Sunday, November 4, 2007

Getting grandpa wired

By Linda Marsa
Published: October 12 2007

Although Carol Roberts’s 77-year-old mother is active and mentally sharp, she suffers from a seizure disorder that requires close monitoring. Many people in her position would move in with family or into an assisted living facility. “But she didn’t want to lose her independence”, Roberts says.

Luckily, there is an alternative: the GrandCare System, which uses strategically placed sensors to record motion in key spots of the older woman’s home, such as the bathroom, kitchen, entryway and bedroom. Roberts can then check the information on her personal computer, keeping tabs on her mother around the clock.

“This way, she can live in her own space and I don’t worry,” she says.

The system, which costs $2,395 plus $49 a month, is just one of many innovative technologies developed in recent years to help a new generation of seniors. These range from remote-controlled lighting and floor sensors to more elaborate set-ups integrating webcams and videoconferencing systems with the internet. Scientists at universities and corporate research labs are meanwhile experimenting with the next wave of gadgets to track whether seniors are taking their medicine, to help with simple household tasks, such as cooking, and to detect mobility problems and medical emergencies.

The goal is to enable the elderly to live safely and independently at home for longer. For their adult children, the point is peace of mind.

The movement even has a name: “ageing in place”. And it is gathering momentum thanks to some important demographic trends. Over the next two decades the ranks of the “oldest old”, those aged 85 and up, are expected to balloon and, in 2011, the oldest members of the baby boom generation will turn 65. This advancing age wave will place an enormous burden on healthcare systems at a time when there are growing shortages of doctors, nurses and careworkers. Assisted living and skilled nursing facilities can’t be built fast enough to accommodate everyone and, even if they could, the costs would be astronomical.

“Corporations and government policy makers realise that as the boomers age, the costs won’t be sustainable if we continue to do business the way we’re doing it right now,” says Majd Alwan, director of the Center for Ageing Services Technologies in Washington, DC.

He and other observers think the solution is to create an entirely new paradigm of care, making it possible for seniors to remain in familiar surroundings until they die. “There is an intrinsic value to the home, where the individual has a sense of accomplishment and a level of comfort that they will never replicate by moving,” says Peter Bell, executive director of the US’s National Ageing in Place Council.

New technology is paving the way and we’ve come a long way from the electronic pendants with panic buttons the elderly can press in case of an emergency. Home automation, from specialist companies such as UK-based ABB, is one area of growth. “To date, the technology has mainly been associated with high-end audio-visual systems but, for the elderly or those with disabilities, smart controls offer massive benefits,” says ABB’s Gareth Rowlands. Tasks such as running bath water to the right temperature can be controlled via voice memos or remote “clickers” and dangerous scenarios, such as water over-flowing from a bath or sink, can be prevented with alarms.

There are also several monitoring and videoconferencing systems now on the market, including not only GrandCare but also AttentiveCare, AT&T’s Remote Monitor, Quiet Care and Home Guardian. Costs are reasonable, ranging from about $200 for a no-frills sensor network to about $2,000 for more complex systems. Because these products have come on the market within the past two years, their use isn’t widespread. “But they should become more popular, especially as the systems become more integrated,” Alwan says.

Deirdre and Steve Downham are early adopters, having installed an AtteniveCare system in the home of her 87-year-old mother, Olga Zaffos. A webcam hooked up to a PC with a flat panel television monitor in Zaffos’s living room transmits images through a broadband internet connection to a dedicated computer set up in her daughter and son-in-law’s nearby home. They can tell when she’s accidentally left the front door open and, whenever she wants to chat, she simply sits down in front of the camera. The computer is set up to flash reminders about taking medication and to receive messages, including family photos, the arrival of which is signalled by a distinctive ring recognisable even to people suffering from severe dementia.

“I check on her several times a day just to make sure she’s okay,” Steve Downham says.

The system, which costs $200 to set up, plus $600-$800 for off-the-shelf equipment and $60 for the monthly subscription, was devised by three brothers after their mother, who lived hundreds of miles away, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The family stepped up in-home care as her condition deteriorated but the monitoring and videoconferencing system allowed her to continue living on the family farm in rural Arkansas until she died of cancer in 2003 at age 86.

“I had coffee with her every morning and got her day started,” says Ken Nixon, one of the brothers and now chief executive of the Oklahoma City-based Caregiver Technologies, which makes AttentiveCare. “It made such a difference in my life and in the life of my mom because it kept her engaged and made her feel valuable.”

Remote Monitor ($199 for a starter kit, plus $9.95 a month) also uses webcams to watch over various rooms as well as motion sensors that register when certain doors open. It can even turn house lights on and off and check if someone left a coffee pot on the stove.

