Sunday, October 04, 2009

Useful and Interesting Health IT News from the Last Week – 04/10/2009.

The Australian E-Health Press provided a good serve this week. It included these:

First we have:

Electronic records create challenges: DNA

OPINION: David Weisbrot | October 03, 2009

Article from: The Australian

A PAIR of Belgian sleuths has been travelling the world, scooping up cigarette butts, serviettes and other discarded items containing traces of DNA, supposedly seeking to identify living relatives of Adolf Hitler.

Thus far, they claim to have discovered 39 genetic relatives in Austria and the US.

Journalists from some of Britain's most notorious tabloids are said to be desperate to secure a DNA sample from Prince Harry, to determine whether Prince Charles is really his father.

In the US, a railway company got into legal strife for misleading its employees about the free health checks it conducted. In fact, the company was collecting DNA samples and, in an effort to reduce sick leave and workers compensation premiums, was secretly testing those employees to see if they had a genetic predisposition to repetitive strain injury.

The remarkable advances in genetic science and technology enabling such questionable activities also hold great benefits in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of serious illnesses.

However, these rapid advances also challenge our capacity to regulate research and clinical practice in the public interest. In particular, we must ensure that we carefully protect human dignity as well as health.

More here:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26151655-23289,00.html

This is a useful contribution to understanding the potential debates on e-Health. The last two paragraphs have it close to right I believe.

“As the ALRC recommended, any new e-health system must be established under specific legislation that expressly addresses key privacy issues.

The move to e-health is inevitable and promises better health outcomes. To ensure this happens, government must guarantee openness, transparency and plenty of public education and debate. If not, Australia's health-care system will lose this opportunity to harness itself to the electronic revolution.”

Second we have:

Microchip will help test for prostate cancer

Adam Cresswell, Health editor | October 03, 2009

Article from: The Australian

A MORE accurate test for prostate cancer could be on the horizon, after Canadian scientists claimed promising results from an electronic device sensitive enough to detect tell-tale genetic changes from a sample of blood or urine.

The device uses a microchip the size of a fingertip, fitted with nanometre-sized wires woven into a mesh that are sensitive enough to pick up signs of cancer within individual cells.

The Canadian researchers claimed their device could analyse a sample within 30 minutes, much faster than existing tests, using equipment no bigger than a BlackBerry mobile phone.

It also appears to be sensitive enough to differentiate between aggressive and more benign types of prostate cancer. If that promise is fulfilled, it could solve one of the biggest problems with current methods of detecting prostate cancer.

More here:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26158488-23289,00.html

Sounds like a useful technical advance – we certainly need an improvement on the PSA test.

Third we have:

ReferralNet selected for e-Radiology system

28 September 2009: Global Health’s (GLH) connectivity solution ReferralNet has been selected as the secure messaging platform for Geelong Medical Imaging (GMI).

GMI will use ReferralNet Messaging to send electronic radiology results and reports securely to their Clients in the Geelong region.

The recent rollout of ReferralNet by the General Practice Association of Geelong (GPAG) now makes ReferralNet the common download agent for the majority of the GPs in the area.

Streamlining the results download to one messaging provider will deliver greater efficiency to a GP practice.

According to GMI Practice Manager David Williams, the benefits of using ReferralNet were better than what other products offered.

“ReferralNet ticked all the boxes for us. With the Division’s involvement, more GPs now have the capacity to receive electronic results and reports from us. It also provides an efficient audit trail. Each message has a timestamp associated with it. With our previous messaging provider, clients had no way of tracking messages except by calling GMI. We had to regularly resend reports that have been sent, essentially adding unnecessary helpdesk service costs”, said Mr. Williams.

ReferralNet is an implementation of the vision and standards of NeHTA. Global Health is an Eligible Supplier for the PIP (Practice Incentive Program) eHealth Incentive.

More here:

http://www.global-health.com/news.php

Another example of General Practice just getting on with it – we have (at least, and in no particular order) Argus, HealthLink, Medical Objects, eClinic and Global Health all out there working with GP. (Disclosure: I have a few GLH shares)

Fourth we have:

Prescription for e-health

In a healthcare system that has its share of sickness, one sector that is approaching tip-top condition is e-health.

Georgina Swan 28 September, 2009 09:59

If there is one area where the benefits of technology reach their utmost potential in society, it is hard to argue against e-health. It has long been an area of exciting innovation and promise. It has also been chronically underfunded. But with healthcare reform at the forefront of the national agenda, the possibilities for an integrated approach to e-health makes the area rife with challenge and opportunity.

And, with the release of the final report form National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission (NHRC) in July, the clamour around e-health has reached a crescendo. So how are healthcare providers adopting IT solutions and what technologies are central to their strategies?

“There is a significant upturn in the amount of investment in e-health,” says Microsoft health spokesperson, Dr David Dembo. “And that’s for the all the reasons that have put the healthcare’s sector back up against the wall as an industry in crisis — it’s had to innovate.

“The tipping point around the debate is the role that IT can play in healthcare’s transformation is really happening. The debate at the moment is around whether companies will achieve what they promise rather than the role of IT.”

More here:

http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/320072/prescription_e-health?eid=-6787

Sadly this is a quite unrealistic and unfoundedly optimistic article on where we are at present. We need to remember that other than funding NEHTA the Commonwealth is yet to fund anything substantial or strategic.

Fifth we have:

'Electrode retina' boosts quest to restore sight

NEW YORK

September 28, 2009

BLINDNESS first began creeping up on Barbara Campbell when she was a teenager, and by her late 30s, her eye disease had stolen what was left of her sight.

