U.S. government launches entrepreneur program

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Wednesday announced it has selected three venture capital firms to participate in a program that will offer renewable energy start-ups access to the federal government's high-tech laboratories, Reuters reports. The Entrepreneur in Residence program is designed to accelerate commercialization of technologies that promise to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to the DOE. The DOE has charged venture capital firms Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers and Foundation Capital in California, as well as Chicago-based ARCH Venture Partners to sponsor and choose participants in the program. Under the program, participating labs will host one entrepreneur in residence at a time with up to $100,000 in funding from the DOE. In addition, the firms will match the grants and negotiate a license to use the technology, as well as form and finance a business based on the licensed technology. According to the DOE's assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, "the Department is leveraging private-sector expertise in new ways to capitalize on cutting-edge technologies that are ripe for commercialization" (Reuters, 2/27/08).

IT needed to leverage genomic research

At an educational session of the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference, the director of information technology (IT) at the Harvard-Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics in Boston, Sandy Aronson, discussed the possible benefits of integrating clinical and genomic data, Health Data Management reports. Specifically, Aronson said that further IT infrastructure is needed to fully leverage genomic research. He noted that "we need a hub type model where each member builds one interface but can get the genomic research data from any other member," adding that the strategy will ensure that "all the members can use the hub for validation" (Health Data Management, 2/26/08).

Illinois university to build proton therapy cancer center

Northern Illinois University (NIU) recently received approval to build a $160 million proton-therapy cancer treatment center in West Chicago—the first such facility in the state, the Chicago Tribune reports. NIU will build the center in two years and is negotiating with Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine to provide staff for clinical services at the center, which will be able to treat as many as 1,500 patients annually. According to NIU officials, the center will align with the university’s strong grounding in accelerator particle physics research. Meanwhile, the state is considering an application by Central DuPage Hospital for a second proton therapy center located six miles from NIU’s facility; the state health board is scheduled to consider the hospital’s application in April (Kimberly, Chicago Tribune, 2/27/08).

U.S. government expands national health data network demonstration

The federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) is awarding $100,000 grants to enable 10 health information exchanges (HIEs) to participate in a trial implementation of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN), Government Health IT reports. Specifically, the new program targets governmental, not-for-profit and for-profit organizations working on integrated delivery systems, health record banks, special-purpose health data networks and HIEs. The grants will enable selected participants to implement and test NHIN specifications and demonstrate connectivity with the 10 original NHIN trial participants. While the original NHIN program is focused on interoperability demonstrations, the latest round of participants will test trial NHIN specifications that target patient lookup and information retrieval, secure data routing and delivery, provision of data for population health uses, and consumer managed access to appropriate information. In addition, participants will implement use cases developed by the American Health Information Community. Applications for the additional grants are due March 17, and the agency expects to award grants by March 31 (Ferris, Government Health IT, 2/22/08).

Role of CIOs Changing, expert says

At an education session on Monday as part of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's (HIMSS)annual conference in Orlando, Fla., Charles Christian—CIO at Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Ind., and chair-elect of HIMSS—described how the role of CIOs is changing, Health Data Management reports. According to Christian, CIOs should focus on enabling long-term business flexibility, instead of investing in tools for the "business direction of the moment." Speaking about hospitals specifically, he notes that IT department staff should “think, talk and act like the business staff,” ensuring technology investments support the hospital’s business objectives. He added that, among other efforts, "CIOs should reprioritize investments in a continuous, constant and frequent basis" (Health Data Management, 2/25/08).

U.S. researchers developing improved breast cancer screening technology

Northeastern University is working with local scientists to develop new technology that would improve breast cancer screening accuracy, the Boston Business Journal reports. The team developing Digital Breast Tomosythesis (DBT) technology includes the school's Waltham, Mass.-based Computer Architecture Research Lab, the National Science Foundation's Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems and Massachusetts General Hospital. According to officials, the system creates a 3-D image of the breast, making it easier to detect lesions among dense breast tissue. School officials add that General Electric Co. is developing a commercial DBT device slated for public availability in 2009 (Boston Business Journal, 2/26/08).

