May 2008

NEWS REVIEW – WORLD

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European IT project to detect adverse drug reactions

A project recently approved by the EU, aims to exploit data from electronic healthcare records (EHRs) and biomedical databases to foster the early detection of adverse drug reactions (ADRs).

The scheme follows a number of high profile cases where adverse drug reactions have been reported in patients too late, when millions of patients had already been exposed. The project, called ALERT, aims to develop a computerised system, better and faster than spontaneous reporting. ALERT will use clinical data from the EHRs of over 30 million patients from the Netherlands, Denmark, UK and Italy. Text mining, epidemiological and other techniques will be employed to analyse the EHRs to detect suspected adverse events and combinations of drugs that warrant further study.

The project will emphasise the detection of ADRs in children, using paediatric data from all the countries represented, given the relative lack of knowledge of such events. It will also discriminate between signals pointing to a genuine ADR, and spurious signals, which can create unease in both patients and physicians and can result in the removal of a useful drug from the market. The project is funded by a euro 4.5 million grant from the European Commission.

Wireless tracking for mobile diagnostic imaging systems

A product has been developed for the optimised repair and tracking of mobile diagnostic imaging systems.

The tracking system aims to address the problem of locating and making repairs to such imaging systems, especially when their routes around the hospital change.

Philips Remote Services (PRS) uses global positioning system (GPS) location technology, internet data connectivity and standard voice service to diagnose and potentially repair the imaging equipment remotely.

The manufacturers said that PRS was developed to counteract issues such as delays caused to patient treatment following equipment malfunction.

“With the PRS for Mobiles, we can contact the units and diagnose problems more efficiently,” said Ketan Shah, senior manager of mobile enterprise for Philips Healthcare.

Diabetes telemedicine system tested

A hospital is piloting an innovative system which allows diabetic patients to monitor their blood sugar levels remotely. Patients at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital in Dorset, UK, can now carry out the tests at home and send their results back to be analysed over the Internet. Healthcare professionals then examine the data, and give 24-hour advice on how to manage the condition. Professor David Kerr, a senior consultant at The Bournemouth Diabetes and Endocrine Centre, said: “In the first instance, we have used the system to help people already established on insulin pump therapy, allowing them to wirelessly download data from their glucose meter or insulin pump into their home PC.

Axon TeleHealthCare developed the system, in partnership with the Royal Bournemouth Hospital centre. The device was launched in November last year, but the Royal Bournemouth is the first hospital in the UK to try it and it is not currently available on the NHS.

Sectra’s next-gen PACS goes live at Swedish hospital

Sectra’s new diagnostic workstation for radiologists, the IDS7/dx, has gone live at its first Swedish hospital.

The workstation at S�dert�lje Hospital is part of Sectra’s next-generation PACS and is optimised for distributed reading of radiology images and handling extremely large datasets.

Rapidly increasing data volumes are being produced by new radiology equipment. New modalities, such as multi-slice CT scanners will soon provide up to terabyte datasets for single radiology examinations. Swedish firm Sectra said its PACS was optimised to handle these large datasets and to enable distributed reading – when examinations were performed at one hospital and reviewed at another location. This makes it possible, for example, for a radiologist to review images from a home office, a routine that is becoming increasingly common.

Peter Svozil, Head of the Radiology Department at S�dert�lje Hospital, said: “With Sectra’s new workstation, our radiologists can review images at a location that best suits his or her individual situation, even from home. “This enables us to use our resources in the most efficient manner.

NHS health board to run telemedicine trial

A telemedicine initiative first piloted in the NHS Grampian area, is now to be tried in Perthshire by NHS Tayside.

It involves the establishment of an out-of-hours GP video link between the minor injury and illness unit at Blairgowrie Community Hospital and specialists in Dundee.

The service, which will allow a patient’s blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate, weight and lung function to be assessed at a distance, is aimed at reducing the need for patients to travel to Dundee for face-to-face consultations and to reduce patient anxiety.
A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said: “The pilot is being run in conjunction with the Scottish Centre for Telehealth. The national centre works towards preventative, anticipatory care in local communities rather than in a hospital setting, and improving the standard and speed of care. If successful, the trial will be rolled out to Crieff and then Pitlochry.”

