News&Views

November 7, 2006

Rx: Use Caller ID

Filed under: — mlazoff

press release on mobile computing has been picked up by several news sources, including iHealthbeat and HealthcareIT News. In mid-2006, the marketing intelligence firm Spyglass Consulting Group conducted telephone interviews on over a hundred physicians and nurses working across the country in inpatient and outpatient settings. The full report costs $2,295 but their lead finding is free: 67% of clinicians interviewed carry multiple mobile communication devices, including pagers, cell phones, smartphones and VoIP phones. Among other findings, these clinicians ”create artifical barriers to prevent unnecessary interruptions and tend to prioritize communications based on whom they know.”                     



September 26, 2006

Resuscitating Anne’s great great grandchildren

Filed under: — mlazoff

The September issue of International Review of Information Ethics (IRIE) is on Ethics in Information Technology in Medicine and Health Care. Recommended: the article by two Finnish information technologists on The Use of Extremely Anthropomorphized Artefacts in Medicine, which examines the implications of using human-like robots in training medical students—far more natural appearing than today’s familiar CPR training mannequin, Anne. “Before the technology reaches its peak and the students can practice with artefacts that respond exactly like human beings we must define principles and ensure in practice that the transition from “manikin to man” goes with as few complications as possible…the instructors should be able to orient the students into a right state of mind prior to actual training.” IRIE does not describe itself as open access, though its contents are available to those who register (free).



September 21, 2006

The Sound of Music

Filed under: — mlazoff

For those who use, or are thinking of using, portable recording devices to dictate and such, lend an ear to an article in today’s New York Times (free registration required) on Some Hot Recorders for Those Cool Podcasts. The article describes recorders that use nonvolatile flash memory, the same memory used in digital cameras and many PDAs. The article explains: “Flash has no moving parts to make noise while you record, and it is compact. An SD flash card, not much bigger than a postage stamp, can hold as much as four gigabytes or up to 130 hours of compressed monaural audio…Compact Flash cards can store up to eight gigabytes. Also, data on a memory card can be easily transferred to a PC or a Mac with a U.S.B. cable or by removing the card from the device and putting it in a PC card reader. Once on a PC, the file can be edited, e-mailed or posted to a server.”

The article describes the three types of digital flash recorders currently on the market. “There are digital voice recorders like the Olympus VN-3100PC ($69) that are mostly used for dictation and other voice-recording tasks. Also, some digital music players, like the iRiver T30 ($40 for the 512-megabyte model), have recording abilities, and there are accessories for the iPod like the TuneTalk Stereo for iPod ($69) from Belkin. While those can be used for podcasts, the sound quality and versatility will not be as good as the higher-end dedicated systems like the Marantz PMD 660 ($499), the Edirol by Roland R-09 ($399) and the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 ($350).” Mini-reviews of these three higher-end systems close the article. 



September 14, 2006

Joba potato

Filed under: — mlazoff

Those who subscribe to the Wall Street Journal might enjoy today’s article, For a Workout, Just Sit Down, which describes a new fitness craze in Japan that is now “cantering” into the U.S market. The Joba (Japanese for horse-back riding) is a “saddle-like” exercise device that can be used while watching television.  “Part of the potential attraction, for countries like Japan (and increasingly the U.S.) with aging populations, is that a Joba workout doesn’t take much effort…While a Joba session doesn’t burn many calories — about 50 in 15 minutes — using the machine for about 15 minutes a day, three days a week, tones muscles, improves posture and increases metabolism, according to studies by Matsushita [a Joba manufacturer] and a handful of universities. Riders work their abdomens to maintain their balance and strengthen their thighs by squeezing to keep from falling off the saddle.” The article provides an extensive history on similar devices that lost bets in decades past, and quotes a Japanese fitness trainer as describing the Joba as “better than nothing.” Still, the latest herd of devices are clearly not horsing around. “Because straddling a pitching saddle looks less than genteel, the device isn’t always taken seriously at first sight. Some female customers find it suggestive. Club Northwest, a large sports club in Grants Pass, Ore., has two core trainers, and ‘In the beginning, [customers] were all laughing,’ said club director Laurie Cingle. ‘People would get on and say ‘Yee-ha!’ like a cowboy. But then they realize that it feels really good.’ Now, she says, the trainers are used almost all day.” Hammacher Schlemmer has trotted out its $2000 model, a Mechanical Core Muscle Trainer



