February 2008

World News

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China unveils new healthcare scheme
China recently announced an ambitious program to provide basic healthcare for every citizen in the world's most populous nation. Chen Zhu, the Health Minister, speaking at the national Health Forum said the Healthy China 2020 program would provide universal national health service and promote equal access to public services.

With the ambitious title of Healthy China 2020, the program has multiple goals, including improving life expectancy, which this year has reached 73 years. It will be a massive challenge for the government, but the Health Ministry has been asked to fill what the Health Minister called 'a significant gap between the Party requirements and people's new expectations'.

There is another reason for China to work on the health system. As Beijing gears up for the summer Olympic Games, China wants to strengthen disease-monito ring and evaluate any public health hazards.

In a related news it is reported that rising medical costs have become the top concerns of Chinese people, according to a new survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS.) The survey of 101,029 families nationwide revealed 15.3 percent of those polled chose 'medical and health services' as one of their concerns. Growing public criticism of soaring medical fees, lack of access, poor doctor-patient relations and the low coverage of the medicare system had compelled China to launch a new round of medical reform.

Medical tourism covers soon in the West
A recent report by Swiss Re forecasts that the globalisation of healthcare is expected to have a significant impact on the strategy of health insurance companies, and medical tourism covers will eventually become available in the West- a move that would boost the inflow of foreign patients seeking treatment in India.

In its report on Global Trends in Private Medical Insurance, Swiss Re has observed that in view of the significant savings potential, some experts believe that health insurance plans covering medical tourism will eventually become available and revolutionise healthcare delivery. The report said that a recent study shows that if one-tenth of US patients travel abroad for treatment, savings of US$1.4 billion could be realised after taking into account the cost of travel.

Many hospitals in low-cost countries like India are already getting international accreditation such as Joint Committee on Accreditation of Healthcare Organisations and often employ medical and nursing staff with American or European professional certification.

India, considered one of the leading medical tourism providers, attracted five-lakh foreign medical tourists in 2006. Revenues totalled US$350 million and the annual growth rate for such services was 30%, the report said. Although Thailand got less than a third of medical tourists coming to India, its revenues have been far higher at US$1 billion. At present, the obstacle to insurers providing cover for treatment in India is a lack of network with service providers.


Dell, Collexis launch BioMedExperts, an online social network
Dell and Collexis Holdings Inc., have launched BioMedExperts-an innovative social networking community that will promote collaborative medical research and development.

BioMedExperts will allow health care and life sciences professionals to easily connect and collaborate with each other, as well as conduct research by providing 1.4 million biomedical experts with 12 million pre-established network connections from more than 120 countries. The site also provides the ability to analyse all associated professional connections within the network and view scientific publications.

Dell will provide computer hardware to power the Collexis-designed BioMedExperts. Dell will also provide marketing support for BioMedExperts, including co-branded marketing efforts and promotions at major life science research conferences.

The BioMedExperts community is an example of how technology can connect scientists, enabling them to attack new and more complex cross-disciplinary biological problems.


NHS successfully implements PACS digital X-ray project
The U.K. National Health Service (NHS) has completed a project to rollout digital X-ray and scanning technology to health trusts across England as part of the 12.4 billion pounds (US$ 24.6 billion) national NHS IT program.

The Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) technology replaces the traditional method of using film and paper by allowing X-rays and scans to be stored digitally and accessed by health professionals on computers and laptops. More than 473 million images have been stored using the technology, which cuts the cost of traditional film processing and storage, and the government said NHS trusts are reporting an average saving of 250,000 pounds (USD 495,000) in their first year of using PACS.

The government also claims the technology is improving reporting and clinical decision-making and contributing to reduced patient waiting times between referral and the start of treatment. This innovative technology speeds up and improves the accuracy of diagnosis, saves time and improves the quality of care. Trusts are reporting that the time taken for radiologists and radiographers to issue reports to clinicians have typically been halved from more than six days to less than three and these report turnaround times continue to fall with some hospitals reporting all imaging within 24 hours.

The PACS technology has been rolled out over three years to 127 NHS trusts, with Leeds Teaching Hospitals the final one to complete on 10 December. Although the PACS project has been completed more fundamental elements of the national NHS IT program remain way behind schedule, such as the national electronic patient record project.

The NHS care records service will eventually consist of a national summary care record containing basic patient information which can be accessed in emergencies and a more detailed local care record containing more comprehensive clinical information for each patient.                


Malaysian hospital develops its own Hospital Information System
Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM) is developing its own Total Hospital Information System (THIS), the first by a government hospital in Malaysia.

