April 2008

WORLD NEWS

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Tennessee with AT&T creates health info exchange

AT&T Inc. is partnering with Tennessee to provide the country’s first statewide system to electronically exchange patient medical information.

The system is designed to securely transmit detailed patient information between medical professionals. It will allow doctors to access medical histories, prescribe medicines over the Internet and transfer images like X-rays, MRIs and CT scans.

Tennessee’s program is seen as a model for other states and may be a springboard for interstate information sharing networks in the future. Doctors can use the system to remotely uate patients in rural areas who have less access to medical facilities. It will also link to the state Department of Health for access to the immunisation and disease registry, death certificate processing and medical license renewals. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has championed electronic records because of the inefficiency of the current paper-based system. Antoine Agassi, director and chairman of the governor’s eHealth Council, said Tennessee’s deal with AT&T should keep costs down for individual subscribers. Doctors can apply for state grants to defray the costs of getting set up on the system. “Having the ability to get this from a pre-negotiated service level at a very, very competitive rate is a huge step forward,” he said.

Handwriting recognition integrated with smartpen

Vision Objects has integrated its MyScript handwriting recognition into Livescribe’s Pulse smartpen and desktop application.

The Pulse smartpen captures handwriting and simultaneously records spoken information (lectures or conversations) while writing, ensuring the user doesn’t miss a word. Users can tap directly on their paper notes and hear the corresponding sequence of the audio recording.

The system can search for words in handwritten text, and increases productivity by converting handwritten text into digital information.

Under a partnership agreement, Livescribe will distribute MyScript Notes for Pulse as an add-on application. Other applications include a translation tool that converts English into a wide range of languages and a calculator that carries out simple mathematical operations just by writing them down on paper.

Cardiac telemedicine reduces hospital admissions: study

The results of a 12-month trial of a cardiac telemedicine service supervised by the Greater Manchester and Cheshire (GMC) Cardiac Network, proves that the service avoids the need for immediate referral of patients with non-acute chest-pain symptoms to hospital care, in the majority of cases.

In an analysis of the results of the first 12 months’ use of the telemedical ECG service from Broomwell HealthWatch across four PCTs (48 surgeries), GPs said that 58% of patients would have been referred to hospital if the ECG service had not been available to them. Over the 12-month period, this equates to nearly 2000 referrals to secondary care prevented by using the telemedical cardiac ECG interpretation service. Translated nationally across some 10,500 surgeries, the use of its ECG service could prevent up to 432,000 referrals per annum and could result in savings of around �250 million a year.

The telemedicine service effectively imports ECG expertise into every surgery (via the telephone) and thus enables GPs to make better-informed diagnoses. A key benefit of the service to patients is that it is carried out locally by their GP, removing the need to travel to hospital for diagnosis. Practice clinicians carry out ECG readings and transmit the results over the phone, with expert interpretation reported back within seconds.

Telecom firms have strong e-health presence

A report by IT and telecommunications researcher, InfoCom, has highlighted the strong presence of telecom carriers in the e-health industry.

Research of e-health applications across Europe has shown that carriers such as British Telecom (BT) and T-Systems have a large presence in national e-health strategies – BT is responsible for NHS London’s IT, the Spine and the N3 internet connection in England and T-Systems is deploying the backbone for the German national electronic health cards project.

A T-Systems spokesperson said, “To deliver quality and efficiency, health care requires sophisticated ICT and telematics infrastructures geared to the specific needs of this unique sector. The goal is integrated care based on the seamless flow of information.

The report says: “While e-health solutions targeting end-customers are still few, more choices are available for healthcare services targeting professionals� France and Spain seem to be the most dynamic European markets for e-health solutions targeting end-customers whereas as of new such services launched in other countries, for instance in Germany, in the UK, in Italy or in Portugal, most of such applications target professional users, for instance hospitals and health insurances rather than end-customers.

GPRS-enabled laptops keep nurses connected to patients

GPRS-enabled laptops keep nurses connected to patients North East Lincolnshire Care Trust Plus has signed a five-year contract with British Telecommunications (BT) to equip community nurses with GPRS-enabled laptops that will allow them to access critical patient information at the point of care.

BT will provide its ‘Mobile Health Worker Solution’, a managed service that includes a help desk, business management for a single point of contact and lightweight Panasonic semi-rugged ToughBook laptops for the community nurses. These have GPRS mobile phone communications and BT’s Field Force Automation technology.

The shock-resistant laptops will allow secure access to clinical records, email and support systems and databases when visiting patients in the community, either at home or in a remote clinic.

