Tag Archives: Health

Compact light source improves CT scans

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The Compact Light Source by Palo Alto-based Lyncean Technologies Inc. generates X-rays suitable for advanced tomography. The car-sized device is a miniature version of football-field-sized X-ray generators known as synchrotrons and it emerged from basic research at SLAC in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Credit: Lyncean Technologies Inc.

A new study shows that the recently developed Compact Light Source (CLS) — a commercial X-ray source with roots in research and development efforts at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory — enables computer tomography scans that reveal more detail than routine scans performed at hospitals today. The new technology could soon be used in preclinical studies and help researchers better understand cancer and other diseases.

With its ability to image cross sections of the human body, X-ray computer tomography (CT) has become an important diagnostic tool in medicine. Conventional CT scans are very detailed when it comes to bones and other dense body parts that strongly absorb X-rays. However, the technique struggles with the visualization and distinction of “soft tissues” such as organs, which are more transparent to X-rays.

“Our work demonstrates that we can achieve better results with the Compact Light Source,” says Professor for Biomedical Physics Franz Pfeiffer of the Technical University of Munich in Germany, who led the new study published April 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The CLS allows us to do multimodal tomography scans — a more advanced approach to X-ray imaging.”

More than One Kind of Contrast

The amount of detail in a CT scan depends on the difference in brightness, or contrast, which makes one type of tissue distinguishable from another. The absorption of X-rays — the basis for standard CT — is only one way to create contrast.

Alternatively, contrast can be generated from differences in how tissues change the direction of incoming X-rays, either through bending or scattering X-ray light. These techniques are known as phase-contrast and dark-field CT, respectively.

“Organs and other soft tissues don’t have a large absorption contrast, but they become visible in phase-contrast tomography,” says the study’s lead author, Elena Eggl, a researcher at the Technical University of Munich. “The dark-field method, on the other hand, is particularly sensitive to structures like vertebrae and the lung’s alveoli.”

Shrinking the Synchrotron

However, these methods require X-ray light with a well-defined wavelength aligned in a particular way — properties that conventional CT scanners in hospitals do not deliver sufficiently.

For high-quality phase-contrast and dark-field imaging, researchers can use synchrotrons — dedicated facilities where electrons run laps in football-stadium-sized storage rings to produce the desired radiation — but these are large and expensive machines that cannot simply be implemented at every research institute and clinic.

Conversely, the CLS is a miniature version of a synchrotron that produces suitable X-rays by colliding laser light with electrons circulating in a desk-sized storage ring. Due to its small footprint and lower cost, it could be operated in almost any location.

“The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is the world’s largest colliding beam storage ring, and the CLS is the smallest,” says SLAC scientist Ronald Ruth, one of the study’s co-authors. Ruth is also chairman of the board of directors and co-founder of Palo Alto-based Lyncean Technologies Inc., which developed the X-ray source based on earlier fundamental research at SLAC. “It turns out that the properties of the CLS are perfect for applications like tomography.”

More Modes, Finer Detail

In the recent study, the researchers reported the first “multimodal” CT scan with the CLS: They recorded all three imaging modes — absorption, phase contrast and dark field — at the same time. Using a total of 361 two-dimensional X-ray images of an infant mouse taken from different directions, the scientists generated cross-section images of the animal.

“The absorption images only show bones and air-filled organs,” Eggl says. “However, the phase-contrast and dark-field images reveal much more detail, showing different organs such as the heart and liver. We can even distinguish different types of fat tissue, which is not possible with absorption-based CT scans.”

Using a standard sample of chemically well-defined liquids, the scientists also demonstrated that they could not only visualize but also quantify differences in their properties — information that can be applied to various body tissues and that is only obtained when combining all three tomography modes.

Implications for Cancer, Materials

The success of this research, which was done on a CLS prototype, has led to the commissioning of the first commercial device.

The researchers’ next goal is to use the CLS for phase-contrast and dark-field CT in preclinical studies — an approach that could help visualize cancer. “We work closely together with two clinics to study tumors,” Eggl says. “One of our plans is to image breast tissue samples and also entire breasts after mastectomy to better understand the clinical picture of breast cancer.”