Quiet Care ($199 for a basic package, plus $99.95 a month for monitoring) uses five to 10 sensors positioned throughout the home – near the bedroom door, bathroom, refrigerator door or family room – to track movement. The results are input into a computer programme that maps behaviour patterns. If there is any change in daily habits, such as when a person gets out of bed or how much time he or she spends in the kitchen or bathroom, the system will send out an alarm.

And Home Guardian, developed at the University of Virginia and set to be released next year, works in a similar way, analysing footstep patterns to detect problems. Inside a book-sized box, which sits on the floor, is a sensor that measures tiny vibrations, a microprocessor that learns a person’s normal walking habits and a software programme that can spot changes. If a person falls, or begins limping or shuffling, both possible symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or arthritis, the device fires off an electronic message to a PC, which is then transmitted to a monitoring service or the caregiver.

The systems aren’t foolproof: experts worry that they can provide a false sense of security. There are privacy concerns too. “Some seniors have used a hanky to cover the camera,” Alwan says.

Still, he and others think they are better than the alternatives. “Privacy is relative and most feel it’s an acceptable price to pay to avoid being institutionalised.”

Researchers are now hard at work on even more high-tech tools to help the elderly at home. From the Aware House laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, there is the Digital Family Portrait, a monitoring system that keeps family members informed about their elderly relative’s activities, health status and possible problems by creating a “visualisation” of the person’s day as they move through the house. Dude’s Magic Box is meanwhile designed to help seniors keep in contact with their grandchildren. Youngsters put an item, such as a pet hamster, in the box, where a photo is taken. Dude, a cartoon character, pops up on the screen and asks if he should send the picture, then transmits the image to a computer screen at grandma or grandpa’s home. “Both of these devices are designed to make the senior who is living alone feel less isolated and reassure their children that they’re okay,” says Elizabeth D. Mynatt, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech.

Intel’s Health Research and Innovation Group is also working on new devices, such as “presence lamps”, which are set up in the homes of seniors and caregivers and light up when either person is home. “It comforts people to know that someone is around if they need help,” says lab director Eric Dishman. Another gadget, dubbed “caller ID on steroids”, is a computer plugged into a telephone, which holds information about the key people in an elderly person’s social network; when they call, a name pops up on-screen, along with a photo and a word or two to say who they are, helping jog the memories of those with dementia. “This gives people enough confidence to answer the phone and engage in a conversation,” Dishman says.

While all the new technologies are still in their infancy, they are important first steps toward coping effectively with an aging population. “The overall thrust is to increase the quality of life and of care that seniors receive in their home and ease the burdens on their families and on society in general,” Alwan says.

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Microsoft Acquires Hospital IT Software From GCS

GCS offers several health-care IT products that run on Windows, including software that automates patient record keeping, billing, regulatory compliance, and clinical workflows.

Continuing its push into systems and software that promise to modernize the provisioning of health care, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) said Monday that it has acquired a number of assets from Global Care Solutions -- a Bangkok-based developer of computer software used in hospitals.

Microsoft said it would take on an unspecified number of GCS employees as a result of the deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

GCS offers several health-care IT products that run in the Microsoft Windows environment, including software that automates patient record keeping, billing, regulatory compliance, and clinical workflows. The software is designed to run atop Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2005.

GCS developed its software in cooperation with Bangkok's Bumrungrad hospital, which treats more than 1.2 million patients per year. In a statement, Bumrungrad CEO Mack Banner said the use of GCS technology has helped the hospital reduce average patient waiting times to just 17 minutes.

"The GCS software is a key to our service delivery, medical quality, and financial performance," said Banner.

Microsoft sees as an opportunity the fact that a growing number of health-care organizations around the world are turning to IT to reduce costs and comply with increasingly complex government regulations.

Earlier this year, the company acquired Medstory Inc. -- a developer of search engines that provide health information over the Web -- with an eye to building out its recently formed Health Solutions Group. Last year, Microsoft bought out clinical software maker Assyxxi.

Not only does health care represent a lucrative market for Microsoft, it fits with chairman Bill Gates' growing interest in tackling issues beyond computer technology. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has to date contributed millions of dollars to the fights against AIDs, malaria and other diseases.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Doctors click to networking

By Christopher Bowe in New York
Published: October 14 2007,

US doctors may not have time to be out of the office with colleagues playing golf anymore, but they might be found clicking away online (on a social networking site) instead.

And the demise of doctors’ weekday golf availability and their time on, the US social networking site for physicians, are very much related.

As the structure of medicine changes and more treatment is done in physician’s offices, allowing patients to avoid hospital stays – so-called outpatient treatment – doctors can spend more time there, and much less time than before interacting with peers.

Dr Daniel Palestrant, founder and chief executive of Sermo, says doctors’ increasing sense of isolation was one of the most unexpected findings after launching his social networking site a year ago.

