Quote Of The Year

Timeless Quotes - Sadly The Late Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"


H. L. Mencken - "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Useful and Interesting Health IT News from the Last Week – 03/05/2009.

Again, in the last week, I have come across a few news items which are worth passing on.

First we have:

E-health data collection key to tracking Swine Flu spread

As health agencies rush to analyze data, some companies prep for a pandemic

Lucas Mearian 30 April, 2009 08:10

As the prospect of a flu pandemic grew more likely Wednesday -- the World Health Organization raised its threat alert to level 5 -- data is pouring into federal health care agencies using systems that a decade ago did not even exist.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention had reported 91 cases of Swine Flu in 10 states. One death in Texas -- a 23-month-old child from Mexico -- has been attributed to the flu, and health officials expect more deaths to follow.

The swiftness with which the Swine Flu has spread -- and the speed with which new electronic health surveillance systems have tracked its emergence -- is prompting companies to quickly dust off business continuity plans and warn workers to guard their health.

"Businesses need to take this serious and put plans in place for personnel," said Michael Croy, director of business continuity solutions at Forsythe Solutions Group Inc., an IT consulting firm in Skokie, Ill. "They need to make sure employees can work from home. They need to tell them about how to take care of their health and be overly cautious by telling workers to stay home if they feel sick. But they also need to do it in way so as not to create panic."

The best antidote for panic is information, and disease surveillance systems rolled out in recent years are allowing health agencies to track, report and confirm Swine Flu cases faster than ever. But gaps in the system remain, health care experts said.

Much more here:


Certainly the big news of the week – with lots of Health IT trying to help!

See also here:


Google tracks swine flu in Mexico

Glenn Chapman in San Francisco | April 30, 2009

GOOGLE.ORG has begun using flu-related internet search traffic in Mexico to create an online map that might provide clues to how influenza is spreading in that country.

Second we have:

Confusion over PIP leaves docs in dark

Shannon McKenzie - Friday, 1 May 2009

A LACK of detail on the new requirements for the e-health Practice Incentive Payment (PIP) has left many GPs in the dark as to whether they qualify for annual payments of up to $50,000, experts claim.

According to the Federal Health Department, for PIP eligibility practices must ensure GPs can access three different types of “key electronic clinical resources” from their computers. Practices were given one example of each resource, leading to widespread concern that these examples were the only acceptable resources.

No further examples are expected to be forthcoming, and no assessment of which resources meet the requirements has been carried out.

However, the department told MO that the onus was on individual practices to determine whether or not their resources met the eligibility requirements.

More here (subscription required):


Looks like this policy fiasco is just going from worse to worser!

Third we have:

Privacy Commissioner rejects Betfair's bid for Medicare records

Friday, 1 May 2009

REQUESTS from gambling agency Betfair for access to patients' Medicare records for the purposes of verifying the identity of its customers have been rejected by the federal Privacy Commissioner.

In a submission to a Productivity Commission inquiry into gambling, Betfair requested access to the records, arguing it would increase the accuracy of identification processes and reduce cases of identity theft.

More here (subscription required):


I guess that bit of silliness has gone away now!

Further comment here:


Gambling agency bids for access to Medicare records

Monday, 27 April 2009

REQUESTS from gambling agency Betfair to gain access to Medicare records to verify customer identities have been slammed by the AMA.

Fourth we have:

IBA in rude health after near-death experience

Teresan Ooi | April 18, 2009

Article from: The Australian

FOR four years after the tech wreck, which slashed the share price of medical software company IBA Health, chairman Gary Cohen was a finance sector pariah.

"My reputation was at stake," Cohen says. "I felt responsible for 5000 shareholders who had put their trust in me."

IBA Health had raised $68 million in one of the biggest tech floats in March 2000. But by June the share price had tanked from $2 to 70c, then over the next 12 months fell to 9c. Market capitalisation skidded from $300 million to $30 million.

"I had angry shareholders who had dropped a bundle and wanted their money back," says Cohen.

For four long years, he felt in the wilderness -- shunned by the financial community.

"Those were very difficult days," Cohen says. "There was enormous pressure on the board to make changes or sell the company. My reputation was severely dented. It took us years to rebuild our credibility."

As it turned out, the core board members at the outset are still on IBA's board today and, according to Cohen, have come out stronger, bigger and wiser.

Much more here:


This is an interesting perspective on IBA’s almost failure and process of getting towards success. Analysts are still a little divided on how close they really are. (Usual disclaimer about having a few shares in what will soon be iSoft – I hope the optimism is well founded!)