Besides medical applications, multimodal tomography could also open up new possibilities in materials science, for instance, in studies of extremely durable and light-weight carbon fibers and other fibrous materials, where the X-ray absorption contrast provides little information.

Please follow this link to Science Daily for the original story.

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Bats confirmed as SARS origin

A team of international scientists has isolated a very close relative of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) from horseshoe bats in China, confirming them as the origin of the virus responsible for the 2002-3 pandemic.

The SARS-CoV pandemic killed 774 people of the 8094 people infected, a case fatality ratio of almost 10 per cent. With cases diagnosed across the world, the pandemic had an impact on international travel and trade.

The research team, led by Professor Shi Zhengli from Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and including CSIRO and Duke-NUS scientist Professor Linfa Wang, have just had their breakthrough results published in the prestigious journal Nature.

The results will help governments design more effective prevention strategies for SARS and similar epidemics.
While researchers globally have previously used genetic sequencing to demonstrate that bats are the natural reservoirs of SARS-like CoVs, this is the first time that live virus has been successfully isolated from bats to definitively confirm them as the origin of the virus.

The team successfully isolated a SARS-like CoV, named SL-CoV WIV1, directly from faecal samples of Chinese Horseshoe bats using the world renowned bat virus isolation methodology developed by scientists at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong.

The results will help governments design more effective prevention strategies for SARS and similar epidemics.

Horseshoe bats are found around the world, including Australia and play an important ecological role. Their role in SARS-CoV transmission highlights the importance of protecting the bat’s natural environment so they are not forced into highly populated urban areas in search of food.

This work is part of CSIRO’s ongoing commitment to protect Australia from biosecurity threats posed by new and emerging infectious diseases.

Source: csiro.au

Hospital To Use Microfluid Prototype For Diagnosing Tumors

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Photo: Lucas Laursen

Chemist Emmanuel Delamarche held a thin slice of human thyroid tissue on a glass slide between his fingers. The tissue poses a mystery: does it contain a tumor or not? Delamarche, who works at IBM Research in Zurich, Switzerland, turned the slide around in his hand as he explained that the normal method of diagnosing a tumor involves splashing a chemical reagent, some of which are expensive, onto the uneven surface of the tissue and watching for it to react with disease markers. A pathologist “looks at them under a microscope, and he’s using his expertise, his judgment, and looks at what chemical he used, what type of color he can see and what part and he has to come up with a diagnosis,” Delamarche says, “he has a very, very hard job, OK?”

IBM is already good at precise application of materials to flat surfaces such as computer chips. Human tissue, sliced thin enough, turns out to receptive to the company’s bag of tricks too. Delamarche, turning to one of three machines on lab benches, explained that a few years ago his team began trying to deliver reagents with more precision. University Hospital Zurich will be testing the results over the next few months.

The idea was that instead of a sprawling blot occupying most of a tissue sample, a tiny tube something like an inkjet printer could deliver many droplets onto the tissue. Pathologists might put multiple reagents on a single fingernail-sized tissue sample, saving them the need for more samples and surgery. They might make better-informed diagnoses because the printer-like machine would allow them to control how much reagent to place on the tissue and where it goes. Pathologists could also compare the effects of well-measured doses on suspected cancerous parts. “We are interested in maybe thinking about technology to go from qualitative info to more quantitative information,” Delamarche says.

But that precise delivery of the reagents proved elusive. Some of it spilled outside the target area. In 2011 Delamarche and colleagues announced a vertical microfluidic probe, that unlike previous microfluidic probes was not parallel to the target surface. It consisted of a glass and silicon wafer about one square centimeter with one channel about a micrometer across that shot liquid to the target and another channel that vacuumed up any excess. “The trick, or the invention actually, that we had was to put a second aperture that continuously re-aspirates what we inject,” Delamarche says. Today the team can create spots just 50 micrometers across, though he says the sweet spot for diagnoses may be more like a few hundred micrometers.

The microfluidic machine is part of a trend toward keeping samples put and moving the thing that analyzes them, according to a recent review in Lab on a Chip.

