March 2009

NEWS REVIEW – WORLD

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New platform for connecting PHR

IBM has announced a collaboration with Google and Continua Health Alliance on new software to enable data to be easily moved from remote personal monitoring devices into Google Health personal health records (PHRs).

The new IBM software provides a platform for connecting personal health devices – increasingly expected to be mobile, wireless and interoperable – to personal health records.

The platform has been developed using open standards and is compliant with Continua Health guidelines. It will enable personal medical monitoring, screening and monitoring devices to automatically stream data results into a patient’s Google Health Account or other PHR. Once stored in a PHR, the data can also be shared with physicians and other members of the extended care network. Automatically streaming patient monitoring and vital signs data should help add to the value of PHRs for citizens, by avoiding the need for manual data entry and ensuring PHRs are current and accurate.

The development should help health professionals provide more timely feedback to patients on their conditions, suggest treatments, and help improve overall quality of life.

Google Health allows users to store, manage, and share their medical records and personal health information securely online. Google Health was officially launched last May, is free to users and available online at www.google.com/health.

IBM developed the software based on guidelines from Continua Health Alliance, a globally recognised organisation dedicated to enabling interoperable personal healthcare products and solutions.

Queensland trials telehealth project

The Australian state of Queensland has launched a telehealth project in the local government district of Ipswich to improve the efficiency of treatment for patients with chronic disease.

The Telehealth Lifestyle Coordination (TLC) project will monitor and manage chronic disease sufferers without the need for patients to leave their homes. If successful, the system could be rolled out nationwide.

The pilot project aims to show that telehealth is a viable alternative – or supplement to – hospital care.

Telehealth enables patients who don’t need constant supervision to lead as normal a life as possible, while managing their illness.

A small HomeMed unit is installed in a patient’s home. The unit instructs the patient to take vital sign readings and ask tailored questions. The vital sign reading is then transmitted over telephone lines to a website where it is checked against pre-set parameters. If any readings exceed pre-set parameters, the data is red-flagged and a healthcare provider alerted.

Chinese to have better medical facilities

China’s State Council passed a long awaited medical reform plan which promised to spend 850 billion yuan (USD 123 billion) by 2011 to provide universal medical service to the country’s 1.3 billion population.

The plan was studied and passed at a meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. The government has been deliberating medical reform since 2006.

According to reform plans, authorities would take measures within three years to provide basic medical security to all Chinese in urban and rural areas, improve the quality of medical services, and make medical services more accessible and affordable for ordinary people.

Handy ECGs for cardiac patients

A new low-cost and portable tele-electro cardiogram (ECG) system has been developed by the scientists of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

The system can be controlled by mobile phone with the help of a Bluetooth connection.

The device will be helpful for cardiac patients residing in rural or remote areas as patients need not go to hospitals for routine checkup.

This new machine reduces the load on the resources of hospitals. The system can be connected to a laptop or personal computer.

IT to fight infections

South Carolina’s 65 acute care hospitals are coming together to prevent healthcare-acquired infections across the state. The effort is expected to save hundreds of lives and as much AS USD 40 million a year.

Key to the effort is the use of an automated infection-monitoring tool developed by the Premier healthcare alliance. Premier will also develop an information-sharing portal to support the initiative.

Health Sciences South Carolina, the South Carolina Hospital Association and the Premier healthcare alliance announced the formation of the South Carolina Healthcare Quality Trust (SC HQT).

The trust includes the state’s largest research universities which will work with Health Sciences South Carolina to adopt existing evidence-based best practices, as well as research and develop new methods, to eliminate preventable infections.

The Premier portal will play a key role making it possible for all South Carolina hospitals to research the causes of healthcare-acquired infections, or HAIs, and to identify and promote existing and new processes for prevention.

New-age patient ID cards

Humana, one of America’s largest health-benefits companies, has promised to adopt machine-readable patient ID cards and, in the process, won the acclaim of the Medical Group Management Association, which estimates that the cards could save physician offices and hospitals as much as USD 1 billion a year.

Less than three weeks ago, MGMA launched ProjectSwipeIT, an industry-wide effort calling on health insurers, vendors and healthcare providers to initiate processes to support standardised cards by January 1, 2010. Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana is the first insurer to publicly pledge its support.

MGMA estimates that machine-readable patient ID cards could save physician offices and hospitals money by reducing unnecessary administrative efforts and many denied claims.

Machine-readable cards like Humana’s could be linked to providers’ computer systems via a card reader allowing for the automatic population of patient information correctly and cost-effectively with a simple swipe.

Telehealth services in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh government has planned to introduce “Telehealth Care Services” at every public hospital in the country. The aim of this project is to make healthcare available to everyone in the country. All public hospitals in the country’s 481 sub-districts will be provided with logistics including mobile phones for establishing a telehealth care centre.

Doctors will be on duty in each unit of telehealth centres to receive phone calls from patients and administer treatment. This service is expected to benefit more than half of Bangladesh’s 144 million citizens who do not have access to healthcare facilities due to poverty. This service will be provided free-of-charge and the telehealth centres will be open for 24 hours.

These telehealth centres will also be used to spread awareness on non-communicable diseases.

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