Built entirely by its staff from scratch, the hospital's THIS initiative has already attracted interest from distributors keen to market the system to government and private hospitals in the country. THIS costs millions of ringgit to implement but the market for such a system in Malaysia is huge.

In addition, the HUKM-developed THIS, called Caring Hospital Enterprise System (C-HEtS), is expected to be cheaper than similar systems available in the market. HUKM is also looking at the business model on how to provide C-HEtS to others.

HUKM adopted the first phase of the system for all its patients. A total of 2,000 HUKM staff, comprising admission clerks, nurses and doctors, are utilising the system. Phase one involves patient registration, emergency department, admission, discharge and transfer, appointment and scheduling, operating theatre scheduling, medical record management, user profile, case-mix, statistics and full patient accounting system.

Under the second phase scheduled in 2009, HUKM will develop the CPOE (Computerised Physician Order Entry) and undertake integration using HL7 (Health Level 7) and DICOM (digital imaging and communication on medicine. Phase three in 2010 will involve clinical documentation and electronic medical record while phase four in 2012 will cover research and case-based learning modules as well as other modules. Despite the host of applications that C-HEtS offers, total cost for all the four phases is expected to amount to less than RM 20 million.

Novel device to help monitor unattended ER patients
Scientists have developed a novel integrated wireless system that monitors patients' vital signs and alerts the doctors at the time of danger.

This unique device called Scalable Medical Alert Response Technology (SMART), may prove to be a boon for doctors to monitor otherwise unattended patients. It consists of an infrared blood oxygen sensor that clips onto a finger, and chest electrodes that monitor heartbeat. Both electrodes and sensor are attached to a PDA that is assembled in a belt pack and runs software that monitors their readings, and triggers the alarm if they change to a worrying extent.

SMART also sends the data to a PC monitored by a paramedic. The device was tested on 145 volunteers in the ER at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, SMART was able to alert about three patients who were stable when admitted but later developed dangerously irregular heartbeats.

Virtual aid to remote Fillipino patients
Patients in the remote areas of Philippines have been receiving virtual medical aid from doctors thanks to a project initiated by the University of the Philippines National Telehealth Center (NTHC) which is now using any available technology, such as short messaging service (SMS), to extend expertise to at least 30 government doctors stationed in different areas nationwide.

For the past two months, the NTHC has been fielding referrals from the doctor to the barrios serving in remote areas. The government doctors use text messaging to refer 'problematic cases' to NTHC, which in turn refers these cases to the faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.

The NTHC initiative aims to address the lack of government doctors in the Philippines, especially areas where they have lone practitioners. Experts and specialists are now concentrated in Metro Manila and key cities.

There are about 470 areas in the country where there are no government doctors. The NTHC is currently at the 'testing' phase, and the project is seen evolving later to include other practitioners like midwives. The NTHC gets at least one case referral a week. Doctors who take part in the initiative earn leave credits.

System keeps patients out of hospital
Patients in Sheffield with serious lung conditions are spending less time in the hospital and more time at home thanks to the use of a new monitoring system. People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which covers lung conditions including emphysema and bronchitis, have been issued with 'Telehealth' equipment which enables medics to closely monitor their health and flag up any problems at an early stage.

By ensuring difficulties are picked up quickly, the approach has halved readmission rates to hospitals for COPD patients, freeing up expensive beds. Patients involved with the Telehealth project are issued with equipment to use at home which assesses their blood pressure, pulse rate, oxygen saturation levels and body temperature.
Readings are sent by computer to a centre where they are studied and clinicians will then alert doctors and nurses if there are any abnormal signs. Support can then be given to prevent the patient getting worse and needing hospital treatment.

COPD is more common in South Yorkshire because the condition affects people who worked in heavy industry and smokers – as the region has a high rate. The early stage of the disease may go undetected but early medical health can make a big difference to prevent further deterioration in the lungs. The aim of Telehealth is to encourage an improved quality of life for patients as well as reducing the need for them to be admitted to hospital.

Robots that help elderly
Robosoft's Robuter prototype French robotic specialist Robosoft has demonstrated a prototype service robot which can help elderly and handicapped people stay at home. The robot is a home-centric robot, which combines the internet and robotics technology to provide daily-life services to people staying at home.

The aim of the robot is to show how service robots can help elderly and handicapped people by connecting to the internet, enabling social interaction, remote telemedicine, cognitive prosthesis and much more. Robosoft has designed the robot to allow providers of services to customise it and offer various services to their customers. The new robot uses the same technology as Estele, the remote tele-echography system already in operation in four French Hospitals.