The technology is attractive both to pathologists, such as those at University Hospital Zurich, and to basic researchers, with whom Delamarche and mechanical engineer Govind Kaigala can share a larger, more customizable version in their lab.

Source: IEEE Spectrum

Immune System Discovery Could Lead to Vaccine to Prevent Mono, Some Cancers

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Development of a vaccine against Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has taken a step forward with the Canadian discovery of how EBV infection evades detection by the immune system.

EBV causes infectious mononucleosis and cancers such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma, which is the most common cancer in China, as well as opportunistic cancers in people with weakened immune systems. A member of the herpes virus family that remains in the body for life, the virus infects epithelial cells in the throat and immune cells called B cells.

The researchers discovered that the virus triggers molecular events that turn off key proteins, making infected cells invisible to the natural killer T (NKT) immune cells that seek and destroy EBV-infected cells.

“If you can force these invisible proteins to be expressed, then you can render infected cells visible to NKT cells, and defeat the virus. This could be key to making a vaccine that would provide immunity from ever being infected with EBV,” says Dr. Rusung Tan, the study’s principal investigator. Dr. Tan is a scientist and director of the Immunity in Health & Disease research group at the Child & Family Research Institute at BC Children’s Hospital, and a professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of British Columbia.

The findings were published this week in the print edition of the scientific journal Blood.

For this study, the researchers looked at cells from infected tonsils that had been removed from patients at BC Children’s Hospital by Dr. Frederick Kozak. The researchers infected the tonsillar B cells with EBV, and then combined some of these cells with NKT cells. They found that more NKT cells led to fewer EBV-infected cells, while an absence of NKT cells was associated with an increase in EBV-infected cells.

Source: Science Daily

Finnish Doctors Are Prescribing Video Games for ADHD

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A physiotherapy patient using a Kinect-based game in treatment. Photo courtesy Serious Games Finland

There’s a problem with the drugs used in mental health care: You have to be on them for them to work. Even then, they can be expensive and have detrimental side effects.
 
Ville Tapio had an idea to do it better. He runs a private psychiatry center in Helsinki, and psychiatrists had told him they were reluctant in particular to hand out drugs for patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD drugs are psychostimulants, they are frequently abused, and kids can be prescribed them young and kept on a regimen for years.

Tapio’s alternative? Getting people with mental health concerns to play video games. They’re special video games, of course—ones that can change how your brain works, with a technique loosely termed gameified neuroplasticity therapy.

The idea isn’t totally out of the blue. The University of Helsinki is well known for its neuroscience, with researchers already investigating how brain activity changes when people do different things. Scientists there have already tinkered around with game play, checking out local Helsinki production Angry Birds to test why the game was so addictive, and it’s all part of a push by Finnish developers to build games that do good.

But using games to change people’s brains for health reasons is an ambitious and relatively new concept. Still, Helsinki has the scientists and the gaming companies—Angry Birds developer Rovio is just one—to give the idea a proper look. Now, researchers also have cash: Tapio’s company Mental Capital Care received 790,000 euro in funding from Finnish investment board Tekes last year to test out a game designed to cure the symptoms of ADHD.

The new interest in gaming in treatment is fueled partly because brain wave scanning headsets have come down in cost, making it a more realistic option outside the lab. Neurogames work with EEG headsets, which place small electrodes directly on your scalp to measure brain waves. While EEG technology has been around in medicine for ages, only recently have cheaper commercial versions of EEG caps come on the market.

One such EEG cap is the Emotiv, which has become popular with researchers looking to move beyond the restrictions of fMRI brain studies. For one, it’s hard to study the brain’s reactions to natural stimuli when a person is inside an MRI machine. A brain cap, on the other hand, is mobile enough for users to utilize in their daily lives, an advantage researchers hope will help users hack their brains.

Emotiv’s brain-controlled headset was originally designed for regular gaming, but has since found fans in neuro researchers.

Continue reading article by clicking the source link below.

Source: Motherboard

WHO: H7N9 Virus ‘The Most Lethal So Far’

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As the death toll from China’s bird flu outbreak rose to 22 with news of another victim in eastern Zhejiang Province, the World Health Organization warned the H7N9 virus was one of the most lethal that doctors and medical investigators had faced in recent years.