“Golf is a thing of the past; even doctors’ lounges are things of the past. What was shocking to me was these doctors described themselves as ‘lonely’.”

But that is changing as doctors are now linking themselves and their practice of medicine in new ways with technology more often associated with teenagers than surgeons.

This shift is highlighted in the current collective discussion among Sermo’s online community of more than 30,000 physician members on what to call themselves. So far, they prefer “Sermoans”.

The Sermoans are medicine in the MySpace age. And it’s not just the younger set fresh from medical school. The attraction of belonging and the ability to publish or broadcast personal professional pursuits to a distinct and interactive online social community and receive feedback is grabbing the older, busiest doctors the most.

Dr Palestrant says he expected Sermo’s users to be dominated by younger doctors like himself at age 33. But instead, Sermo member doctors 45 years of age and older outnumber by three-to-one those under 45.

Sermo, which verifies each member’s credentials, is free to join for doctors, whose profiles can range from minimal biographical information to photos and personal details. Its business model rests on two fundamentals: no advertising and open, unedited interactions between members.

For instance, a doctor posts a medical case, and others help to work the problem. Other discussions can expose conflicts of interest in doctors, seek emotional support, or ask for guidance on hiring and firing office employees. “The wisdom of crowds dictates these things. It’s startling how effective this happens,” Dr Palestrant says.

Nevertheless, it was the prohibition of marketing and branding that at first left the pharmaceutical companies wondering how they could ever work on such a new frontier. Dr Palestrant estimates that nine months ago about 90 per cent of drugmakers he approached either thought Sermo was a joke, or looked for reasons why it would not work.

Pfizer was interested nine months ago, as the company struggling and in transition with Jeff Kindler, its new chief executive, sought fresh ideas.

Pfizer sees the technology as potentially helpful, efficient and a dynamic way of letting doctors obtain information on its drugs, learning more about its own drugs, improving relations with the medical community, and getting new ideas and feedback on clinical trials.

Dr Michael Berelowitz, global medical chief at Pfizer, said: “The most interesting thing for us about Sermo is in many ways it represents a future direction for physician discourse.

“The physicians at Pfizer would like to become part of the social fabric and learn to work with the physicians’ social network in ways they feel comfortable working with us.

“We in turn learn from them and learn how best our medicines may be used, and how best that knowledge of our medicines may be generated.”

Timing is always important, and Pfizer’s interest coincides with the company’s rigorous self-examination and search for change to reignite growth and prepare for a changing drug market.

Similarly, physicians have been seen as fragmented, disorganised and resistant to new technology, thus making them a formidable obstacle to healthcare cost reform, particularly in the US. Uniting them with a technology platform could bring many more important changes in the future.

Source: Financial Times

Friday, October 5, 2007

Microsoft launches HealthVault - platform for the people

By Diana Manos, Senior Editor

10/04/07, Healthcare IT News

WASHNGTON – Microsoft today launched a new technology platform it bills as the answer to how consumers can best get a handle on their healthcare information – and share it.

Called Microsoft HealthVault, the technology not only has the support of healthcare providers, patient activists and device manufacturers, it also passes muster with one of the industry’s toughest privacy rights advocate Deborah Peel, MD, founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, one of 50 organizations that comprise the Coalition for Patient Privacy.

The company also unveiled a new search engine called Microsoft HealthVault Search.

The promise of HealthVault is that it will bring the health and technology industries together to create new applications, services and connected devices, said Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group. People will be empowered to monitor anything from weight loss to diabetes, he said.

“People are concerned to find themselves at the center of the healthcare ecosystem today,” Neupert said, because they must navigate a complex web of disconnected interactions between providers, hospitals, insurance companies and even government agencies. Neupert added. “Our focus is simple: to empower people to lead healthy lives.”

He said the launch of HealthVault makes it possible for people to collect their private health information on their terms. Also, companies across the healthcare industry will be able to develop compatible tools and services built on the HealthVault platform.

Addressing concerns over privacy and security was critical to development and launch of HealthVault, Microsoft executives said. Peel said Microsoft is leading the way for the rest of the industry.

“Their model is that consumers truly should control the information and that’s the direction they want to take as a company,” said Peel. “We really think that because they are the industry leader that the rest of industry will have to follow or be left behind.”

“Microsoft has agreed to adhere to all of the privacy principles that the coalition developed in 2007, ” Peel said. “Not only adhere to them in terms of contracts but to be audited on these principles. We think they’re setting a new amazingly high bar and frankly, we think what they’re doing is really the best practice that the entire industry needs to follow.”

A Who’s Who of healthcare IT industry leaders seemed to have joined Microsoft for the hoopla in the nation’s capital. Microsoft announced 40 partners for HealthVault. Among them are the American Heart Association, Johnson & Johnson, Polar, maker of heart rate monitors, MedStar Health, a healthcare system that serves the Baltimore and Washington region, and Chicago-based Allscripts, developer of electronic health records.

