backdoor Back Orifice tool demonstrating security shortcomings of Windows, recently released a tool that turns Google into an automated vulnerability scanner, Techworld reports. Goolag Scan, as it is called, trolls through Web sites for sensitive information such as passwords, making it easy for unskilled users to identify sensitive information and vulnerabilities on specific sites or broad Web domains. Created as a stand-alone Windows .Net application, the tool is licensed under the open source GNU General Public License, which provides roughly 1,500 customized searches under categories such as "vulnerable servers," "sensitive online shopping information" and "files containing juicy information," according to Techworld. The results are then displayed as a list of links that can be opened directly in a browser. Saying the latest release should serve as a wake up call, the CDC recommends that system administrators run Goolag Scan on their own sites before attackers set their targets (Broersma, Techworld/PC World, 2/22/08).

Adobe unveils new software that merges Web, desktop applications

Adobe Systems Inc. on Monday released software that allows companies with Web sites to integrate access through people's computer desktops, the San Jose Business Journal reports. Specifically, Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) enables consumers to click on a desktop icon that launches applications and provides content even when the computer is not connected to the Internet. According to the Journal, wait times for downloading images and data is reduced because the desktop is constantly updated while the computer is online. In addition, AIR applications can manage many of the same actions that a Web browser offers but do not require a Web browser at all. Consumers will be able to download AIR software at no cost, and Adobe will turn a profit by selling software development kits to programmers. The company initially launched a beta version of AIR in June and it is already in use by such companies as AOL, eBay Inc. the Nasdaq Stock Market and the New York Times Co. (San Jose Business Journal, 2/25/08).

Oregon insurer offers financial incentives to boost health IT use

Northwest Physicians Insurance, one of Oregon’s largest malpractice insurers, is offering discounts ranging from $375 to $2,250 annually to physicians who use health information technology (IT) to communicate with patients, the Portland Business Journal reports. Roughly 2,600 physicians insured by Northwest will receive patient safety discounts for using iHealth—an online service that offers physicians Web sites for their practices, a secure e-mail system, personal health records for patients and safety messages updating patients about developments such as medication recalls. The program is currently available for physicians in both Oregon and Idaho (Portland Business Journal, 2/12/08).

Pakistan tries to block YouTube clip, causes worldwide outage

YouTube services on Sunday were disrupted for several hours following the Pakistani government’s reported attemt to block a video clip that was critical of Islam, the San Jose Business Journal reports. YouTube, which is owned by Google Inc., is still investigating the incident but has deleted the clip. According to media reports, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority feared the inflammatory clip could potentially trigger riots. The clip featured a portion of a film made by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has characterized the Koran as a fascist book that incites people to murder. Efforts to block the clip in Pakistan ended up temporarily blacking out YouTube service worldwide, though YouTube officials say they are “investigating and working with others in the Internet community to prevent this from happening again" (San Jose Business Journal, 2/25/08).

LinkedIn now accessible on mobile devices

Professional networking site LinkedIn Corp. on Monday launched a Web application that can be used on mobile devices with Internet browsers, the San Jose Business Journal reports. The California-based company said members can use the beta program by logging in at m.linkedin.com and expect to release the final version this spring. Currently, the beta version is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese, though more languages are planned (San Jose Business Journal, 2/25/08).

Japan launches satellite Internet service

Japan on Saturday launched a satellite into orbit that could deliver Internet service significantly faster than cable or DSL, United Press International reports. According to CNN, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, partnered with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to launch the WINDS satellite, which will test new technology that aims to deliver worldwide what JAXA calls "super high-speed Internet" service. CNN adds that the satellite initially will enable subscribers with small dishes in the Asia-Pacific region close to Japan to connect to the Internet. In addition, JAXA officials note that, "among other uses, this will make possible great advances in telemedicine, which will bring high-quality medical treatment to remote areas, and in distance education, connecting students and teachers separated by great distances" (UPI, 2/23/08).

Research firm predicts spike in federal health IT spending

A report released Wednesday by forecasts market research firm Input suggests that federal spending on health information technology (IT) will increase substantially across the next five years, reaching $4.5 billion by 2013, Government Health IT reports. Specifically, the report predicts that federal health IT spending will grow at an annual rate of 7.1 percent, in part because of spending by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs on modernization projects, as well as plans by the agencies to expand health IT use in their pharmacy and laboratory operations. The report also notes that the compound annual growth rate will be larger than the overall growth rate for health IT spending, which could make the projected market growth even more substantial. One principal analyst for Input notes that, “as a whole, what's had a dampening effect on health IT, not just in the federal market but nationwide, is a lack of agreed-upon standards." According to the report, however, efforts to establish health IT data standards could pay off in the next five years, leading to potentially higher rates of market growth (Perera, Government Health IT, 2/21/08).

Computers more accurate at diagnosing Alzheimer's disease, study finds

A new study in the journal Brain suggests that computers can diagnose patients with Alzheimer's disease faster and more accurately than experts, BBC News reports. University College London researchers found that computers can identify brain damage caused by Alzheimer's with an accuracy as high as 96 percent, compared to the 85 percent accuracy of diagnosis available through current method of diagnosing the disease, which include a combination of brain scans, blood tests and patient interviews. Under the new method, a standard computer is taught the differences between MRI brain scans of patients with proven Alzheimer's and those with no signs of the disease. According to one research professor, computers "prove cheaper, faster and more accurate than the current method of diagnosis." He notes that the next step will be to determine whether the computer method can "reliably track progression of the disease in a patient," adding the computer method "could prove a powerful and non-invasive tool for screening the efficacy of new drug treatments speedily, without a need for large costly clinical trials" (BBC News, 2/22/08).

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