Again, in the last week, I have come across a few reports and news items which are worth passing on.
These include first:
14th November 2008
SARAH Ashworth named her two-year-old daughter after a character from The Lion King and loves watching videos with the kids.
But quality time with her family could end abruptly if, as she fears, she, Sarabi and six-year-old son Kai are suddenly left homeless.
Ms Ashworth said she had been told by real estate agents she would spend five years on a blacklist for tenants after missing $140 in rental payments.
She said she missed the payments through circumstances beyond her control, but now the debt could mean she and her young children will end up on the streets when her current six-month lease runs out in February.
This article shows the potential risks and personal harm associated with data-bases and explains – to at least some degree – the anxiety the population feels about large scale databases holding personal information. One really wonders just why such data bases should be operated by the private sector when their personal impacts can be so dire.
Second we have:
10th November 2008, 10:45 WST
Smartcard driver licences are a step closer to reality, with the nation’s transport ministers agreeing that information held on the licence chips will be shared with traffic and law enforcement authorities across Australia.
Ministers signed the Smartcard Licence Interoperability Protocol (SLIP) today, which agrees how information can be stored on the smartcards.
Although the rollout of licence smartcards is still some years away, when they are introduced information contained on the card's chips will be networked nationally.
The Government says the chips, which have the potential to store details including donor and health information, will better safeguard licence holder privacy and will make it harder for licences to be stolen or faked.
The bolded section is the piece I found interesting. I wonder as anyone told the Health Ministers of any plans in this area. This is a kite that should not be flown in my view – except to donor consent and possibly blood group on a license.
Third we have:
Don Clark | November 11, 2008
INTEL is taking its next step in building a business in healthcare, introducing technology to help home-care patients with chronic medical problems.
The Silicon Valley company, at a medical conference in New Orleans, announced a series of trials for healthcare organisations of specialised hardware and software developed by the chip maker.
The tests are designed to show whether the new tools improve results in treating conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Intel and other computer related companies see big opportunities in healthcare, hoping to address inefficiencies that will become more costly as patients and caregivers get older.
Allowing more people to receive care at home can save billions of dollars, the companies say.
Intel's offerings - collectively called the Intel Health Guide - include a simplified computer and software designed to help elderly people and other patients monitor and manage their conditions at home.
It connects to medical devices such as scales, blood pressure monitors and glucose readers, recording information that can be shared with health professionals over the internet. Intel also has developed software to help staff at medical call centre remotely monitor patients' conditions and manage their treatment. It will manage patient monitoring systems for customers as well. "We are going to do end-to-end services," Intel digital health group vice-president and general manager Louis Burns said.
Many more details are found here:
It is a good thing that Intel is working to assist the delivery of care in an area that much more help is going to be needed as times move forward. The whole area of in home care and monitoring will certainly grow rapidly in the next decade or two.
A great deal of background:
November 13, 2008
Is the future for the elderly one of web cams and computerised companions? Kelsey Munro reports.
When Brad Freeman's mother was diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's, she had to move into a Sydney aged care facility. Freeman and his brother Peter worried about how to ensure their mother was getting the right care, and how they could help her remain relatively independent as long as possible.
Freeman, now living in Tasmania, where he works as a clinical psychologist, cannot visit her every day. He and his brother, a graphics artist, came up with an idea for using internet technologies to make her life easier.
"My brother, who is … a whiz at making use of new technologies, created something that was very simple," Freeman says. "It was something that she could hang on the wall and use some of the remote computer technology for us to put on slide shows for her, have video conversations with her, play music she enjoyed. She really took to it, really valued the input."
They have called their invention Assistive Independent Systems and it is designed for use by people who have no experience of or understanding of computers. Freeman hopes the prototype, when commercially developed, could help older people (for example, by reminding them of things they need to do) as well as reduce the workload of care staff.
Fourth we have:
November 10, 2008 - 9:34PM
MP3 player headphones placed within an inch of pacemakers or implantable defibrillators may interfere with the operation of the lifesaving cardiac devices, as study has found.
Research found that neodymium, a magnetic substance contained in the MP3 player headphones, appears to impede proper functioning of the technology, posing a potential grave risk to patients who rely on the devices.
"Exposure of a defibrillator to the headphones can temporarily deactivate the defibrillator," said William Maisel, senior author of the study and director of the Medical Device Safety Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.
The study, presented at an American Heart Association conference, concluded that in order to be operated safely, headphones accompanying the popular MP3 digital music players must be at least 1.2 inches (3 centimeters) from the implanted devices.
It is always amazing how bits of technology can have unexpected risks. Unless you are aware of this risk a sad accident seems to be possible.
Fifth we have:
Article from Herald Sun
November 08, 2008 12:00am
A PLAN to pay Medicare rebates to patients by Eftpos at doctor's surgeries has been a massive flop.
According to Medicare Australia's annual report, only $300,000 in Medicare payments were made to patients using the new Easyclaim system in the past financial year.
And, despite promises of shorter Medicare queues, the number of people wasting time in Medicare offices has increased.
More than $70 million of taxpayers' money went to GPs to implement the scheme.
Millions more were spent designing and setting up the scheme, but no one can say exactly how much.
Human Services Minister Joe Ludwig said the Howard government's system had been poorly designed.
"The situation is serious, but not irretrievable," he said.
"There's still a long way to go, but, unlike the previous government, we are beginning to move things in the right direction."
This is really an amazing admission reported here. Clearly this system needs to be totally rethought! At the same time this is again a lesson in the need to be very wary of large scale IT projects from Government (of any colour – given this was actually a Coalition initiative.)
Last we have the slightly more technical article for the week:
Telcos infiltrate to get the facts.
Darren Pauli 13/11/2008 09:44:00
Telcos critical of the government's clean-feed Internet scheme will respond to a call to trial the technology over the holiday season.
The initiative, funded as part of the government’s $125.8 cyber safety plan, will impose mandatory ISP-level Internet content filtering nation-wide, and will block Web pages detailed in two blacklists operated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
iiNet chief regulatory officer Stephen Dalby said it will take part in the trial, despite its objections to the plan.
“We are very keen to participate in it, but we do not support the notion of ISP-level filtering,” Dalby said.
“The best way to get the facts is to work on the inside.
“If the technology delivers unacceptable false positives or slows down speeds, we will gladly publish the details.”
Dalby said participation in the trial is important despite that he considers it a “dumb idea”. He said child porn will not be cut back with content filtering technology.
Optus spokesman Maha Krishnapillai said it will participate in the pilot to establish the effectiveness of the filters.
“We want customers to be very comfortable with using the Internet and we do not want to have clumsy technology in place,” Krishnapillai said.
“Optus is committed to work with government. There are real challenges about how it will be done.”
More discussion here:
This whole business if compulsory Internet filtering seems to me to be a very considerable risk to what I see as pretty basic communication and access freedoms – to say nothing of the fact that the health sector is one that is more likely than most to have legitimate information blocked by clumsy filters. I find the question of “who watches the watchers?” also to be crucial here. Adult citizens are entitled, I believe, to know for certain than only genuinely illegal material is being blocked and that the impacts on Internet performance will be trivial or less before this is introduced.
Those of a technical bent will know the filtering will be easily bypassed by those determined to do so. (I understand the use of proxy servers can help – see http://www.madwrites.com/2008/08/overcome-rapidshare-ip-ban.html for a short list of public sites)
More next week.