According to Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman, Allscripts will be first to connect with HealthVault with its eRx Now, the Web-based electronic prescribing solution offered at no cost to physicians across the country as part of the National ePrescribing Patient Initiative, or NEPSI. HealthVault lets patients of eRx NOW physician users receive an electronic copy of their medication history, conditions, and allergies, which they can then transfer to their own personal health record or other HealthVault-enabled consumer health application.

Frank Opelka, MD, CEO of LSU Healthcare Network in New Orleans, said HealthVault was one more reason why doctors “should run, not walk, to embrace electronic prescribing through NEPSI and, on a broader scale, electronic health records.”

“What we are really talking about is connecting healthcare,” said Tullman. “It’s not enough to have good software, it’s got to be connected.”

Microsoft Launches 'HealthVault' Records-Storage Site,1759,2191920,00.asp
Front Page

At a gathering of healthcare providers in Washington D.C on Thursday morning, Microsoft is expected to launch HealthVault, an online repository where users can store health-related information.

As the name suggests, the HealthVault site is designed to be an online, encrypted vault, where U.S. users can store and manage their health records without paying a fee. The site will also serve as a repository for health-related articles and other information, Microsoft said.

HealthVault will also allow users to upload data from a small number of HealthVault-compatible devices, and allow users to send, receive and store their own medical records and information from doctors and healthcare providers. The information that could be stored in the vault includes data from fitness-related and health activities, according to Microsoft. Examples include aerobic sessions, measurements such as blood glucose and blood pressure, discharge summaries from hospitalizations, lab results, medications, and health history.

Microsoft's effort also won an endorsement from the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, which praised Microsoft's privacy policy, which allows users to control which information they provide to other services through an opt-in program. In its privacy page, Microsoft says "We do not use your health information for commercial purposes unless we ask and you clearly tell us we may."

The site will operate in conjunction with the improvements to Windows Live Search, especially the heath-specific search engine that Microsoft debuted last week. The HealthVault site went live briefly on Wednesday, before Microsoft restricted the site to the health-related search engine.

The question, however, is what legal liability Microsoft will end up accepting as the operator of the HealthVault site. Furthermore, it is unclear what role the site will play inside the chain of agencies covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which was enacted in 1996 and governs the transmission of confidential healthcare information. HIPAA covers "health plans, health care clearinghouses, and to any health care provider who transmits health information in electronic form in connection with transactions for which the Secretary of HHS has adopted standards under HIPAA," according to the act. It also covers "business associates" in certain cases, which includes "specified written safeguards" as data passes from one entity to another.

Reached before the official launch, a Microsoft spokeswoman said that the HealthVault site was covered by "HIPAA considerations," but she did not know the extent.

Microsoft: security is a top concern

Users can be granted access to other records, and manage them, as in the case of a sick mother's records managed by her son. Users have different levels of access privileges, with the highest being "custodial" access, with free privileges to add, modify or delete data, as well as grant or deny others access. The second tier is a "view-and-modify" access, and there is a time-limited, view-only access tier as well.

However, the site has made extra efforts to boost security. In some cases, users will be required to increase the complexity of their password until Microsoft's algorithms classify it as a "strong" password, based upon a PC Magazine examination of the site. (The definition of "strong"appears to include a password with a minimum number of characters, numbers, and some capitalization or special characters.)

Searches for medical information aren't identified by person or username, although logs of the searches are saved for 90 days, the Microsoft spokeswoman said. In addition, accesses and changes to health records are logged and viewable to the user.

Finally, Microsoft said the company isolated traffic onto a virtually separate network and located its servers in physically separate, locked cages.

"All data that moves among our systems are encrypted, including all traffic to and from HealthVault, its users and its partners," Microsoft said in a statement. "Access to HealthVault data by Microsoft employees is tightly controlled and extremely limited to a small group of personnel necessary to perform essential operations. All of our back up data is encrypted, and every stage of its transportation is logged. We also log every time records are created, changed, or read, leaving a clear audit trail."

However, the site's partners and their programs appear to only be answerable to Microsoft, who will serve as arbiter in any disputes. "In order to make a Program available through the Service, the Program provider must commit to protecting the privacy of your health data," the privacy policy states. "Microsoft can revoke a Program provider's access to the Service if a Program does not meet its privacy commitments to Microsoft. We encourage you to contact us if you believe a Program is not protecting the privacy or security of your health data.

Records can be instantly discarded, but Microsoft will hold them in a private cache for 90 days as a foil against malicious deletion, the site's privacy policy says.

Much of the site's expected health-related information was absent before the official launch, although users could log in and conceivably begin uploading data. Microsoft has made available special drivers so that users of certain blood pressure monitors can upload the information directly to the site. How that information will be maintained – as discrete pieces of information or data that can be crosslinked to ongoing exercise, weight, and blood pressure logs, for example – was not specified.

