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).

Yahoo unveils new Digg-like service

Yahoo Inc. on Tuesday announced it will launch a service called Yahoo Buzz, will identify top news and blog posts from around the Web based on user votes and search patterns and bring them to Yahoo's homepage, Reuters reports. Currently still a beta version, Buzz measures Internet users’ votes and search patterns to collect interesting and up-to-date stories and videos from a variety of Web sources. According to the company, top stories will receive primary editorial consideration for feature placement on Yahoo.com. Officials add that the release represents a larger shift to make the site more social and relevant to its users. Specifically, as the Buzz evolves, officials say it will form the basis for an open system of publishers, advertisers and users, which will bring more syndication and revenue opportunities (Adegoke, Reuters, 2/26/08).

Colorado may infuse biotech industry with $26.5 million in grants

The Colorado House of Representatives on Tuesday awarded preliminary approval for a bill that would allocate $26.5 million in grants for biotech research across the next five years, the Denver Business Journal reports. Sponsored by Rep. Jim Riesberg (D-Greeley), the legislation would expand the state's existing Bioscience Discoveries Grant Program and earmark up to $150,000 per project to Colorado research institutions and $250,000 for Colorado-based biotech startups. According to statistics from the House Majority's communications office, the state’s bioscience industry currently yields $415 million per year in tax revenue and employs roughly 16,000 residents. Based on the data, Riesberg estimates that each successful biotech project generates $1.2 billion in private investment and new jobs for the state. The House must award final approval before the bill can move to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration (Denver Business Journal, 2/26/08).

Robots ease loneliness in nursing homes as well as real dogs

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, suggests that a robotic dog eases loneliness among nursing home residents as well as a real dog, Untied Press International reports. For the study, St. Louis University researchers compared how residents of three nursing homes interacted across seven weeks with Sparky—a living, medium-sized mutt—and Aibo—a robot manufactured by Sony that looks like a three-dimensional cartoon dog. Among the 38 nursing home residents, one group saw Sparky for one 30 minutes period each week, another group met with Aibo for one 30 minute period each week, and a control group did not visit with either dog. Researchers also surveyed study participants about loneliness at the start and end of the study. They found that participants who visited with real and robotic dogs felt less lonely and more attached to their doggy friend compared to those who visited with neither. Moreover, researchers found no statistical difference between outcomes of visits with the real or robotic dog (UPI, 2/26/08).

Sun completes MySQL purchase

Sun Microsystems, Inc., on Tuesday announced that it has officially acquired open source database developer MySQL for approximately $1 billion, TMCnet reports. As part of the announcement, Sun also released MySQL's complete portfolio of products and enterprise services. In addition, Sun recently introduced enterprise-class database subscriptions and services for the entire MySQL product line, which Sun president and CEO Jonathan Schwartz says allows IT organizations across the globe to take advantage of the open database for the Network Economy. Sun also will offer MySQL Enterprise Unlimited, a service that helps users deploy and manage an unlimited number of MySQL Enterprise Servers for a single annual fee. According to Schwartz, the acquisition will enable businesses worldwide to standardize on a commercially supported, open source platform that meets scale, quality and global service needs (Shrivastava, TMCnet, 2/27/08). 

Google, others to build underwater cable

Google Inc., in partnership with five telecom operators, recently announced plans to build an undersea cable that will link the United States to Japan, enabling a powerful surge in Internet traffic between the continents, Reuters reports. Other than Google, the coalition of companies, called Unity, includes Bharti Airtel, Global Transit, KDDI Corp, Pacnet, and Singapore Telecommunications. In joint statement, Unity said that the $300 million, 6,200-mile undersea fiber optic cable will provide the much-needed capacity to sustain unparalleled growth in data and Internet traffic between Asia and the United States. Unity has tapped NEC Corporation and Tyco Telecommunications to construct and install the system, which will likely be ready for service in 2010 (Loo, Reuters, 2/26/08)

Cox bolsters security offerings for high-speed Internet customers

Cox Communications on Monday unveiled the McAfee-powered Cox Security Suite free for its cable Internet customers, the Business Journal of Phoenix reports. The new security suite features McAfee Virus Scan, Privacy Service and SiteAdvisor, as well as antivirus and anti-spyware tools, personal firewall protection, customer identity theft protection, and parental control tools to filter offensive Web content. According to Cox, the McAfee package typically costs $69.95 annually, while the Cox suite is available for free download through the Internet Tools section of www.cox.net customer Web site (Business Journal of Phoenix, 2/25/08).

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