Strategic Informatics

A blog about the strategic application of technology


VMWare Fusion 2.0 for the Mac

About two weeks ago VMWare released the 2.0 version of their Fusion VM software for the Mac.  It is certainly worthy of a full point release with the level of integration between the host OS and the virtualized OS increased tremendously.

It is interesting to note that VMWare Fusion offers the option to install McAffee VirusScan Plus on windows virtual machines (even BootCamp) by mounting an install ISO on the virtualized Windows system.  This is interesting to note especially with increased integration and ability to access or share files from virtual to host as virus infected files can pass from one VM to the host without much effort by the user.  While it does not seem viable this could occur in a scripted way through the hypervisor from VM to the host it does have to be a consious effort by the user to move the files over so this provieds another layer of protection for the user who might not otherwise use this software on a freshly created Windows VM.

The visuals on the 2.0 version have also increased with a rather handy screen snapshot of the running VM provided in the Virtual Machine Library window.  This window is updated approximately every 10 seconds with a current view of the guest VM.

One other suprise with this upgrade occured when I tried to unzip a file on OS X and was prompted with the abilty to utilize WinZip within BootCamp to open the file.  This really starts to blur the line between the two OS’s and enables the end-user to utilize the best application for the job.  So far performance has been snappy and very responsive.  With the integration of optimized video drivers for the VM’s I tried to run Compiz 3D effects on my Ubuntu Hardy VM but unfortunately wasn’t able to get the visuals running as they do on my dedicated Ubuntu PC’s.


Stark Introduces Staunch Yet Lucrative Health-e IT Act

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, introduced the Health-e Information Technology Act of 2008, with incentives that could total millions.

The bill sets a deadline for HIT system developments, creates incentives for adoption, and includes rules for privacy protection. The first generation of these standards will be finalized no later than October

The Health-e IT Act also provides financial incentives through Medicare to doctors and hospitals that adopt and use EMR systems that are certified as meeting the new standards. Physicians who install and utilize an approved system would be eligible for incentive payments totaling up to approximately $40,000 over five years, while hospitals that do the same would be eligible for incentive payments of up to several million

Source:  Healthcare Informatics


CCHIT Set To Release PHR Certification Criteria

The Chicago-based Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) says it will launch a certification program for personal health records (PHRs) in mid-2009 that will emphasize privacy, security and information-sharing capabilities. The Commission has completed its first step in the process — the creation of draft criteria for testing PHRs. Beginning Sept. 29, criteria will be posted online and will be available for a 30-day public comment period.

A new Web site and blog dedicated to furthering the conversation about PHRs will launch on Sept. 29, and a consumer’s guide to certification of PHRs will also be available at the same location.

In addition, on Oct. 10, the Certification Commission will host a Town Call teleconference that will allow consumers and consumer representatives to gain a better understanding of PHR certification and how they can play a role in the process.


HealthVault Connection Center Beta 1.2

Microsoft has just released HealthVault Connection Center Beta v1.2 which is a desktop utility that helps people upload data from health and fitness devices to their HealthVault account.  This is a good step in bridging the gap between a patient and physician between visits.  Having an updated list of blood pressure, weight, peak flow measurements, heart rate, among others is a great way to arm your physician with information germain to a patients health, especially for physicians trying to track and monitor chronic diseases.

The interface is pretty straight forward and matches the already easy to use HealthVault web based interface.

Once setup and configured for your device data can be uploaded automatically.
Microsoft has gone out of its way to ensure the SDK for HealthVault can interface with a wide variety of backend platforms by providing Java API’s and allowing others to communicate via standard web services based interfaces.  With all this cross platform communication whats lacking right now is a Mac version of the application.  With the integration of Nike+ with the newest version of the Apple iPod Touch it seems like a logical progression for easily allowing patients to send their exercise data to their PHR.

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Alcatel-Lucent Announces TikiTag RFID Reader and Tag Kit for Developers

An Alcatel-Lucent backed product called Tikitag is an RFID tagging system set to go live on October 1st . Much along to the same lines as my last RFID post this product has a lot of applicability for linking physical tags with websites. The first thing that comes to mind is the use of such tags for identifying patients during check-in and allowing emergency room physicians easy access to vital patient records during an acute care visit. Anyone can pick up a reader and ten tags for $50 on October 1st.