However, the site's partners are expected to shoulder some of the burden, the Microsoft spokeswoman said. For example, one partner application will provide doctors with a virtual fax number that will take the faxed document and automatically add it to the HealthVault account, she said.

Microsoft said approximately forty applications and devices are either available or planned for the HealthVault platform, with contributions from ActiveHealth Management, Allscripts, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, American Lung Association, Eclipsys Corporation, Home Diagnostics, Johnson & Johnson's LifeScan, Microlife USA, Nexcura, US Wellness, and WorldDoc, among others.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

First Google Health Screenshots


Google Health, codename “Weaver”, is Google’s planned health information storage program. Google’s Vice President of Engineering Adam Bosworth lobbies for the program for quite a while now. Adam said the current US health care system is challenged when it comes to “supporting caregivers and communicating between different medical organizations.” Adam went on to say that people “need the medical information that is out there and available to be organized and made accessible to all ... Health information should be easier to access and organize, especially in ways that make it as simple as possible to find the information that is most relevant to a specific patient’s needs.” Adam adds that this – making information accessible – happens to be along Google’s mission.

The New York Times today writes that “about 20 percent of the [US] patient population have computerized records – rather than paper ones – and the Bush administration has pushed the health care industry to speed up the switch to electronic formats. But these records still tend to be controlled by doctors, hospitals or insurers. A patient moves to another state, for example, but the record usually stays.” But, the NYT continues, initiatives like the one by Google “would give much more control to individuals, a trend many health experts see as inevitable.” A prototype of Google Health has now been shown “to health professionals and advisers,” the NYT reports.

To find out just what you might be able to see in a future Google Health service, take a look at these screenshots from Google’s prototype which have been sent in here. As prototypes go, certain approaches of the program may change, and the specific interface may or may not be kept like this in a final release. “We’ll make mistakes and it will be a long-range march,” the NYT quotes Adam Bosworth.

There are two tabs to be seen in Google Health: Profiles and Medical Contacts. The profiles tab has several sub-sections, including “Services and health guide,” “Conditions & symptoms,” “Medications,” “Age, sex, height...” and “Family history.”
A privacy policy at the bottom disclaims that “Any information you enter will remain private. Google will not share it with anyone without your permission.”

This “Conditions & symptoms” dialog includes an auto-completion feature, just like other input boxes in Google Health. You enter “head”, and Google suggests “Head and Neck Angioedema”, “Head Injury”, “Head Pain” and more.

The “Services and health guide” section reads: “Get the most out of Google Health - If your medical providers or pharmacy offer secure downloading of medical records, you can find and add your records to a profile. You can also browse for websites that connect securely to Google Health and provide services for managing your health care.”
Under the headline “Google health guide” this explanation follows: “When you add some information to your profile, Google Health will search trusted medical sources and create a health guide targeted for you. ... Google Health will check for relevant updates to your guide whenever you add new information to the profile.” You can use the health guide, Google writes, to learn about drug interactions, treatments, tests and preventive measures.
A side box warns, “Be sure to discuss questions about your medical care with your doctor or medical provider before making changes,” and a footnote reads, “Built in collaboration with”.

The “Allergies” tab. The “Add an Allergy” box suggests “e.g. penicillin.”

You can add a procedure or surgery on this page. As an example, Google provides “appendectomy.”

The “Test results” section. You can add e.g. “cholesterol LDL”.

The “Add an immunication” interface does not allow free-style text input, but restricts you to a selection box instead. Available entries include “Diphtheria, tetanus toxoids, acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP)” or “Hepatitis A vaccine.”

The “Age, sex, height...” page collects various personal information such as date of birth, gender, ethnicity, blood type, weight, or smoking habits. One of the questions asked is, “Do you drink alcoholic beverages?” Another question is, “Have you smoked more than 20 cigarettes in your lifetime?” Google explains that they ask for your date of birth to “keep your age up to date and show the most relevant guidance.”

The “Family history” dialog lets you add a relative and their respective conditions. The selection box includes entries like “Husband”, “Wife”, “Mother”, “Father”, “Son”, and Google provides the condition example “diabetes.”

On this page, you can “add a doctor”. Our current unnamed sample patient has no medical contacts. You can search the “Google Doctor Directory” to find contacts.

Google Health Prototype


New York Times reports that Google's plans for a service that puts you in control of your health information start to take shape. This service could help you make more informed decisions about your health, get personalized recommendations from specialists and share this information with other people.

A prototype of Google Health, which the company has shown to health professionals and advisers, embodies the consumer-centered philosophy. The welcome page reads, "At Google, we feel patients should be in charge of their health information, and they should be able to grant their healthcare providers, family members, or whomever they choose, access to this information. Google Health was developed to meet this need."