This new prototype is already available for evaluation. It illustrates services that can be performed by robots at home such as social interactions, remote telemedicine, cognitive prosthesis and domestic duties like cleaning.

By connecting to the robot via the internet, relatives are able to 'visit' grandma, find her in the apartment and chat. In the same way, physicians can remotely visit their patients who are at home. This robuter is also able to monitor and record person and house's activities, thanks to dedicated sensors, in order to make sure everything is fine.

The robot will also help to deal with sensitive issues, such as forgotten daily duties such as taking medications due to mental illness. The robot is based on robuLAB10, an off-the-shelf mobile platform, and a robuBOX, the generic robotic middleware based on Microsoft Robotics Studio, that comes with every robot produced by Robosoft.

India and China create new global healthcare models
Sobha Renaissance Information Technology (SRIT) today announced the second position conferred to its joint venture 'Sunpa Sobha Software China Ltd. (3S)' with the Chinese telemedicine major, Yunnan Sunpa Image Tel Tech Co. Ltd (Sunpa) by the largest circulated mainline daily in the Yunnan province of China, 'Yunnan Daily'.

The Daily qualified top 10 most important events in the South-Asian region across industry verticals and functionalities. The first position was awarded to the 'First Indo-Chinese Joint Anti-terrorism Military Training' organized in Kunming, China in December, 2007. The ranking was published through its print daily on the 27th of December 2007.

The joint venture targets effecting healthcare cost sustainability and affordability by controlling the major cost components of medical devices, medical expertise and logistics. Majority of the healthcare cost in developed countries can be accounted to the medical expertise/services component. Various contributing factors like the imminent economic recession looming over major economies, issues of unsustainable health care models in the larger pool of developed healthcare industries the world over, highlight the need for cost- effective, collaborative efforts in healthcare scaleable globally.

SRIT through its JV is strategically placed to roll out innovative healthcare delivery models, given its command over a large part of the healthcare delivery value chain. SRIT along with its Chinese Partner has today under its umbrella, software, medical devices and telemedicine services infrastructure expertise.

The JV currently manufactures more that 50 telemedicine capable medical devices like Scanners, Video Conferencing Systems, Tele-pathology Microscope, Blood Pressure Monitors, Digital Stethoscopes, Mobile Video Carts, etc. It develops productized software for Hospital Information Management System (HIMS), Picture Archival and Communications Systems (PACS), Electronic Medical Records/Patient Medical Records (EMR/PMR) and a wide range of solutions for Tele-Radiology, Tele-Cardiology, Tele-Pathology, Tele-Oncology, Tele-Dermatology using various technological components from within the group today. The JV operates one of the largest active telemedicine networks in the world, with upward of 100,000 telemedicine centers, 4000 specialists and about 700 technologists currently.

Online DNA test service in Europe funded by Google
A private firm funded by Google Inc has recently launched its Web-based DNA test in Europe, hoping to build on a successful start in the United States, where the US$ 999 service went on sale in November.

Subscribers to 23andMe, mail a saliva sample and, four to six weeks later, get the results online, allowing them to learn about inherited traits, their ancestry and- probably with the help of a professional- some of their personal disease risks.

The Website, which takes its name from the 23 pairs of chromosomes that make up each person's genome, says it will display more than half a million data points in users' genomes in a form they can visualise and understand.

The site does not currently make interpretations about a user's risk for developing such diseases as cancers, Alzheimer's disease and diabetes, though users could in some cases get help from experts to make some basic assessments. The service may prove controversial in countries like Britain, where some experts say DNA tests are often of little value and can trigger unnecessary health worries.    

BOOK RELEASE

Telesurgery
Kumar, Sajeesh; Marescaux, Jacques (Eds.)
2008, XXIV, 190 p. 64 illus., 57 in color., Hardcover
ISBN: 978-3-540-72998-3

“TELESURGERY” is the first ever book on Remote Surgery released by Springer -Verlag at Germany.

This first ever book on Telesurgery lays the foundation for the globalization of surgical procedures (including ophthalmology), making possible the ability of a surgeon located in one part of the world to operate on a patient located in another.

Written by international experts from around the globe, this book explains clinical, technical issues and collective experiences of practitioners in different parts of the world practicing a wide range of telesurgery applications. This book is presented in such a way that should make it accessible to all professionals, including surgeons, nurses, allied health professionals and computer scientists. Chapters from a host of renowned international authorities are incorporated.  This ensures that the subject matter that tends to focus on recent advances in telesurgery is truly up to date.

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