New York City to help physicians join interoperable EMR network

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday announced the city will soon launch a program that aims to bolster preventive care delivery by equipping physicians with electronic medical records (EMRs) software, the New York Times reports. Developed with $60 million from city, state and federal grants, the system will enable physicians to view patients’ medical histories, lab results and current medication within the same interface, as well as share data with other providers. In addition, the system will offer users regularly updated information, alerts for issues such as expired prescriptions or necessary health screenings, and resources on current best practices. With its security safeguards, the system will enable patients and physicians to view who has accessed their records and lock specific information behind a firewall. The city’s health department also will have access to general anonymous data for tracking progress such as how well patients are controlling their blood pressure overall. Thus far, 200 physicians treating 200,000 patients have committed to adopting the system, and the city aims to enroll 1,000 physicians to improve care for 1 million patients by the end of 2008, according to the city’s health commissioner. To encourage broader system adoption, the city will cover some expenses for eligible physicians including licenses, on-site training, software tools and two years of technical support. Physicians are eligible for assistance if 30 percent of their patients are uninsured or on Medicaid, though the city requests that practices provide their own computers and provide $4,000 to the Fund for Public Health in New York for continued technical support. City officials expect that the network will not only reduce costs by eliminating duplicative tests and ensuring use of generic medications but also spur reimbursement changes by allowing government programs to compare outcomes and reward high-performing physicians. Noting that New York City’s program could serve as a national model “for preventing illness rather than merely treating people after they’re already sick,” Bloomberg called on all physicians nationwide that earn reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare to adopt an EMR system by (Santora, New York Times, 2/26/08).

Kaiser Permanente rolls out EHR system at California hospitals

Kaiser Permanente on Monday announced that it has finished installing its $4 billion HealthConnect electronic health record (EHR) system at 10 of its 30 California hospitals, the San Francisco Business Times reports. According to a Kaiser spokesperson, the 10 hospitals that have installed inpatient versions of the EHR system are evenly divided between Kaiser's Northern and Southern California divisions. In addition, the company plans to continue what it calls its "aggressive implementation schedule" throughout the year, with 14 additional hospitals slated to employ the EHR system by the end of the year. Touting HealthConnect as "the world's largest civilian" EHR system, company officials suggest that the launch of the application at 10 hospitals puts Kaiser far ahead of other hospital-based organizations across the country (Rauber, San Francisco Business Times, 2/25/08).

NASA adds technologies Web feature

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently added an interactive program to its Web site, United Press International reports. At the third annual Space Exploration Conference in Denver, NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale on Tuesday unveiled "NASA at Home" and "NASA City." According to Dale, the interactive features available here take users on an illustrated tour of commercially used technologies and products, ultimately tracing their origins to NASA's space and aeronautics research and development. Presented with more than 1,500 examples of how NASA technologies have been used for improving life on Earth, site visitors can scroll over technologies grouped by themes such as the home, airport, grocery store, sports arena, hospital, public safety and manufacturing. For instance, users that enter the sports arena can read a short description of the technologies employed there. The site teaches users about products such as temperature-regulated clothing developed from materials used in astronauts' suits and gloves, wireless headset telephone technology pioneered to transmit the first words from the moon and remote-controlled ovens based on International Space Station technology (UPI, 2/26/08).

Protein might aid cancer treatments

 A study published in the journal Nature Medicine suggests that "tagging" tumors that respond to chemotherapy may help scientists rapidly determine a cancer treatment's effectiveness, United Press International reports. Researchers at Vanderbilt University's Ingram Cancer Center discovered that scientists can tag a small protein with a light-emitting molecule and then use the protein to visualize cancer response in mice two days after initiating therapy. According to a cancer research professor, chemotherapy response is currently measured by observing changes in tumor size with imaging techniques, which can take two to three months to accurately assess how well the treatment is working. He notes that, with this new technology, physicians may be able to switch patients “to an alternative regimen very quickly.” Given recent advances in molecular cancer therapies, the professor adds that, while rapid assessments are important, “we need the tools to make the decision to use an alternative therapy with the patient" (UPI, 2/26/08).

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