A presentation of screen images from the prototype - which two people who received it showed to a reporter - then has 17 other Web pages including a "health profile" for medications, conditions and allergies; a personalized "health guide" for suggested treatments, drug interactions and diet and exercise regimens; pages for sharing information, receiving reminder messages to get prescription refills or visit a doctor, and pages to access directories for nearby physicians and specialists.

More about Google Health straight from the horse's mouth:

* Health care information matters - "Health information should be easier to access and organize, especially in ways that make it as simple as possible to find the information that is most relevant to a specific patient's needs."

* How do you know you're getting the best care possible? - "There is a lot of material out there about drugs, diseases, procedures and treatments. How do you know what is trustworthy and what isn't? Search is great at finding us places with relevant information, but it is hard to know which links are reliable and which are less so."

* Is there a doctor in the family? - "We have been talking to many medical experts to understand what the best guidelines are, and how we can determine which ones apply in different circumstances. If such guidelines were more available to patients, they might be able to, by inputting information such as age, gender or medications, learn about recommended screening tests and other preventive measures, or about harmful drug interactions."

* Some screenshots of the prototype.

{ The first screenshot is licensed as Creative Commons by Philipp Lenssen. The second image, where you can see Adam Bosworth (VP at Google and Google Health's architect), is licensed as Creative Commons by AlphachimpStudio. }

Sunday, May 13, 2007

2007 Interactive Media Award Winner for Healthcare

Healia Wins Outstanding Achievement Award for Health Search Website From Interactive Media Awards

BELLEVUE, WA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 03, 2007 -- Healia, a health vertical search engine for high quality and personalized health information, has won an Outstanding Achievement Award in the healthcare category from the 2007 Interactive Media Awards.

The honor, granted by the Interactive Media Council, recognizes Web sites that surpass the highest standards of excellence and that represent the Web's most professional and outstanding work. The judging criteria included design, usability, technical innovation, standards compliance, and content.

"We are honored to have our search engine recognized by the Interactive Media Awards," stated Tom Eng, CEO of Healia, Inc. "This award reflects Healia's passionate focus on building unique consumer health Internet technologies that have the highest levels of compelling design, usability, and innovation."


Healia, Inc. ( is the creator of a proprietary, health-optimized search engine that uses patent-pending technology to generate high quality, highly targeted, and personalized results for consumers. The Healia search engine is available to partners for free in an advertising revenue share relationship or for a license fee to maintain an ad-free environment common to health organizations and employers. Its licensees include the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the nation's largest integrated health care system.

About the Interactive Media Awards

The Interactive Media Awards ( recognize the highest standards of excellence in Web site design and development and honor individuals and organizations for their outstanding achievement. Sponsored by the Interactive Media Council, Inc., a nonprofit organization of leading Web designers, developers, programmers, advertisers and other Web-related professionals, the competition seeks to elevate the standards of excellence on the Internet.


Tassie DeMoney
Healia, Inc.
12505 Bel-Red Rd., Suite 209
Bellevue, WA 98005
Phone: 425 646 6030

Source: Market Wire

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mobiles 'to help track diseases'

Tuesday, 17 October 2006, 11:23 GMT

Village in Africa
The application can deliver information in remote locations
Mobile phone technology is being developed to help manage the spread of diseases such as HIV and bird flu.

The software is designed to allow field workers using handsets to send and receive data on disease outbreaks along with patient and drug information.

The project is a collaboration between technology firm Voxiva and the trade association for mobile operators, GSMA.

Trials of the relatively low-cost application are underway in Rwanda, Africa and in Indonesia.

When a disease is spreading rapidly, health authorities need information that is bang-up-to-date
Rob Conway, GSMA

The program works by sending the data through the general packet radio service (GPRS) network, and if this is unavailable, it can divert to an SMS data channel, normally used for text messages.

It is programmed using java language, so can work across different handsets and operators.

This means a doctor working in the field can send information to a central database about how many people are affected by a disease, patient status, drug inventory levels and receive information such as alerts, treatment guidelines or lab test results.

Ben Soppitt, director of strategic initiatives, GSMA, said: "This will allow health officials to see real-time accurate data on the status of the healthcare system in their country so they can make informed decisions about where those resources are applied."

'Vital data'

GSMA and Voxiva said the technology will be particularly valuable for helping to track communicable diseases, such as HIV. A pilot to the system's ability to track bird flu is also taking place in Indonesia.

Rob Conway, CEO of GSMA, said: "The efforts of the international health community to control pandemics, by getting life-saving drugs to those in need, depend heavily on a comprehensive and accurate picture of what is happening on the ground.

"When a disease is spreading rapidly, health authorities need information that is bang-up-to-date. Mobile networks, which are now widespread in the developing world, are the best and most immediate way to get them that vital data."