Capitali$m by Remote Control

Filed under: — mlazoff

The Business section in last Saturday’s New York Times included Remote Control for Health Care, an article describing the competition among companies betting on the future of remote-control medical technology. Examples of such technology include implanted heart devices for arrrhythmias, electronic beds that weigh, a handheld blood pressure device that plugs into a telephone, and a subcutaneous catheter for blood sugar monitoring. Companies compete for the technology itself; what the technology measures (for example, three companies have competing views on the best sign for impending heart failure); and on the data collection services run by the device companies and independent monitoring services that interact wirelessly with these devices, for data storage and to communicate the data to physicians and patients. The article notes that “[a] Veterans Affairs study that followed 70 patients over three months found that remote monitoring of their heart implants freed up eight days of time doctors would otherwise have devoted to office visits.” Still, the article describes healthcare practitioners concern over uncompensated time spent analyzing each patient’s data, and an increased risk of malpractice, should the data collection services fail to notify them of warning signs. The optimistic article closes with the same patient that opened the article: a 42 year old woman with chronic heart and kidney problems. “Mrs. Huntoon says longer stretches between hospitalizations would be enough of a life change to make her happy. She says she hopes her doctors can add remote monitoring of her potassium levels to her routine, thus increasing the chances of stabilizing her unreliable heart. The hospital employees know her so well they treat her like family, Mrs. Huntoon said. ‘But I don’t want to be a part of that anymore.’”



September 8, 2006

Google for everyone

Filed under: — mlazoff

For those who cannot see to read and navigate Web sites visually, Google recently unveiled a still work-in-progress Accessible search engine in its Google Labs section. According to its FAQ section, “Google Accessible Search looks at a number of signals by examining the HTML markup found on a web page.” Though not a true validator, “…[i]t tends to favor pages that degrade gracefully — pages with few visual distractions and pages that are likely to render well with images turned off…Accessible Search is a natural and important extension of Google’s overall mission to better organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”



August 21, 2006

Telebiopsy report

Filed under: — mlazoff

A recent press release from Kansas University Medical Center describes how surgeons in the OR are teleconferencing with pathologists in their lab. “The system uses two computers equipped with cameras, an intranet connection and high-quality video conferencing software to create a virtual connection…surgeons can send a tissue sample to the lab and communicate from the OR as the pathologist examines the sample under a microscope. In fact, surgeons can see both the pathologist and the microscope slide on the computer screen, making the process truly interactive.” The press release describes this as an “innovative system,” but is this really not being done elsewhere in 2006? (Thanks to HIStalk, who notes, “That’s one of those ‘why didn’t we think of it earlier’ ideas that’s cool, easy, and cheap.”)



July 28, 2006

High grades for low-tech device

Filed under: — mlazoff

Braille writerAccording to a Johns Hopkins press release, four Whiting School of Engineering undergraduates created a low-cost portable Braille writing tool as a class project. The mechanical handheld device produces up to six indentations at once within each Braille slate cell—unlike a stylus, which can only make one indentation at a time. Acccording to the press release, “When the students began the project, they decided that a six-pin hand-held unit would be more compact and more economical than a keyboard-style Braille writer. Their first prototype demonstrated that the concept was sound, but the unit didn’t feel comfortable in the hand, so they produced a second that was superior mechanically and ergonomically. They have given their sponsor plans for a further improved model that will possess a sturdier case and modifications to keep the pins from sticking…[Officials from the project’s sponsor, the National Federation of the Blind,] say the students’ prototype can serve as a key starting point in the group’s plan to develop and distribute a low-cost, low-tech Braille writer…such a device could assist many people in this nation and around the world who cannot afford more expensive writing tools.” (Credit to MedGadget) 



July 15, 2006

I, Neuroprostheses

Filed under: — mlazoff

The Web focus of the July 13th issue of Nature is on neuroprostheses: electronic brain implants that translate the intention to move into actual movement of (currently) a robotic device, computer cursor, or (ultimately) paralyzed limbs. This is a wonderful all-on-one-page multimedia potpourri of link resources that include free full text access to this issue’s two published studies: one out of Brown University, on Neuronal ensemble control of prosthetic devices by a human with tetraplegia; and a second out of Stanford University, on A high-performance brain-computer interface involving rhesus monkeys. The video streaming and experimental footage is fun viewing of this technology at its infancy. Alas, the news features and Archives of past Nature articles on the topic are not freely available to non-subscribers. A sobering editorial closes with a reference to the Six Million Dollar Man of 1970s television: “The idea of giving people superhuman powers greatly appeals to the popular imagination. But in the real world, using neuroprosthetics to give patients control over all the less glamorous things we take for granted will be more important.”



July 3, 2006

Welcome to News&Views

These concise (ideally) summaries and occasional irreverencies on medical computing and assorted topics will be written by Marjorie Lazoff, MD with Lee Ann Riesenberg, PhD, RN, riding shotgun as editor. Kudos to Rhizoid Design for adapting the News&Views interface to meet our picky needs. Drs. Lazoff and Riesenberg both work on the open-access publication Medical Computing Review, freely available elsewhere on this site, which we hope you will visit and enjoy. 

Happy Independence Day! 



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