“This is an unusually dangerous virus for humans,” Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s assistant director-general for health, security and the environment told a news conference in Beijing Wednesday.

“We think this virus is more easily transmitted from poultry to humans than H5N1,” he added, referring to the bird flu outbreak between 2004 and 2007 that claimed 332 lives.

“This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses that we have seen so far.”

As investigations continue into the possible sources of infection, Fukuda warned that authorities were still struggling to understand the virus. The WHO said China must brace for continued infections.

“I want to give you a caveat, or give you a little bit of context. We really are at the beginning of our understanding of this virus,” Fukuda said. “(The situation remains) complex, difficult and it is evolving.”

So far there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, the authorities say.

“We do want to note, however, that if limited person-to-person transmission is demonstrated in the future, this really will not be surprising,” Fukuda warned, adding that it was critical to remain vigilant, monitoring the virus’s spread and mutation.
“We are not sure that the clusters were caused by common exposure to a source of the virus or were due to limited person-to-person transmission,” he said. “Moreover we have not seen sustained person-to-person transmission.”

While some elements of the outbreak have baffled investigators — specifically why the virus tends to target an elderly demographic and the fact that it is asymptomatic or mild in some cases and lethal in others — authorities have claimed some significant victories in the fight against a pandemic.

Anne Kelso, the director of a WHO-collaborating research center, said researchers had seen a “dramatic slowdown” in human cases in Shanghai after the city’s live poultry market was shut on April 6. Describing the finding as “very encouraging,” she said evidence suggests the closure of live poultry markets is an effective way to stop the spread of the virus.

The joint inspection team from China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission and the World Health Organization also found that, so far, no migratory birds have tested positive for the virus, taking another worrying route of transmission out of the equation.

It said the H7N9 virus is only being found in chickens, ducks and pigeons at live poultry markets.

WHO officials said there are already efforts underway in other countries to develop a vaccine after Chinese officials admitted international help would be needed with this.

Meanwhile, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in its daily update on H7N9 cases that a total of 108 H7N9 cases have been reported in China, including 22 deaths. Most cases have been confined to Shanghai and neighboring provinces in eastern China.

Source: CNN

Tiny Injectable LEDs Help Neuroscientists Study the Brain

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A new class of tiny, injectable LEDs is illuminating the deep mysteries of the brain.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis developed ultrathin, flexible optoelectronic devices – including LEDs the size of individual neurons – that are lighting the way for neuroscientists in the field of optogenetics and beyond.

Led by John A. Rogers, the Swanlund professor of materials science and engineering at the U. of I., and Michael R. Bruchas, a professor of anesthesiology at Washington University, the researchers will publish their work in the April 12 issue of the journal Science.

“These materials and device structures open up new ways to integrate semiconductor components directly into the brain,”

said Rogers, who directs the Frederick Seitz Research Laboratory at the U. of I.

“More generally, the ideas establish a paradigm for delivering sophisticated forms of electronics into the body: ultra-miniaturized devices that are injected into and provide direct interaction with the depths of the tissue.”

The researchers demonstrated the first application of their devices in optogenetics, a new area of neuroscience that uses light to stimulate targeted neural pathways in the brain. The procedure involves genetically programming specific neurons to respond to light. Optogenetics allows researchers to study precise brain functions in isolation in ways that are impossible with electrical stimulation, which affects neurons throughout a broad area, or with drugs, which saturate the whole brain.

Optogenetics experiments with mice illustrate the ability to train complex behaviors without physical reward, and to alleviate certain anxiety responses. Yet fundamental insights into the structure and function of the brain that emerge from such studies could have implications for treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, anxiety and other neurological disorders.

While a number of important neural pathways now can be studied by optogenetics, researchers continue to struggle with the engineering challenge of delivering light to precise regions deep within the brain. The most widely used methods tether the animals to lasers with fiber-optic cables embedded in the skull and brain – an invasive procedure that also limits movements, affects natural behaviors and prevents study of social interactions.