The cost of rolling out the technology in Rwanda, including setting-up and implementation costs, is about $1m.

Source: BBC


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Weblogs - Medical Librarianship

LISWiki, 10 April 2007

This is a list of medical librarianship Weblogs. These weblogs are:

  1. about medical / health / health sciences / biomedical librarianship;
  2. written by (a) medical librarian(s) or medical library paraprofessional(s);
  3. maintained by a medical library; or
  4. maintained by professional association of medical librarians and/or medical library paraprofessionals.

OPML file for this list (Updated 11/18/2006)

View OPML with Grazr

Search these blogs!

Name Feed Description
Le Babouin Feed Blogue adapté aux bibliothécaires ouvertement utopistes, indisciplinés et novateurs (French Language)
Biblioteca Virtual de Ciencias de la Salud Feed Health Sciences information resources (Spanish Language)
Biomedbiblog Feed Weblog of the Dutch Medical Library Association (Dutch Language)
BiUM Feed Un autre regard sur la Bibliothèque Universitaire de Médecine de Lausanne (French Language)
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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

'Personal' health websites sought

Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 00:13 GMT

Internet user
People like to read personal testimonies, the study says
People searching online for health advice often reject sites giving high quality information in favour of those with a human touch, a study suggests.

Researchers found people use an initial weeding out process to deal with the minefield of health information of variable quality available.

However, this tends to mean they quickly eliminate most NHS and drug company websites, they said.

The study was funded by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council.

People don't have the patience to scroll through pages in order to find something useful
Professor Pamela Briggs
Northumbria University

The researchers examined the internet search strategies of people who wanted to find specific health information on topics such as high blood pressure, the menopause and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

They found that many websites were dismissed at quite amazing speeds.

Lead researcher Professor Pamela Briggs, from Northumbria University, said: "One thing that really put people off was advertising, so people clicked off drug company websites straight away.

"Generally, the medical information on drug company sites is very accurate but people question the authors' motivation and agenda.

"The issue of impartiality is quite crucial in building trust."

Personal stories

NHS websites fared little better. Often these were rejected because the first page participants were directed to was a portal or they had too much background or generic content.

Professor Briggs said: "People don't have the patience to scroll through pages in order to find something useful.

"Ease of access is so important."

The research also found that even if a site made a favourable first impression, it was unlikely to keep the attention if it did not include personal stories to which the reader could relate.

Many were specifically drawn to sites where they could read about the experiences of other people who have the same problems and concerns.

But Professor Briggs warned that the tendency to trust sites with personal testimonies from like-minded peers was potentially flawed, as it could reinforce unhealthy behaviour patterns.

Dr Paul Cundy, a GP and member of the British Medical Association's IT committee, said there was also a danger that personal testimonies were planted by drugs companies.

He said drugs companies had been known to sponsor self-help sites which appeared at first glance to be independent.

"People should be encouraged to gather information from the web, but they should then take it to a doctor to discuss face-to-face rather than immediately taking action based on what they have found," he said.

Source: BBC


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

DailyStrength — the health support social network

Posted By Matt Marshall On 26th November 2006 @ 22:59 In Business and Technology |

dailystrengthlogo.bmp[1] DailyStrength is another one of those Internet sites you swear you’ve heard of before, because the idea sounds so obvious and the need so great.

It is a health support social network, and it has just raised a first round of funding from Redpoint Ventures.

Health care has been a popular theme in recent years. You’ve got search engines like [2] Kosmix and [3] Healthline, advice sites for doctors, and large informational sites like [4] WebMD. But none have developed vibrant social networks. WebMD has [5] messsage boards, but that’s it.

If you’ve got second-stage breast cancer, and you’re about to take a drug called Tamoxifen, what happens when you do that? Where do women go to find people who are also taking the drug, correspond with each other, and give each other virtual “hugs” at 3am? That’s the place DailyStrength aims to be, says co-founder Doug Hirsch.

It is early days for the site. It takes a second to see all that is there; its front-page is a bit busy. But once you dig deeper and play around with it, it is quite logical. Each member of the network belongs to a community centered around a health problem, say breast cancer — and they each can create a personal profile. Finally, there’s a listing of treatments, which is also cross referenced with communities and the profiles.

Hirsch likes to point, for example, to the second most popular treatment, [6] Lexapro. The Lexapro treatment page shows that more than 100 people have used it, but that only half of them find it works. But it shows ten people used it for bipolar disorder, and 80 percent of them report it successful. While not scientific, it provides a good guide nonetheless.


The site then lets you drill down, by selecting the “bipolar disorder” link, which takes you to a page with more information about that health problem, and a listing of members suffering from it, and the discussions they are having about it. See screenshot here:


DailyStrength has four employees, and six contractors. It is based in Los Angeles, but is still semi-virtual, with Hirsch’s other co-founders Lars Nilsen and Josh Deford in Santa Cruz and Portland. DailyStrength launched quietly in September, and had 50,000 unique visitors in November, Hirsch says.