Fifth we have:

Spammers seize on swine flu to pitch bogus meds

'Just another day at the office' for spammers, says one researcher

Gregg Keizer 28 April, 2009 07:51

Tags: symantec, swine flu, sophos, mexico, mcafee, malware

Spammers have seized on the growing interest in news of a possible swine flu epidemic to hawk fake pharmaceuticals, security experts warned Monday.

The number of spam messages with subject headings such as "First US swine flu victims!" and "Madonna caught swine flu!" has spiked today, said Dave Marcus, director of security researcher at McAfee Inc. And no one should be surprised.

"This is the same pattern that we've seen for the last year, year-and-a-half," said Marcus, noting that domain registrations that include "swine" in their URLs are up 30-fold, and search strings that contain the words "swine" and "flu" are also on a major uptick.

"I checked earlier today, and 'swine flu' spam was a little over 2% of all spam," said Marcus. "Compare that to yesterday, when you wouldn't have seen any."

More here:


Some things never change – like opportunism and greed! Sad.

Sixth we have:

Veterans data riddled with errors, says

Andew Colley | April 28, 2009

THE national auditor has questioned the integrity of Department of Veteran's Affairs income support payments as a result of its record management system modification stalling.

The Australian National Audit Office in a report last week recommended major improvements to the department's IT governance practices after identifying thousands of incomplete or inaccurate client records on its systems.

The report finds also that the agency's IT modernisation program, which involved moving its records from legacy mainframes to newer systems and software, had stalled, with no changeover date in sight.

The department distributed about $45 million in pension income-support payments to veterans and their surviving dependents last financial year.

It has about 1.5 million clients on its books, of which only about 317,000 are active.

A spokesman for Veteran's Affairs Minister Alan Griffin said the office had found no evidence that veterans or their dependants had been paid incorrectly or denied payments. The department was, however, unable to provide a spokesperson prepared to make more detailed official comments about the ANAO report.

The report questions the department's ability to make reliable decisions.

It also discovered what it describes as "data anomalies".

An example is 438 clients older than 130 on the department's books, with no recorded date of death.

Among other problems with client records, the ANAO found 24,820 clients had been assigned multiple identification numbers.

More here:


The issues raised here are quite large. One to contemplate is just how good the NEHTA IHI can be when based on data (held by Medicare) which can hardly be expected to be of more reliability that what is illustrated here. There is a lesson here and it could be along the lines of ‘you only get reliable information when those responsible for it have a substantial stake in its accuracy’.

Seventh we have:

Centrelink goes open on in-house smartcard protocol

Mitchell Bingemann | April 27, 2009

CENTRELINK has released a smartcard authentication protocol developed in-house in the hope of attracting a manufacturer to use the standard in a commercial off-the-shelf product.

The standard was developed for use as Centrelink's authentication protocol when the agency migrates its 27,000 employees to a contactless identification smartcard system later this year.

The smartcard system will eventually replace the random number generator security tags used by Centrelink staff to access the agency's secure databases and network.

The system will also control access to the agency's premises.

The welfare agency's IT security team has spent more than three years and $560,000 developing the smartcard authentication protocol, dubbed Protocol for Lightweight Authentication of ID (Plaid), which it claims is stronger, faster and more private for contactless applications than similar protocols now in use.

Plaid uses two cryptographic algorithms in rapid succession in its scrambling process, making it extremely difficult to read with hacking devices, Centrelink said.

Plaid was highly resistant to ID leakage, private data leakage, replay attacks and man-in-the-middle attacks, the agency said.

The protocol already has the seal of approval from Human Services Minister Joe Ludwig.

More here:


Seems like this is useful authentication technology that may have some e-Health Applications.

Eighth we have:

CSIRO developing 100Mbit wireless broadband

Could provide key to last mile NBN

Tim Lohman (CIO) 27 April, 2009 11:59

Wireless technology currently in development by the CSIRO may be the key to bringing a cost effective National Broadband Network to regional and rural Australia, according to the national science organisation.

The technology, dubbed Broadband to the Bush, is designed to make use of analogue television infrastructure already in place within Australia, Alex Zelinksy, group executive information and communication sciences and technology at the CSIRO said.

“What we are proposing to do is use the broadcast towers and UHF and VHF frequencies that will be left when analogue television is switched off,” he said. “The whole idea is that there is no comms gear in that space as it has been used for TV and we can reuse the broadcast infrastructure.”

In this way, wireless broadband would be available anywhere a current analogue television signal could be received, Zelinksy said.

The CSIRO’s technology uses orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) – a modulation scheme used in wireless LAN standards such as 802.11g – and, multiple input multiple output (MIMO), which uses multiple antennas to transmit and receive multiple data streams.