The newly developed technologies bypass these limitations with specially designed powerful LEDs – among the world’s smallest, with sizes comparable to single cells – that are injected into the brain to provide direct illumination and precise control. The devices are printed onto the tip end of a thin, flexible plastic ribbon – thinner than a human hair and narrower than the eye of a needle – that can insert deep into the brain with very little stress to tissue.

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“One of the big issues with implanting something into the brain is the potential damage it can cause,”

Bruchas said.

“These devices are specifically designed to minimize those problems, and they are much more effective than traditional approaches.”

The active devices include not only LEDs but also various sensors and electrodes that are delivered into the brain with a thin, releasable micro-injection needle. The ribbon connects the devices to a wireless antenna and a rectifier circuit that harvests radio frequency energy to power the devices. This module mounts on top of the head and can be unplugged from the ribbon when not in use.

“Study of complex behaviors, social interactions and natural responses demands technologies that impose minimal constraints,”

Rogers said.

“The systems we have developed allow the animals to move freely and to interact with one another in a natural way, but at the same time provide full, precise control over the delivery of light into the depth of the brain.”

The complete device platform includes LEDs, temperature and light sensors, microscale heaters and electrodes that can both stimulate and record electrical activity. These components enable many other important functions – for example, researchers can measure the electrical activity that results from light stimulation, giving additional insight into complex neural circuits and interactions within the brain.

The breadth of device options suggests that this wireless, injectable platform could be used for other types of neuroscience studies – or even applied to other organs. For example, Rogers’ team has developed related devices for stimulating peripheral nerves in the leg as a potential route to pain management. They also have built devices with LEDs of multiple colors, so that several neural circuits can be studied with a single injected system.

“These cellular-scale, injectable devices represent frontier technologies with potentially broad implications,”

Rogers said. His group is known for its success in the development of soft sheets of sophisticated electronics that wrap the brain or the heart or that adhere directly to the skin.

“But none of those devices penetrates into the depth of tissue,”

Rogers said.

“That’s the challenge that we’re trying to address with this new approach. Many cases, ranging from fundamental studies to clinical interventions, demand access directly into the depth. This is just the first of many examples of injectable semiconductor microdevices that will follow.”

The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy supported this work. Rogers is also affiliated with the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory; the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology; and the departments of bioengineering, chemistry, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical science and engineering at the University of Illinois.

Source: University of Illinois

Neurotrack to Detect Alzheimer’s Years Before Debilitating Symptoms Appear, Wins SXSW Health Prize

Being able to diagnose people with Alzheimer’s disease years before debilitating symptoms appear is now a step closer to reality. Researchers behind Neurotrack, the technology startup that took the first health prize at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) startup accelerator in Austin, says their new technology can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease up to six years before symptoms appear with 100 percent accuracy.

“It’s a computer-based visual cognitive test that is able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease six years before symptoms appear,” Elli Kaplan, chief executive officer of the Richmond, Virginia-based startup, told AFP.

Around 5.4 million Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the number is expected to rise to 16 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. However, Kaplan said, today most Alzheimer’s patients are diagnosed at late stage, which leaves them with limited treatment options.

“It’s the same thing as what happened with breast cancer before they had the mammogram,” Kaplan said, according to gigaom.com. “They’re diagnosing at the equivalent of stage 4, when there’s already irreparable damage.”

Kaplan, who graduated from Harvard Business School and is a mother-of-two who lost two grandparents to Alzheimer’s disease, said Neurotrack was developed in collaboration with neuroscientists now at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

The computer-based program comes in two versions: one using an infrared camera and the other using a simple computer mouse.  The program is connected to an eye-tracking device that monitors patients’ eye movements as they compare new and old images that appear briefly on a screen.

The program analyzes patients’ eye movements and time spent looking at familiar and new images and then generates a score. Kaplan said 100 percent of subjects who scored below 50 percent on the test have gone to receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis within six years, while none of those who scored above 67 have developed Alzheimer’s.

“By monitoring the way a person moves their eyes, and watching how they view novel images versus familiar images, we’re able to detect perturbations that exist on the hippocampus,” Kaplan said, referring to the brain region responsible for memory.  Past research has shown that the hippocampus is also the first part of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s “Every human being has an instinctive preference for novelty and that’s one of the things that we are testing,” she said, according to AFP.

