June 2008

NEWS REVIEW – WORLD

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Smart fabrics for health to be piloted by EU team

A cluster of EU research projects, collectively known as the SFIT Group, are piloting garments which can measure a wearer’s body temperature or trace their heart activity.

The European Commission scheme, known as Biotex, is focused on supporting the development of smart textiles. Miniaturised biosensors in a textile patch can analyse body fluids such as sweat, and provide an accurate assessment of the wearer’s health.

The idea is that a fabric would be embedded with numerous sensors, constantly monitoring vital signs. If danger signs are detected, the garment could be programmed to contact the wearer’s doctor or send them a warning text message.

Jean Luprano, a researcher at the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology (SCEM), and coordinator of the project, said medicine was one of the main areas the technology could be applied. Luprano said development work included a suite of sensors that can be integrated into a textile patch, incorporating both a sensing and processing unit that could target and respond to different body fluids or biochemistry. The system uses no power, thereby reducing the power demands of the system and the weight of a battery pack that the wearer would have to carry.

Berlin University opens telemedicinecentre

The Charit� University Hospital, part of Berlin University, has opened a centre for cardiovascular telemedicine that will carry out research and provide services to patients.

The new centre will carry out clinical research on telemedicine for cardiovascular patients and act as a telemedicine call-centre for patients on home monitoring programmes.

The hospital is already engaged in international telemedicine consultations, for example as the academic centre of excellence for the telepathology network of the International Union Against Cancer, and as a telemedicine partner of Shanghai University Hospital. To open its own call centre was the next logical step, said Ganten.

The first big project at the new centre began a few weeks ago with the ‘Partnership for the Heart’ project, a clinical study on telemonitoring for patients with chronic heart failure.

“If successful, telemedicine in heart failure patients will finally be reimbursed on a regular basis within the German public insurance system”, said K�hler. This would be a major breakthrough, since it would mean that every doctor with heart failure patients could issue a “prescription for telemedicine”.

Sweden launches national e-health strategy

The Swedish government has launched a new citizen-centred national e-health strategy designed to ensure the provision of information to where it is needed, to support improvements in care. The new e-health strategy focuses on the need to use information and communication technologies (ICT) to achieve improvements for patients, health professionals and decision-makers.

Setting out the future strategy for e-health in the country, the government says it will use appropriate ICT-based tools to ensure care professionals can devote more time to patients and adapt care provision to individual needs. “ICT will be used as a strategic tool at all levels in the care sector, and health care resources as a whole will be utilised more efficiently and effectively” says the strategy. This will include, providing citizens with access to personal data on their own care, treatment and health status.

It says citizens “must also be able to contact care services via the internet for assistance, advice or help with self-treatment”. Healthcare professionals meanwhile should have access to efficient, interoperable eHealth solutions that support them in their daily work,”the document says.

Philips provides speech-recognition to Oslo hospital

Philips has signed a new deal to deploy SpeechMagic across the Ull University Hospital in Oslo, Norway’s largest clinical centre.
The hospital will roll out SpeechMagic to more than 1,000 physicians across all medical specialities. Once completed in early 2009, Philips says the implementation is expected to be the world’s largest deployment of front-end speech recognition at a single hospital site.

The hospital expects to increase the quality of medical reports, speed up documentation workflows and reduce administrative costs, which should contribute to improved patient care.

The hospital-wide deal, which came through the local Philips Speech Recognition Systems partner Max Manus, follows a successful pilot 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.

SpeechMagic has been implemented in more than 8,000 sites worldwide, sold by over 200 Philips partners. “Norway is probably the world’s most advanced country to adopt speech recognition-based information capturing in healthcare. The scale of this latest deployment proves that speech recognition-based information capturing in electronic health records has become a reality.

Siemens introduces laptop-based ultrasound system

The Siemens Acuson P50 is a new laptop-based ultrasound system with integrated echocardiography software. The system is designed for mobile applications in cardiology, musculoskeletal and vascular imaging, as well as in the operation theatre and anaesthesiology departments.

