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Health Information Technology

Cybersecurity Tentacles Entwine Government

March 11, 2014
By George I. Seffers

It is not surprising that cybersecurity would dominate the discussion on the second day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C. But the depth and breadth and variety of topics surrounding cybersecurity and information protection in all its forms indicates the degree to which the information security mission has engulfed every department and agency at all levels of government.

Secretary Hagel Commits to Resolving Medical Record Interoperability Issues

April 16, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Defense Department will decide on a path forward within 30 days.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told members of Congress on April 16 that he is personally committed to solving the database interoperability problems between the Defense Department (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that have left thousands of veterans waiting months while benefits claims are processed.

According to VA officials, the agency has been breaking records in the number of claims processed, yet it now takes an average of 273 days to process a claim. The VA has fallen increasingly behind as veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan, and that backlog is expected to increase as the drawdown in Afghanistan continues.

Part of the issue is that the VA uses an electronic processing system known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), while the Defense Department uses the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA) for processing medical records.

Introduced in 1996, VistA offers an automated environment that supports day-to-day operations at local VA health care facilities. It is built on a client-server architecture, which ties together workstations and personal computers with graphical user interfaces at various VA facilities, as well as software developed by local medical facility staff. The system also includes the links that allow commercial off-the-shelf software and products to be used with existing and future technologies.

Scientists Take One Step Closer to Medical Tricorder

April 2, 2013

The National Institutes of Health is funding the development of a medical instrument that will quickly detect biothreat agents, including anthrax, ricin and botulinum as well as infectious diseases. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are creating the first of its kind point-of-care device that could be used in emergency rooms during a bioterrorism incident. To design the device, which will be able to detect a broader range of toxins and bacterial agents than is currently possible, the $4 million project will include comprehensive testing with animal samples. According to Anup Singh, senior manager, Sandia biological science and technology group, this differentiates the work on this device, because toxins may behave differently in live animals and humans than in blood samples.

Sandia scientists will be collaborating with researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Regional Research Center, which will provide insights into toxins and diseases at animal laboratory facilities. Bio-Rad, which manufactures and distributes devices and laboratory technologies, is consulting on the project to evaluate product development, assist with manufacturers’ criteria and provide feedback when a prototype is built.

“We want dual-use devices that combat both man-made and nature-made problems,” Singh says. “We’re not just going to wait for the next anthrax letter incident to happen for our devices to be used and tested; we want them to be useful for other things as well, like infectious diseases.”

 

Military Tracks Earthquake-Related Radiation Contamination

December 6, 2012
By Max Cacas

To monitor the possible effects of radiation on Americans who were in Japan during the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the U.S. Army Public Health Command has launched the Operation Tomodachi Registry website. The site provides location-based radiation dose estimates for the approximately 70,000 department-affiliated adults and children who were in one of 13 mainland Japan locations at the time of the disaster, which included the release of radiation into the environment. It will serve as a public clearinghouse for information on the U.S. Defense Department's response to the crisis in which U.S. troops assisted their Japanese counterparts in relief efforts. The Operation Tomodachi website will be used to build a model for future exposure registries that could be used to manage a range of other events or activities where the potential for environmental exposure to harmful chemical or biological agents is possible. It will be managed as part of the Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System. Names, locations and radiation exposure information for service members, civilian contractors, employees and their family members is contained in a secure database.

 

Two Government Organizations, One Health Information System

February 2012
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine

The U.S. Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs have launched an effort to combine their two electronic health record systems into one. This integrated Electronic Health Record will track medical care from the day military members join the service through the rest of their lives.

Frontline Care, Lifetime Benefits

February 2012
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine

Battlefield medicine has advanced significantly since the days when surgeons used whiskey as an anesthetic, and in the last year several new technologies have rolled out to deployed soldiers facing physical or psychological disorders. The U.S. Army program responsible for fielding software and the hardware on which it resides is pushing the cutting edge of diagnostics and treatment to the tip of the spear. Personnel hope the effort will save lives and limbs not only by treating injury or illness, but also by keeping troops off the road in war zones.

Mine-Hunting Technology Learns to Fight Cancer

February 2012
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Magazine

The U.S. Navy and the medical community share seemingly different but surprisingly similar problems—finding undersea mines and identifying certain cells, such as cancer cells. And they have discovered that software designed by the Navy to locate undersea mines also contributes to faster, more accurate diagnoses of diseases and can foster medical breakthroughs.

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