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State of the Union: President Bush emphasizes healthcare cost control through health savings accounts, health IT

President Bush devoted time to healthcare in his State of the Union address on Jan. 31, with affordability of coverage the main concern which the Administration will focus on this year, he said. Though Bush made reference to electronic medical records and health IT, his focus was on economics and expanding the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

The timing is good. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll released just prior to Bush’s address, 20 percent of Americans say the healthcare system in this country needs reform.

Regarding HSAs, Bush said in his speech, “We will strengthen health savings accounts — making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get. We will do more to make this coverage portable, so workers can switch jobs without having to worry about losing their health insurance.”

Another tactic, according to the White House, will be to allow small businesses to develop Association Health Plans (AHPs). The AHPs would enable smaller companies to pool resources to purchase health coverage, to give them the same buying power as big businesses and labor unions.

Some organizations fear that having to go with high-deductible health insurance might reduce access to care for some individuals.


Medication errors highest in radiology? Um, not so fast, say radiologists

Recently United States Pharmacopeia (USP), the official public standards-setting authority for medicines in the U.S., announced controversial results from a report that claims medication errors occur seven times more often in the radiology department than in any other area of healthcare. This conclusion was drawn by studying medication error information from 2000 to 2004 and published in the organization’s 6th annual MEDMARX Data Report.

Twelve percent of the 2,032 medication errors reported in radiological services resulted in patient harm. Radiology services also seem more likely to result in additional care and, as a result, more resources, USP said, citing flaws in continuity of care as the leading cause of the medication errors.

Radiology is not taking this report lying down. The American College of Radiology (ACR) for one described the report as “incomplete, inaccurate,” with data that lacks context.

A Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) spokesperson said that the medication errors addressed in the USP report “don’t relate specifically to radiology, or at least are not under a radiology department’s control.”


Barco releases new 2MP color PACS display

Barco has introduced a new PACS display system, NIO Color 2MP. The display can be used for a variety of medical imaging applications, including 3D PACS, ultrasound, orthopedic imaging, cardiology, ophthalmology, nuclear medicine and PET.

The NIO Color 2MP, which is now available, features a 1600x1200 resolution, 20.1-inch color LCD, with high quality under all viewing angles. The monitor is optimized to display both color and grayscale medical data sets and is fully compatible with 2D and 3D applications. Barco’s NIO Color 2MP comes with the Barcomed 2MP2CFe display controller, which is especially designed to support 3D PACS.


Study: Increasing nurse staff, face time, improves healthcare quality

By hiring more registered nurses, and adding to the time nurses spend with patients, hospitals would save more than 6,700 patient deaths and 4 million days of care in hospitals, as well as 70,400 medical complications each year, according to a study recently published in the journal Health Affairs.

The study looked at 799 acute-care hospitals spread over 11 states throughout 2005.

Hospitals might balk at the idea of hiring more nurses, but the costs would not be great, according to the study. Hospitals would likely only see a budget increase of between 0.4 percent to 0.8 percent considering the money that could be saved in handling medical errors and patient visits.

The study is expected to have considerable impact. One organization, the Michigan Nurses Association, plans to use the study’s results to push state legislators to support its Safe Patient Care Legislation which was put forward last year.


FDA sets out to better monitor medical devices

The Center For Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), within the FDA, plans to increase its ability to track post-market information on approved medical devices and the ways in which it can identify, analyze and act on postmarket information.

More info: fda.gov/cdrh/postmarket/mdpi.html


Hospital being sued over stolen medical records

Providence Health System based in Oregon now faces charges that it was negligent in securing patient files when some 365,000 medical records were taken when a hospital employee’s car — which contained the files — was stolen.


Study : Cell phones reduce medical errors

Though a drop in medical errors and the use of cell phones don’t seem to have a very intuitive connection, in fact, they do. It’s quite simple: due to mobile phone technology healthcare is now faster, according to a report by Yale School of Medicine published in the February issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia.

In the study — which evaluated 4,018 responses from anesthesiologists — 65 percent of respondents claimed to use pagers and 17 percent said they use cell phones. Of the pager users, 40 percent reported delays in communications, which compares unfavorably to the 31 percent of cell phone users reporting delays.

Electronic interference from mobile phones has diminished due to advances in technology, said Keith Ruskin, MD, the report’s senior author, and associate professor in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Neurosurgery.

Ruskin added that the 2.4 percent occurance of electronic interference with life support devices is far smaller than the 14.9 percent risk of observed medical error or injury caused by a delay in communication.


An effort to stop drug company gifts to doctors

A group of medical leaders has urged the nation's academic medical centers to exert tighter control over too-close-for-comfort ties between some physicians and drug and device makers. The giving of gifts and payments to doctors is undermining the legitimacy of the scientific community and endangering patients, the group added in a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Due to a lack of monitoring mechanisms, previous attempts to control such marketing activities have not worked especially well, or have not worked at all.

The group recommends several courses of action: barring the direct provision of drug samples, banning all gifts, and excluding physicians with financial ties from prescription drug formulary decisions.


Cedara boosts clinical information software portfolio

Cedara Software has acquired French medical software company, Axicare, gaining exclusive ownership of aXigate, a comprehensive healthcare data and workflow management system.

The aXigate technology creates a single comprehensive patient record that connects and manages data and medical images from existing information systems. The system employs an open architecture that incorporates information from labs, radiology, the pharmacy and other divergent areas into the hospital database. With components for patient registration, consultation and more, aXigate provides a folder-based approach to information management.