Digital patients replace humans for drug testing

Scientists have used supercomputing power to create “virtual physiological humans” (VPH) to serve as test subjects for a new HIV drug, which might lead to the concept of testing drugs on digital patients in the future. According to a report in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, University College London scientists developed these VPH to serve as test subjects for the new HIV drug Saquinavir, that is designed to block one of the virus’s key proteins.

Their goal was to one day be able to create a unique VPH for each HIV patient, on which doctors could test different medications to determine their potential effects (on the organs, tissues and cells of real patients) and use the information to tailor the best treatments.

Such a move would be a dramatic improvement over today’s testing methods, which largely involve trial and error because doctors have no way to match the drugs to the profile of the virus as it changes in individual patients.

According to the scientists, the human body is so complex that they had to tap into several supercomputers running off national computer networks comprising both the UK’s National Grid Service and the U.S. TeraGrid to be able to create the digital patients.

iPhone could soon become a tool for doctors

Experts say version 2.0 of the popular iPhone’s firmware, which is due to be launched in June this year, could turn the device into an indispensable medical tool in hospitals.

Doctors are quite optimistic about the new version of the mobile phone as it could serve as an electronic alternative for the old-fashioned clipboard and X-ray light box.

To date, such a feature has remained an impossible dream due to most smart phones’ inability to handle the sophisticated compression techniques used on large medical images. Also, most phones lack the requisite memory and image-processing capabilities.

But the iPhone’s reasonably powerful Samsung ARM processor, 8 GB or 16 GB of flash memory and intuitive, visual interface seem well suited to medical imagery. Hospitals are however wary of beaming medical images all over the place via WiFi because of security concerns. But, the iPhone’s new business-friendly security features may ease privacy fears, according to physicians, and could even turn the device into an indispensable medical tool if hospitals approve the device. Physicians, particularly radiologists, are also excited about the prospect of accessing medical images directly on their iPhones.

German govt unveils smartcard costs

The German ministry of health has issued details on recent and estimated future costs of the healthcare smartcard project in response to a parliamentary inquiry, initiated by the Liberal Democrats (FDP).

According to the ministry, the annual Gematik-budget has increased close to threefold, from euro 26m in 2006 to an estimated euro 70m in 2008.

The rise partially reflects the progress of the smartcard project, an increasing number of tenders, the establishment of seven test regions co-financed by the Gematik and rising marketing costs. The biggest share of costs for the smartcard project lies not with Gematik, but with the health insurance companies.

The ministry of health states that it expects a maximum of euro 669m of costs for the rollout of 80 million smartcards.

In total, costs of the smartcard project are expected to reach euro 1.4 billion. Additionally, about euro 150m of annual running costs are forecast once rollout is complete.

Apart from information about costs, the ministry of health has also provided some details on the progress of the smartcard tests. The ministry re-iterated that the rollout of the smartcard readers for doctors and pharmacists would begin in early summer 2008.

Austrian hospital gets staff admin system

A personnel administration system has been implemented at Allgemeines Krankenhaus Wien (AKH), Austria. AKH in Vienna is one of the country’s biggest hospitals with 2,100 beds and 9,000 staff, including around 1,500 doctors. The software package, called “on duty”, will be provided by Systema, a subsidiary of German IT firm CompuGROUP, and is aimed to increase personnel administration and duty scheduling, thereby increasing the efficiency of the clinic.

“Therefore, it is important to be able to use modern electronic tools in scheduling and administration which create optimal results approximating utmost efficiency. This is why we have high hopes regarding the implementation of Systema’s solution.” Willibald Salomon, CEO of Systema, said: “This success of “on duty” emphasises once more that our products fit the Austrian hospital segment. We will insistently and step by step work on further establishing this solution as a motor for improving the operational situation of clinics.”

Oman plans healthcare city

Oman’s Majan Development Company (MDC) is planning to develop a healthcare city near Muscat with an estimated investment of US$ 774 million to US$ 1.03 billion.