The P50 offers ultrasound with a complete range of transducers, communications and computer functionality – such as office software and Internet access, in one mobile system.

The system provides high image resolution in B mode and in colour Doppler mode. It also includes an integrated stress echo function. It can run several cardiology application packages, including Siemens’ syngo Velocity Vector Imaging and syngo Arterial Health Package, which can be used to determine a patient’s vascular age. Together with syngo Auto Left Heart, these applications simplify and accelerate the workflow in echocardiography and vascular diagnosis.

Siemens also recently introduced its Acuson P10 handheld ultrasound device. The P10 weighs 700gm and fits easily into a lab coat pocket. It is intended for complementary initial diagnostic care and triage, particularly in emergency care, obstetrics and cardiology.

Nottingham univ hospitals to deploy Cisco network

The Nottingham University Hospitals’ NHS Trust has signed a multi-million-pound agreement to use Cisco technology to provide a state-of-the-art network infrastructure across hospitals.

The new network is expected to help reduce costs, improve access to healthcare information, and provide patients with services faster and more efficiently. The choice was made following a significant period of research by the Trust’s IT team, which included a visit to St. Olav’s University Hospital in Trondheim, Norway, widely regarded as a flagship ‘connected hospital’ in Europe.

The project is expected to be completed by March 2010 and will be implemented and supported by NextiraOne UK, a Cisco Gold Certified Partner.

The Cisco Medical-Grade Network will include many of Cisco’s portfolio of products, including foundational networking technologies delivering highly secure, high-performance fixed and wireless networking, centralised Wi-Fi, Unified Communications Software, collaboration tools, network security products, and location-based services. The solution will support a broad range of applications to help improve the delivery of healthcare services.

A wireless network will provide real-time access to information at the bedside and help ensure that clinicians can be contacted anywhere on campus.

Electronic methadone dispensing for UK prisons

Prisons in England will be provided with biometric-based computer controlled methadone dispensing systems (CCMDS) under a framework agreement between the Department of Health and NEC UK.

Under the agreement, NEC will deliver CCMDS to up to 100 prisons in England, with ongoing technical support and consultancy for five years. Phase I, in which CCDMS will be implemented in 72 prisons, started in December 2007.

The system includes biometric software, the network infrastructure, computer hardware and a methadone dispenser, and is being delivered in conjunction with partners Methasoft UK Ltd. and Human Recognition Systems Ltd.

CCMDS enables the accurate and controlled dispensing of prescribed methadone to prisoners addicted to heroin, according to the requirements outlined in their individual treatment record. It uses a combination of biometric identifiers, such as a fingerprint or iris scans, to identify the correct person and access the prisoner’s treatment record before dispensing methadone.

Participation in CCMDS is not mandatory for prisoners, although uptake is high, and there is no infringement of personal security or human rights as the system does not physically store ‘images’ of biometric data, only the coding which enables an individual to be identified.

Open source health IT solutions in Europe

The open source developer community, Open Health Tools (OHT), has announced a collaborative effort to develop common healthcare IT products and services. Its 26 members consist of national health agencies, government-funded organisations and agencies, major healthcare providers, international standards organisations and companies from Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.

Formed in November 2007, OHT’s mission is to provide software tools and components that will accelerate the implementation of electronic health information interoperability platforms, which improve patient quality of care, safety and access to electronic health records (EHR).

The results will be available under an open source agreement so anyone may use them to provide interoperable healthcare platforms that will link clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and other points of care to make healthcare systems more efficient.

OHT’s health interoperability framework will use standardised, open interfaces and a set of reusable software components that can be assembled into systems and products by health systems and vendors. OHT is open to membership from any organisation and the results of member efforts are made available under a commercially friendly open source license. Research points to a potential annual savings of US$ 77.8 billion in the United States alone from the introduction of healthcare information exchange and interoperability.

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