Combined, the CSIRO’s OFDM-MIMO technology could offer significant efficiencies over existing wireless and prove to be a valuable addition for reaching the last 10 per cent of the population as part of the National Broadband Network, Zelinksy said.

“With normal wireless technologies you would need 36 base stations to cover what we can do with one, so you reduce your capital costs,” he said. “We believe [the broadcast range] could cover 100 square kilometers and at rates of between 12 and 50 megabits per second, but it could scale up to the full 100Mbps (equal to the proposed speed of the fibre NBN).”

More here:


This is interesting and may help with the problem raised in the next set of articles.

Ninth we have:

Cyber highway slows up in regional areas

  • Debra Jopson Regional Reporter
  • April 26, 2009

HUNDREDS of towns across NSW, including those home to sea-change professionals who rely on internet services, will receive only the snail-paced version of the Federal Government's broadband roll-out, the Opposition says.

As part of its $43 billion scheme the Government has announced services of 100 megabits per second for cities and towns with more than 1000 people.

But 284 NSW towns, which are home to 140,523 people, have populations lower than that, the parliamentary library has determined using raw data from the last census.

Towns such as Tooleybuc in the Riverina, with 199 people, or Macmasters Beach on the Central Coast, with 994, will get satellite and wireless services with almost one-tenth of the speed, the Opposition spokesman for broadband communications, Nick Minchin, said.

He called on the Government to provide coverage maps so people could see who would get what.

"The Government has declared that towns with around 1000 people or more will get fibre-to-the-premise connections and the rest won't, so smaller communities quite rightly want to know whether they will be included," he said.

More here:


This is going to be interesting. There are a lot of towns with less than 1000 souls who will be pretty unimpressed about missing out, assuming it actually happens. I note in Tasmania the Premier has said the State Government will step in to ease the pain. A bit of a political nightmare I suspect.

More coverage of the politics here:


Broadband's losers could vote Labor out

Glenn Milne | April 27, 2009

Article from: The Australian

THE political debate surrounding Kevin Rudd's nationalised broadband plan so far has centred largely on its financial viability in times of stressed budgets and mounting public debt.

A former communications minister also has a view:


It's folly to replace one telco behemoth with another

Richard Alston | April 27, 2009

Article from: The Australian

WITH the Government's game-changing promise to introduce a new gorilla into the marketplace, telecommunications in Australia will never be the same again. And nor should it.

Tenth we have:

No need to shy away from web therapy

Online programs developed to treat social phobia can be as effective as face-to-face contact with a therapist, reports Lynnette Hoffman | May 02, 2009

Article from: The Australian

ONE moment Stewart Coad was proposing to a woman at the Eiffel Tower during a holiday in Paris.

The next he was homeless and living out of his car. Coad, 58, blames his riches-to-rags story -- the loss of his once-successful telecommunications business and two failed marriages -- on something he has been battling most of his life: social phobia.

Social phobia is an anxiety disorder characterised by an intense fear of being judged, criticised or embarrassed in social or performance situations.

The diagnosis is contentious; some critics say that many -- if not most -- cases that are diagnosed simply represent people who are shy, and that although it's fine to seek to change those aspects of their personality, it doesn't mean they're sick.

In their 2005 book, Selling Sickness, Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels argue that social anxiety disorder or social phobia is just a fancy name for shyness invented by drug companies to increase the sales of antidepressants. That view is shared by University of Adelaide associate professor of psychiatry Jon Jureidini.

"If people are dealing with aspects of life they don't like, such as they're shy and they want to overcome it or make sense of their suffering, that's fine; but whether that's actually a discrete problem is another issue," Jureidini says.

"What they're doing is labelling a normal variation of personality as sick."

Lots more here:


It is good to see commentary supporting approaches to using e-Health that has a strong evidence base. Worth a read.

Lastly the slightly technical article for the week:

Developers to get Windows 7 RC this week

The general public will be able to download the software on May 5

Nancy Gohring (IDG News Service) 27/04/2009 05:20:00

Some Microsoft developers will be able to download a near-final version of the company's Windows 7 operating system this week, Microsoft said Friday.

Starting on April 30, MSDN and TechNet subscribers will be able to download the Windows 7 Release Candidate, Microsoft said in a Windows Team blog post.

Release candidates are typically feature-complete and stable, and suggest that the final version of a product will be available very soon.

The company recently posted information accidentally on its Partner Program Web site saying that the Release Candidate was already available to developers and would be released to the general public on May 5.

More here:


It seems clear Microsoft is very keen to get this operating system available. It is amazing that the freely downloadable release candidate will run for over 12 months before expiry. That should be enough time to check out if you are happy with it!

More next week.


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