“An international consultancy agency has conducted market research for the project in the GCC region. The result was positive. A feasibility study for the project is going on now” said Bashar al Tuwaijri, senior manager for direct investment at Gulf Investment House, which is initiating the project with a 20% stake in MDC.

Oman’s Ministry of Tourism has agreed to allot land of 1 million square meters near Blue City, which is 100 kilometres away from Muscat.

Al Tuwaijri said the healthcare city would include medical colleges, hospitals, conference halls, hotels and shopping malls. “The project will be funded by way of equity and term loan from banks” he said.
MDC was formed by a group of investors in the Gulf region to develop real estate projects in Oman. It is 20% owned by GIH, 10 by Commercial Real Estate, 10 by Sharjah Islamic Bank, 30% by other non-Omani investors and 30% by pension funds and other institutional investors in Oman.

Voice-based information capture soon in Norwegian hospital

Royal Philips Electronics’ SpeechMagic was rolled out in Ull University Hospital in Oslo – Norway’s largest clinical centre to more than 1,000 physicians across all medical specialties.

Upon completion at the beginning of 2009, the implementation is expected to be the world’s largest deployment of front-end speech recognition at one single hospital site. The hospital expects to increase the quality of medical reports, speed up documentation workflows and reduce administrative costs.

“We see patient safety as the most important advantage of this technology,” said Jens Gr�gaard, Ull University Hospital’s clinical manager. “Every department will have full access to critical patient information, which helps to significantly improve the quality of care. Since the report is printed instantly, the entire team involved in delivering care to a patient can rely on accurate, written information.”

The hospital-wide deal, which came through the local Philips Speech Recognition Systems partner Max Manus, was triggered by a successful implementation in Ull’s radiology department, where report turnaround time was reduced by 96%.

“We are expecting to save tens of millions of Norwegian crowns each year thanks to more accurate, convenient and efficient information capturing. By allowing our physicians to directly dictate into the electronic medical record, the entire hospital will benefit from a streamlined flow of information,” highlighted project manager Andreas Atteraas Gr�nbekk.

SpeechMagic is implemented in more than 8,000 sites worldwide. Philips Speech Recognition Systems recently received Frost and Sullivan’s 2007 Global Excellence Award in healthcare speech recognition.

TI, IIT-Kgp in medical tech pact

Texas Instruments (TI), the global information technology company, has signed a four-year collaborative agreement with the School of Medical Science and Technology of Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT-KGP), to develop semiconductor technologies that will help improve the quality, comfort and accessibility of healthcare in India.

This is TI’s first partnership with an IIT on research projects devoted to medical electronics innovation. The project is a part of TI’s recent announcement to spend US$ 15 million towards funding research work in the field of medical technology.

According to Ajoy Kumar Ray, head of school of medical science and technology at IIT-KGP, “In India alone, about 800,000 patients undergo coronary bypass surgery every year, while one in every 12 women develops breast cancer. The TI-IT KGP technology partnership will enable devices that could help address some of these pressing healthcare issues.”

The research team will develop semiconductors for medical equipment for cancer and cardiac-related treatment. TI’s was supporting this research to help develop new semiconductor technologies for personal medical devices, implantables, medical imaging, wireless healthcare systems and bio-sensor technology.

The IIT-KGP research collaboration reflected TI’s keenness to develop the next generation of innovators. The outcome of the research would be intellectual property of TI, which will use the technology globally, said Bishwadip Mitra, managing director of TI India Ltd.

Other research focus areas would be detection technology for cancer and heart problems by use of imaging technology and micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) based biosensor technology. “The research will be essentially on TI platform, as the company has an arsenal of about 17,000 analog chips, which can be used for imaging techniques,” Mitra said.

The collaborative research with IIT-KGP, which would involve 15-20 researchers, would be divided into three groups – biological research team, image processing team, and doctors, said Mitra. This apart, specialists from TI would also work with the IIT researchers, and the research would be reviewed every six months, Ray added.

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