Google, Cleveland Clinic partner for Web-based PHR pilot

Google and the Cleveland Clinic are partnering to launch a pilot program that will store patients’ personal health records (PHRs) online, the Associated Press reports. The program will initially involve from 1,500 to 10,000 volunteer patients at the Cleveland Clinic. Under the pilot, patients will be able to access their password-protected Google health profiles through any computer connected to the Internet. In addition, patients will be able to manage any information entered into their PHRs and share the data with physicians and pharmacists at will. Commenting on the project, the chief information officer for the Cleveland Clinic said that the partnership seeks to "create a more efficient and effective national health care system." However, the AP notes that Google's launch of the service likely will raise further privacy concerns, as the project will afford the company access to sensitive information (Liedtke, AP/Austin American-Statesman, 2/21/08).

States advance public health preparedness through IT use

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday released a report indicating that, while states have made strides in emergency preparedness in large part because of their work expanding communications networks and health information exchanges, significant challenges remain, Government Health IT reports. Specifically, the report found that all state health departments now can receive and evaluate urgent health threat reports 24 hours per day, up from just 12 state health departments in 1999, while all states also are participating in the Health Alert Network, which links local health departments to hospitals, CDC and state health departments. In addition, the number of users of the Epidemic Information Exchange—a secure communications system to track disease outbreaks—increased from 890 in 2001 to 4,646 in 2006. Despite these gains, however, the report outlined various shortcomings that remain. Regarding disease surveillance, for instance, 16 states reported no plans to electronically exchange data with regional health information organizations. Additionally, the report notes that emergency communication systems lack needed interoperability (McKinney, Government Health IT, 2/21/08; Health Data Management, 2/20/08).

Maryland university unveils iSchool facilities


The University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies on Wednesday opened a new information research facility, Government Computer News reports. Dubbed Maryland’s iSchool, the new program originally launched more than 40 years ago to train librarians but now emphasizes innovations in searching, retrieving, communicating, storing and managing information, particularly through digital technologies, according to the college’s dean. The new facility features a user-testing laboratory and space for the Human Computer Interaction Laboratory. In addition, it houses the Center for Information Policy and Electronic Government (CIPEG), as well as a new Center for the Advanced Study of Communities and Information. CIPEG’s major focus areas include e-government and its implications for governments and citizens, and the center also offers courses to government employees on security, privacy, records management, classification, access and other legal and policy issues (Walsh, GCN, 2/21/08).

States promoting e-health initiatives, report finds

According to a new survey conducted by the National Governors Association and Health Management Associates, most states are actively engaged in strategies to facilitate the implementation of health information technology (IT), AHA News Now reports. Supported by the Commonwealth Fund, the 2007 survey of 41 states suggests that e-health activities occurred most frequently through state administered programs including Medicaid. In addition, data suggests that more than three-quarters of the 41 participating states identified electronic health information exchange as their most significant activity. Others cited telehealth, e-prescribing, electronic health records and Web-based tools as significant activities. Meanwhile, states reported cost and time, lack of standards, and privacy and security concerns as barriers to health IT adoption (AHA News Now, 2/21/08 [site currently undergoing updates]).

Data management group raises concerns over Illinois EHR laws

The Association of Health Information Outsourcing Services (AHIOS) has voiced concern about two recent Illinois laws that allow broad access to electronic health record (EHR) data without adequately reimbursing hospitals for the cost of obtaining the data, Healthcare IT News reports. Under the laws, enacted Jan. 1, EHRs must be provided electronically to authorized individuals, while facilities that use EHRs but are unable to provide requested electronic data must provide a written explanation. In addition, the laws provide fee guidelines for the transfer of electronic data, which is half of the per-page charge for paper records. Commenting on the mandates, the president of AHIOS says that "compiling all the records for a specific request and making sure that the requestor is authorized, that only the authorized information is released and that all sensitive information is excluded are time-consuming steps." Moreover, AHIOS is concerned that the Illinois laws could increase the likelihood of litigation, slow the transfer of information and pave the way for similar legislation in other states (Bazzoli, Healthcare IT News, 2/20/08).

Google announces first 10 participants in its aerospace competition

Google on Thursday announced the first 10 teams that will compete in its $30 million contest to send a spacecraft back to the moon, Forbes reports. Designed with hopes of gaining greater insights into the solar system and finding new sources of clean energy, the Google Lunar X Prize contest will require each team to build a robotic craft capable of roaming across the moon's surface, as well as sharing video, images and data with Earth. The projects boldest ambition aims to use lunar materials to make solar power collectors that can generate carbon-free energy and transmit it to Earth. Teams cover their own costs to develop the rockets and compete for a top prize of $20 million, which will be awarded to the team that builds a vessel that can successfully complete its mission. Google also will award $5 million to a runner-up and plans to award an additional $5 million in "bonus prizes." While Google reported receiving more than 567 "expressions of interest" from scientists and businesspeople worldwide, just 10 teams have thus far paid the $10,000 registration fee and proven that their space vehicles could be functional. Officials expect another 10 to 20 teams to register. The currently registered 10 teams include Astrobotic, a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University and Raytheon; Chandah, spearheaded by an energy industry entrepreneur from Texas; Romania's Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association; and Team Italia, a consortium of universities in Italy (Tanaka, Forbes, 2/22/08).

AOL shuts down Netscape services

After affording Netscape Navigator a one-month reprieve, AOL LLC on Wednesday released its last update for the browser and encouraged users to switch to Flock or Firefox, IDG News Service reports. To expedite the transition, users received a major upgrade notice to download Netscape 9.0.0.6. When downloaded and run, the new version automatically notifies users of the end of support date and recommends the to switch to the other free browsers with download links to either Flock Inc.'s Flock browser or Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox. Netscape also will automatically transition its settings to the new browser. According to the head of Netscape, users can stick with the browser by clicking "Remind me later" and "Stay with Netscape" buttons, though no new updates, security patches or other support will be provided after this month (Keizer, IDG/New York Times, 2/22/08).

ACS acquires Wisconsin care management services provider

Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) Inc. recently purchased Bowers and Associates Inc., a Wisconsin-based productivity management services and health care data analytics provider, Washington Technology reports. Under an $8 million cash deal, which includes contingent payments based on future financial performance, all of Bowers’ employees will join ACS. Officials note the company acquired Bowers to broaden its government health care business to include delivery of accredited care management services for high-risk beneficiaries (Hubler, Washington Technology, 2/22/08).

AMD releases performance library as open source code

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Inc. is releasing its performance library as open-source code, a shift expected to help developers build multithreaded applications for x86 machines, Computerworld reports. Created three years ago, the library contains more than 3,200 software routines that target specific functions, such as handling audio and video data, according to AMD’s director of commercial solutions. The change marks the first time that AMD has released a proprietary library set and released it as open source. Available for immediate download at this site, the AMD Performance Library is now being called Framewave Version 1.0 (Gaudin, Computerworld, 2/21/08).

IBM, German researchers measure force needed to move individual atom

Researchers from IBM's Almaden Research Center in California and the University of Regensburg in Germany have become the first to measure the force it takes to move individual atoms on a surface, United Press International reports. Detailed in Science magazine, the study suggests the force required to move a cobalt atom across a smooth platinum surface is 210 piconewtons, while moving it across a copper surface takes just 17 piconewtons, compared to the nearly 30 billion piconewtons required to lift a copper penny weighing only 3 grams. According to the researchers, the landmark achievement offers crucial information about atomic-scale fabrication and could lead to new miniaturized data storage devices and computer chips by advancing research and development of nanoscale computing and medical technologies (UPI, 2/21/08).

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