An early pilot completed in the community has revealed that the Mobile Health Worker technology improves patient care and delivers proven productivity and cost savings, estimated at more than �400 per week per clinician.

Real-time access to patient records, planned care and current health service provision can reduce the need for unnecessary referrals and hospital admissions.

Stuart Hill, Chief utive of BT Health Sales said: “Improved patient care, a reduction in time and costs, improved data quality, lower operating costs and cutting unnecessary hospital admissions are some of the benefits the Northern Lincolnshire Health Community stand to realise having signed up to BT’s Mobile Health Worker.”

NHS Direct text details of local health services

NHS Direct has launched a service that allows users to obtain details of local health services by text messages.

Anyone wishing to find their nearest GP, dentist, pharmacy, optician, walk-in centre, A&E or hospital in England can text the name of the service required, followed by a postcode, to 61121. A text message is sent back in reply, with details of the closest services to that postcode, and further results can be obtained if needed.

Results contain the service name, address and telephone number (where available) plus the distance from the postcode. Commenting on the new service, Ronnette Lucraft, Commercial Director, said: “To start with, we’re launching the service as a pilot through our Freeview digital TV service, available on channel 108, to test the technology and gauge usage before promoting it to a wider audience.

“There are now more active mobile phone connections than UK residents and 84% of UK adults use a mobile phone regularly, so the service has a huge potential audience. Significantly, mobile phones are now used by all sections of society, and there is evidence that mobile phone usage is higher amongst hard-to-reach social groups.

Cerner Corp. and Hill-Rom Partner to unify hospital care delivery

Cerner Corporation and Hill-Rom, an operating company of Hillenbrand Industries, announced recently that they have formed a strategic relationship to integrate their technologies to improve and coordinate health care delivery, featuring Hill-Rom intelligent hospital beds that communicate directly with the Cerner Millennium(R) healthcare computing platform.

Efforts in the first stage of the partnership are focusing on the integration of Hill-Rom’s intelligent bed systems, such as VersaCare(R) and TotalCare(R), with the Cerner Millennium system. Utilising the Cerner CareAware(TM) global device connectivity architecture, the intelligent bed is able to feed data, including patient weight, bed rail position and head elevation, to the Cerner Millennium system.

Access to real-time information and automation of labor-intensive tasks furthers safety initiatives and allows clinicians to spend more time with patients.

In addition, the relationship is expected to expand to integrate the Cerner CareAware architecture with other Hill-Rom IT solutions such as nurse call, asset management and NaviCare(R) Patient Flow. As automation continues to increase in health care, so does the need to effectively manage the information generated by disparate medical devices.

This partnership with Hill-Rom is one example of how the CareAware architecture creates a single source of truth for patient information in the electronic medical record incorporating data generated by medical devices.

Google unveils personal medical record service

Google Inc. has unveiled a plan to help U.S. patients gain control of their medical records and is working with doctors’ groups, pharmacies and labs to help them securely share sensitive health data.

The company entry into the highly sensitive field came when Chief utive Eric Schmidt introduced Google Health at a health-care conference in Florida recently. Google said it has signed deals with hospitals and companies including medical tester Quest Diagnostics Inc, health insurer Aetna Inc, Walgreens and Walmart Stores Inc. pharmacies.

The password-protected Web service stores health records on Google computers, with a medical services directory that lets users import doctors’ records, drug history and test results. A week ago, Google said it was teaming up with leading academic medical researcher Cleveland Clinic to test a data exchange that puts patients in charge of records. Schmidt said it would likely be a few months before Google Health is offered more widely. IBM, Oracle Corp and Siemens AG, among many others, have worked on such digitization.

Electronic record-keeping has been held back by a lack of focus on consumer needs, not privacy fears, he said. While medical providers are covered by U.S. privacy laws, there is little in the way of established privacy, security and data usage standards for electronic personal health records. Google earns almost all its revenue in Web advertising, but has no plan to sell ads on Google Health. It aims to make money indirectly when users search for other medical information.

Spanish hospital deploys wireless tracking

Spain’s AT4 wireless has completed a project in Southern Spain to allow wireless tracking of nursing staff, improving staff safety and tracking of equipment at the Hospital Alta Resolucion (Benalmadena).

Ekahau, a Finnish specialist in Wi-Fi-based Real Time Location Systems (RTLS), partnered with wireless firm AT4 to deliver the combined asset and staff tracking system which operates across an advanced Wi-Fi network. The system includes a staff alarm facility.