Inspiration for the site, Hirsch says, came during college when Hirsch watched a cousin get liver cancer and die within a few months. Hirsch “ran away” from it at the time, but the experience stuck with him, he says.

Coincidentally, Hirsch developed an interest in the social aspects of the Web. Hirsch joined Yahoo in 1996 as employee #20 and ran product management at Yahoo for chat, personals, message boards, groups and mail. He left in 2001, and ran Yahoo’s entertainment division for four years. Hirsch was also a vice president at Facebook for a few months, until he left earlier this year. His two co-founders are also ex-Yahoos.

The Web’s social networking sites are only popular among the 15 to 25 age-group, Hirsch says, with the exception of [7] LinkedIn. To be popular among a wider age group, a site has to deal with a subject people are passionate about — for example, sex, money or survival. That explains LinkedIn, Hirsch says — it serves peoples’ perceived need to network in order to make money. Health and survival, however, are passions that don’t have social networking outlet to date, he said. Thus DailyStrength.

There are a slew of other sites that come close to what DailyStrength does, such as [8] CarePages, and [9] CaringBridge and [10] OrganizedWisdom, but none of them have focused as much on networking or offer the latest Web 2.0 tools and look we’ve become familiar with. One more recent Silicon Valley competitor, [11] MDJunction, comes close; it is still focused on breast cancer, but is building out. There is also niche site [12], which has a vibrant community, but it is non-profit. Steve Case launched [13] Revolution Health in April last year, but it’s not clear where it is headed.

(Hat-tip to [14] Noah)

Article printed from VentureBeat:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:
[1] DailyStrength:
[2] Kosmix:
[3] Healthline:
[4] WebMD:
[5] messsage boards:
[6] Lexapro:
[7] LinkedIn:
[8] CarePages:
[9] CaringBridge :
[10] OrganizedWisdom:
[11] MDJunction:
[13] Revolution Health:
[14] Noah:


Monday, February 26, 2007

Microsoft to buy health Web search company

REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. information-technology giant Microsoft has taken another step to bolster its new healthcare division, the company said Monday.

It has agreed to acquire Medstory, a small California-based company that develops Web search technology for health information. The financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Microsoft interest was piqued by Medstory's search technology, which pre-screens health Web search results to help consumers and healthcare providers more quickly find relevant health information, said Peter Neupert, head of Microsoft's Health Solutions Group.

The acquisition, which will be formally announced by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer at a New Orleans health systems conference, is the latest of several health-related purchases for the company.

Medstory CEO Alain Rappaport will head the medical search division at Microsoft.

Source: UPI

see also:
Microsoft to acquire search start-up Medstory
from ZDNet
Microsoft Demonstrates Further Commitment to Healthcare Market With Planned Acquisition of Web Search Company at MicroSoft

Sunday, January 14, 2007

System to spot at-risk patients

Sunday, 14 January 2007, 00:06 GMT

Woman with asthma
Patients with conditions such as asthma could benefit
Computer technology is helping doctors identify patients with long-term conditions at risk of deterioration, before they need hospital care.

Using patient information from a range of sources, a new programme predicts when people with conditions such as asthma will take a turn for the worse.

The aim is to cut emergency admissions by allowing health workers to intervene before the situation becomes critical.

The Department of Health says this will mean patients get better care.

This new model will arm healthcare professionals with the information they need to target patients
Niall Dickson
King's Fund

With the right intervention, ministers argue, the deterioration of a patient's condition could be prevented or slowed down.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: "Our population is getting older and more of us are living with an illness or condition which means huge increases in demand on health and social care services."


The Combined Predictive Model has been developed by the King's Fund, Health Dialog and New York University.

The system uses patient information from accident and emergency, inpatient, outpatient and GP sources.

Part of the system has already been tested in several primary care trusts, and the fully fledged version has been trialled in Croydon, south London.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the King's Fund, said: "This new model will arm healthcare professionals with the information they need to target patients who face a much greater risk of ending up in hospital if their conditions are not managed effectively in the community.

"Previous techniques only allowed us to identify patients who had already been admitted to hospital on at least one occasion.

"However, this model allows us to go beyond this group to identify and provide better care for the vast numbers of people whose conditions are not yet at this critical stage.

"Helping these patients with good disease management programmes, or supporting them to self-manage, should have a great impact on their daily lives and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions."

Geraint Lewis, specialist registrar at Croydon PCT, said the new model had transformed the way people with complex medical and social needs are looked after in Croydon.

He said: "By allowing us to identify individuals before they become acutely unwell, our clinicians can offer proactive - rather than reactive - care."

Source: BBC