At this price point creating a simple application to match an RFID tag to a specific patient portal entry point would not be to difficult to implement. Access can be location based and limited to certain functions such as check-in or emergency access by a physician to critical medical information in an ER.

In terms of providing ease of patient interaction with a clinic the applications seem endless. The tags appear small enough to apply to a card or stand alone as part of a keychain. Patients can keep their demographic information current via a patient portal and have the information validated when the patient presents with their RFID tag at the front desk. If the patient has several locations to go to the tag can be used at a wayfinding kiosk to guide the patient to their next appointment. The tikitag utilize passivie RFID technology and active readers to activate the 13.56 MHZ signal within the tag which is also compatible with the Near Field Communication standard beinging implemented in several Nokia mobile phones. While I think the US is far behind Europe in implementing such integrated features from cell phones it is not out of the realm of possiblity that a progressive clinic could implement such tagging technology to ease patient flow or provide a valuable service to their patients.


USB and RFID Unite… Has Potential To Form An Innovative Solution for Patient Access

The French Public transportation company will begin employing RFID-enabled USB keys this coming fall allowing passengers to plug the unit into their PC’s to fund their cards at home as part of their home-payment effort. This combination of RFID and USB key has several other applications outside of transportation. Of course what immediately comes to mind is the ability for patients to have access to their personal health record via such a USB key while at home as well as allowing physicians and clinicians the ability to identify patients within a clinic when they check-in. A patient merely has to approach an RFID enabled kiosk wave their specific key and follow some on-screen prompts to authenticate and validate any necessary information prior to check-in. This enables front desk staff to know current patient volume and allows administrators and physicians insight into wait times, no-shows, walk-ins, etc… during the course of the day. This data can be aggregated and trended allowing administrators to take a proactive approach to monitoring and controlling patient wait times.

While some existing kiosk based vendors offer an intuitive interface and integration with specific backend practice management systems the older the patient is the more often they suffer from arthritic conditions making it difficult for them to type onto a keyboard or even operate a touch screen. Having a device which can at the very least notify front-desk that a patient has arrived would offer a very forward thinking approach compared with existing solutions. In RFID equipped buildings it could be easy to track patients in larger hospitals or clinic settings as they manage multiple appointments for their care. This solution would also allow empower way finding solutions to guide patients to their next clinic appointment, lab or radiology visit by simply approaching a Kiosk. Two factor authentication can easily be implemented by utilizing something the patient knows (password, SSN, DOB, etc…) with something the patient has which is the RFID/USB key.

The USB functionality of course offers patients easy access to their personal health record as well as offers emergency room professionals access to potentially life-saving patient data as well. I’ve learned of at least one large clinical practice in San Antonio spear heading a similar initiative with USB keys for the elderly population, which is a very forward thinking initiative. This has far reaching effects not just for ambulatory care but also for inpatient monitoring as well.

Source: RFID Journal

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Social Networking Is Great for Patient Satisfaction But Not Necessarily for Physician Satisfaction

As health care organizations warm up to what have been coined, Web 2.0 technologies, marketing departments embrace the chance to engage patients and enhance satisfaction but in some instances it appears to have come at the cost of physician satisfaction due to the inability of physicians to respond to patient comments and ratings due to privacy regulations. As integrated health systems begin to become more transparent with cost and quality metrics to differentiate themselves in the market we will continue to see struggles with concerns over privacy and fairness.

Guidelines for use of Web 2.0 technology:

The patient is in charge. To avoid violations of health care privacy laws, patients ought to be the only ones disclosing information about their health conditions.

Moderate your moderation: One of the most poignant challenges of business-hosted sights is allowing authentic dialogue to flourish — that means resisting the temptation to yank comments that are critical of the host company. Consider using an independent third-party to monitor blog comments and discussion boards. “We never want anyone to accuse Humana of creating a one-way dialogue, of controlling the message through editing,” said Ed Batchelor, corporate director of Web and new media for Humana Inc.

Avoid sneaky blogging techniques:
Paying or currying favor with bloggers for favorable coverage is a cardinal sin, and one that’s swiftly punished in the blogosphere.

Go where your audience is.
A common mistake is to try to lure people to your own Web site. Social marketing gurus say businesses should go where users already are — onto sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr.

Source: Portland Business Journal