Hospital Alta Resolucion features some of the latest technological solutions. The staff are now required to carry wireless tags with a panic button, which, when pressed, sends an alarm SMS direct to the hospital’s security centre prompting immediate response direct to the scene of the emergency.Gonzalez continued that the regional health authority was now uating the progress of the Ekahau implementation at Benalmadena with possible expansion later to its larger hospital site in Marbella. “This hospital deployment is a very good example of the Ekahau advantage, to be able to deploy a multi-purpose RTLS system over an existing enterprise Wi-Fi network, with a short deployment time and without any additional infrastructure installations,” said Jarmo Ikonen, Ekahau’s director of Sales.

Deloitte sees technology gap in healthcare

A new study from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions suggests that healthcare providers have fallen behind the needs of their patients.

Nearly 80 percent of health care consumers are interested in having their physicians provide online access to medical records and test results; as many as one-fourth (26 percent) are willing to pay extra for these additional services. Consumers are interested in using online tools to shop around to compare prices and the quality of care provided by their health care providers. About two in three respondents are interested in visiting physician and hospital Web sites to research both the price and quality of services offered.

The survey also found that 3 out of 4 of consumers want their physicians to provide online access to an integrated medical record as well as the ability to schedule visits. More than 70 percent of consumers want their hospitals to provide online access to their medical record and test result.

The “2008 Survey of Health Care Consumers,” a representative poll of more than 3,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 75, was conducted by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. “Patients clearly want and increasingly expect to be able to access their medical records and connect with their health care providers online,” said Russ Rudish, Vice Chairman and U.S. Health Care Providers Sector Leader, Deloitte LLP.

Quest Diagnostics, Google bring lab results to patients electronically

A partnership between Google and Quest Diagnostics Inc., will allow patients to view their diagnostic laboratory testing information electronically.

Under the terms of the collaboration, Quest Diagnostics is developing solutions that will allow physicians to provide their patients with easy and secure electronic access to their diagnostic test results. Quest Diagnostics’ proprietary Care360 patient-centric physician portal will serve as the platform for securely transferring patient diagnostic laboratory data into a Google Health account, at the user’s request. Google Health will allow patients to manage their health information online.In addition to providing current diagnostic laboratory data, the collaboration will also allow physicians to securely send historical laboratory data to the patient’s Google Health account. Physicians will be able to comment on their patients’ test results to better inform them about their health status.

“Laboratory data is the foundation of many patients’ medical histories and an important driver of treatment decisions made by physicians and their patients,” said Joyce G. Schwartz, MD, vice president and chief laboratory officer, Quest Diagnostics. “Working with Google Health, Quest Diagnostics will help patients collaborate with their physicians to make informed health care choices based on relevant diagnostic information.”

Medical groups launch e-prescribing web site

Five doctors organizations have launched a Web site and campaign designed to persuade physicians to switch from paper-based prescriptions of medications to electronic prescribing.

The Get Connected campaign, along with the GetRxConnected.com web site, are focused on helping doctors move from prescriptions written on paper pads or entered into a computer and faxed to pharmacies. The Web site includes a technology guide to help doctors move to e-prescribing. It also provides perspectives of other doctors on the benefits of e-prescribing, and points to connected pharmacies.

The effort is aimed at the 94 percent of doctors in the U.S. who still do not write prescriptions electronically, said Dr. William Jessee, president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association. About 150,000 doctors across the U.S. now fax prescriptions, but as of Jan. 1, 2009, the U.S. government Medicare program will require that prescriptions it covers be sent electronically, Jessee said.

About 8,000 people in the U.S. die every year because of prescription errors, said Newt Gingrich, founder of the Center for Health Transformation and former Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Some doctors are still fighting the move to e-prescribing and suggesting the U.S. government shouldn’t mandate the change, he said.

Vietnam Govt plans to standardise medical testing

A national project to standardize medical tests among hospitals and health clinics in Vietnam will be launched this year, the Ministry of Health has said.

Uniform standards will set out certain norms that will ensure the quality of sub-clinical medical tests, such as sample-taking and test results. Under the two-stage project, laboratories in health care facilities will be required to meet certain standards for internal and external tests, staff qualifications and equipment maintenance. Health workers will be able to conduct medical tests only if the equipment meets technical standards for such tests.

Three standard analysis centres, to be built in Ha Noi, Hue and HCM City during the project’s second phase, will monitor test results at grassroots clinic and train hospital staff in examination techniques. The centres would not be allowed to administer medical tests, but would instead act only as an arbitrator of test results from health care facilities and later report to the ministry.

A survey of 94 hospitals nationwide by Viet Nam Biochemical and Medical Association shows a strong increase in the number of examination clinics in recent years, with a total of 380 at the provincial level and up.

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