Don’t toss out that desktop PC just yet

A recent survey by Yankee Group looked at small business owners to find out their purchasing plans for desktop and laptop computers. The survey revealed that nearly half planned to buy both stationary desktop machines and laptops for their employees in 2006. Reason: Small businesses often include employees that work in and out of the office, so both are beneficial.

The survey also found that somewhat larger businesses, with between 20 and 100 employees, have offices where 74 percent were desktop and just 26 percent were mobile.

According to Yankee Group, working in tandem with the Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance (ITSPA), there are a number of payoffs regarding investments in business-class desktops, including: more processing power for lower cost than a laptop; added security against theft and loss; flexibility to easily add memory and other components cheaper; often greater reliability and usable life compared to mobile devices; increased ergonomic comfort; and ease of replacing individual computer elements.


EMC unveils storage & virtualization technologies

EMC Corp. has introduced a broad range of new storage and virtualization solutions, including availability of what the company calls the world’s largest and most flexible high-end storage array, innovative new file system software and new network attached storage (NAS) virtualization capabilities. These new solutions simplify and extend the benefits of information lifecycle management (ILM) to more applications and more information. The solutions include entry-level and high-end configurations of its flagship EMC Symmetrix DMX-3 storage array and the EMC Multi-Path File System for iSCSI (MPFSi) file system software.


ASTM approves Continuity of Care Record standard

Standards organization ASTM International has published a Continuity of Care Record (CCR) standard. A CCR is a summary of a patient’s most recent and vital medical information that can be passed along to the next healthcare provider whenever a patient is referred, transferred, or otherwise visits various providers. The standard is based on the Extensible Markup Language and is available via the ASTM website.

EHRs vendors are being pushed to include CCR to software and healthcare providers are similarly being asked to use the CCR when patients are referred.

Some of CCR’s functions are similar to the Health Level Seven (HL-7) standard for EHRs, but they are not the same.

More info: www.astm.org


Viatronix, Medicsight systems integrated for CT colonoscopy study

Medicsight’s ColonCAD — which has been integrated as part of the Viatronix Inc.
V3D-Colon workstation — will be used in the SIGGAR1 clinical trial to interpret CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) studies. The study will be conducted by Special Interest Group for Gastrointestinal and Abdominal Radiology (SIGGAR). The SIGGAR1 trial is the first randomized comparison where the focus is symptomatic cancer, not screening for polyps, and there is much more patient preference, psychological modeling, and health economic assessment than other trials to date.


Symbol releases rugged enterprise digital assistant

Symbol Technologies, Inc. has introduced the MC70 mobile computer, a rugged Enterprise Digital Assistant (EDA) offering multi-mode communications, including cellular voice/data communications, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth to enable real-time access to people, information and critical business applications.
The MC70 EDA (pictured here) is lightweight, ergonomic and designed to withstand the rigors of everyday use in a variety of environments.


Allscripts to buy A4 Health Systems

Allscripts announced plans to acquire A4 Health Systems, a transaction totaling approximately $272 million in cash and stock.

Per the agreement, Allscripts’ existing alliance with IDX, now part of GE Healthcare, will continue through the five years remaining under the original agreement, supporting the ongoing integration and compatibility of the Allscripts and IDX products. Also, GE will continue to offer Allscripts TouchWorks EHR within the IDX client base, in addition to its own Centricity Ambulatory EMR.


Vidar tool digitizes older mammo studies

VIDAR Systems Corp. unveiled its full release of Clinical Express 3.0 software for mammography. Used with the VIDAR CAD PRO Advantage Film Digitizer, Clinical Express 3.0 allows prior film-based studies to be digitized and then reviewed alongside new studies on digital mammography workstations.


Bracco sells Esaote to Italian consortium

Bracco Group has announced the sale of Esaote S.p.A. to a consortium of investors led by Banca Intesa.
The sale of Esaote “is part of our strategy to develop our core business, that is, contrast agents and therapeutic products, focusing on new products in the molecular diagnostic and targeted therapy fields,” said Diana Bracco, president and CEO, Bracco Spa. The change will help the company redefine its identity.


Hologic sees strong Q1 fiscal 2006

Hologic Inc. Q1 fiscal 2006 revenues totaled $87.96 million, a 33 percent jump from the $66.18 million posted in the same period of fiscal 2005.

The company reported net income of $5.72 million, compared with $4.57 million in the same period in 2005.

During the first quarter of FY 2006, Hologic sold 97 Selenia full-field digital mammography systems. As of late December, the company had a backlog of 221 Selenia systems.


ABLE upgrades 3D-DOCTOR

ABLE Software has released a new version of 3D-DOCTOR, the vector-based 3D imaging, modeling and measurement software for CT, MRI, microscopy and volumetric images.

In this new version, an interactive 3D image registration function is implemented; the 3D surface modeling algorithm has been enhanced; a new animation function is implemented to create movies and 3D simulations from 3D rendering; and the upgraded volume rendering function creates real-time 3D image visualization.


Study: Chest x-rays benefit early lung cancer detection

Though chest x-rays are helpful in detecting early lung cancer, they also generate many false positives and unneeded testing, according to a report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The research took place from 1993 to 2001 involving current and former smokers, representing both men and women between the ages of 55 to 74. The findings were based on an analysis of an initial baseline x-rays.
 
Results from the 67,038 tested had 8.9 percent showing abnormal results. However, after further review, just 2.1 percent were diagnosed with lung cancer within a year of the original exam.