Campbell, now 56, would have been thrilled to see something. Anything.

Now, as part of a striking experiment, she can. So far, she can detect burners on her stove, her mirror frame and whether her computer monitor is on.

She is beginning an intensive three-year research project involving electrodes surgically implanted in her eye, a camera on the bridge of her nose and a video processor strapped to her waist.

Some of the 37 other participants in the project can differentiate plates from cups, sort white socks from dark and see where people are, albeit not details about them.

''For someone who's been totally blind, this is really remarkable,'' said Andrew Mariani, a program director at the National Eye Institute.

Full article here:

http://www.theage.com.au/world/electrode-retina-boosts-quest-to-restore-sight-20090927-g7p6.html

Amazing stuff indeed!

Sixth we have:

The NBN – Flying blind?

No cost benefit analysis done by Treasury and Greens Senator questions the ability to see forward

Christina Zhou 02 October, 2009 15:30

The Australian Greens Senator for Western Australia, Scott Ludlam has questioned whether the Federal Government’s $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) plan is “flying blind”.

Ludlam made the comments at the most recent Senate Select Committee on the NBN while questioning the executive director of the Department of Treasury, Richard Murray.

Although Senator Ludlam acknowledged long term benefits are intangible and difficult to model, he questioned how the Government would know how much they should be investing in the project if there have been no short term calculations.

“Aren’t we flying blind though in the short term if there’s not even been an attempt made to quantify the short term…recognising that long term it’s probably impossible…” Ludlam said in an unfinished comment.

Murray was commenting that there are still many uncertainties in the Government’s project to provide a faster and more cost-effective broadband.

The Treasury director also said although there have been studies there has been no attempt by the Treasury to make a cost benefit analysis of the NBN.

He added there was too much information missing to undertake a cost benefit analysis but claimed there will be significant short and long term benefits, although he acknowledged these are also difficult to quantify.

More here:

http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/320794/nbn_flying_blind?fp=16&fpid=1

I agree with Richard Murray on this – it is essentially unknowable just what the benefits of the NBN will be. However this does mean we should do this as inexpensively as possible and work hard to find the most cost-efficient way to proceed with this. It is not clear to me this could not be done a lot more cheaply by not duplicating the fibre already in the ground owned by Telstra, Optus and AAPT.

More on the NBN here:

http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,26134497-15306,00.html

All eyes on NBN

Amy Coopes in Sydney | September 28, 2009

THE sheer scale of the national broadband network (NBN)project has drawn interest from foreign governments including the US, where President Barack Obama has outlined similar plans.

Seventh we have:

Microsoft releases free security software

Correspondents in San Francisco | September 30, 2009

MICROSOFT has released free software that people can use to protect computers against viruses, spyware and other malicious codes in arsenals of cyber criminals.

Microsoft Security Essentials is available for download at microsoft.com/security_essentials and is built on technology that the global software giant uses in computer security programs it designs for businesses.

"With Microsoft Security Essentials, consumers can get high-quality protection that is easy to get and easy to use, and it won't get in their way," said Amy Barzdukas, general manager for consumer security at Microsoft.

"Consumers have told us that they want the protection of real-time security software but we know that too many are either unwilling or unable to pay for it, and so end up unprotected."

Microsoft hopes that the free software will be broadly adopted, particularly by those who have not been vigilant about protecting computers from hackers, and thereby "increase security across the entire Windows ecosystem".

More here:

http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,26146085-15306,00.html

Important to be aware this is available. I have not seen any reviews of how useful it is.

Eighth we have:

Health training on handhelds

Jennifer Foreshew | September 29, 2009

THE Rural Health Education Foundation expects to trial the delivery of its training programs, which reach an audience of 100,000 health professionals, via handheld devices within a year.

The non-profit foundation produces and packages information on a range of health and medical issues and makes it available to rural and remote areas via satellite, webcast and DVD.

It operates a network of more than 660 satellite receiving sites nationally, called the Rural Health Satellite Network. The network is one of the largest dedicated networks of its kind in the world, reaching more than 90 per cent of rural doctors and other health professionals.

More here:

http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,26136966-15319,00.html

This is a network that many would not even know of. Sounds like a useful step forward.

Lastly for the week a more technical article:

Windows 7 Review

Harry McCracken (PC World (US online)) 30 September, 2009 01:59

What if a new version of Windows didn't try to dazzle you? What if, instead, it tried to disappear except when you needed it? Such an operating system would dispense with glitzy effects in favor of low-key, useful new features. Rather than pelting you with alerts, warnings, and requests, it would try to stay out of your face. And if any bundled applications weren't essential, it would dump 'em.

It's not a what-if scenario. Windows 7, set to arrive on new PCs and as a shrinkwrapped upgrade on October 22, has a minimalist feel and attempts to fix an­­noyances old and new. In contrast, Windows Vista offered a flashy new interface, but its poor performance, compatibility gotchas, and lack of compelling features made some folks regret upgrading and others refuse to leave Windows XP.

Windows 7 is hardly flawless. Some features feel unfinished; others won't realize their potential without heavy lifting by third parties. And some long-standing annoyances remain intact. But overall, the final shipping version I test-drove appears to be the worthy successor to Windows XP that Vista never was.

Microsoft's release of Windows 7 also roughly coincides with Apple's release of its new Snow Leopard; for a visual comparison of the two operating systems, see our slideshow "Snow Leopard Versus Windows 7" Read on here for an in-depth look at how Microsoft has changed its OS -mostly for the better - in Windows 7.

Heaps more here:

http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/320325/windows_7_review?eid=-6787

Given it is here in a week or two, this lets you know what to expect.

More next week.

David.

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