Kaplan said that the initial users of Neurotrack will be pharmaceutical companies to help them develop new drugs to prevent, or at least slow the progression of the neurodegenerative disease. She added that down the line, Neurotrack would then be rolled out to doctor’s offices and research hospitals. She added that the technology could also be developed into a smartphone and tablet app that consumers can use at home.

“We’re actually working on this,” Kaplan explained to AFP. “We are not very far away from a technology that will work on your (mobile) phone or on your tablet.”

“In 10 years, our hope is that there will be a pill that you can take (to combat Alzheimer’s). You’d simply go in for an annual screening test-and if you get the news that you are on a trajectory for Alzheimer’s, you’d be able to do something about it,” she added.

Other health startups that competed at the SXSW accelerator include Docphin, a web-based platform for healthcare professionals to access and share medical research and Careport Health, which helps hospitals find appropriate after-care treatment for their patients.

Source: Counsel & Heal

Health Providers Can’t Find, Keep IT Staff

Many hospitals don’t expect any immediate ROI on their investments in electronic health systems

Under pressure from federal regulators to implement electronic health systems, health care providers are struggling to find and keep a technology staff in what is the fastest growing IT sector in the U.S.

A Healthcare Information and Management Systems (HIMSS) survey of 298 senior IT executives at health care firms found that 21% fear they won’t be able to find the tech staff needed to complete an e-health system, including a massive, new medical coding system to be deployed on new mobile technologies.

The results were announced at the HIMSS 2013 conference held here this week.

It was the second year in a row that respondents to an HIMSS survey listed staffing as the biggest barrier to implementing systems that meet new U.S. health care technology requirements.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents indicated that healthcare reform is the number one business issue for them.

Other major barriers to implementing e-health systems were a lack of adequate financial support (15%), the inability of vendors to deliver needed products (13%), and difficulty in end-user acceptance (7%).

The survey found that 51% of respondents plan to increase IT staff in the next year, mostly personnel that can build clinical applications, such as computer physician order entry systems and electronic health records (EHR) systems. Staffers are also needed to build clinical applications (34%) and network and architecture support (21%).

Eighteen percent of respondents said clinical informatics expertise is their biggest need, and another 18% cited IT security knowledge.

Rounding out the top 10 were the need for staff for system integration tasks (14%), process/workflow, PC/server support and clinical transformation (each cited by 12% of respondents), and database administration, help desk and user training (each with 10%).

“We lost a fair amount of our IT staff because of the expertise they have,” said Milisa Rizer, chief medical officer for Ohio State University. “Our leadership has been really great at looking at incentive packages because they’ve become such a valuable commodity to us.”

Along with money, one of the most popular incentives for IT staff to stay on is workplace flexibility, or letting people work from home whenever possible. Rizer said an survey of Ohio State IT employees found that they’re happier than IT staff prohibited from working at home.

Employees are more likely to stay on the job when there are opportunities to move into managerial and project-focused positions, Rizer said.

Mike Rozmus, CIO of Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg, Va., said his organization has been reaching out to local universities to recruit young talent.

Rozmus has also shifted his processes for training physicians, nurses and other staff from classroom and computer training to more hands on assistance.

“We’ve learned a lot over the last five years about how to deploy technology initiatives. We’ve found that you can’t just give them technology and expect them to be successful,” Rozmus said. “We know we have to provide at-the-elbow support so that the frustration level of the clinicians is taken out at the early stages. We’re really investing more in that than ever before.”

Many HIMSS survey respondents don’t expect a return on investments made to deploy EHRs that will allow them to aggregate patient data and streamline workflow.

For example, EHRs in the largest hospital systems can cost more than $10 million dollars to implement and 30% of respondents expect the ROI to be less than $2 million. Twenty-three percent expect a $2 million to $3 million return, 16% see a return of between $4 and $5 million, 3% expect an ROI of $6 million to $7 million. Only 7% of respondents expect a return of $10 million or more.

By contrast, the level of investment made for stage one of meaningful use ranged from under $250,000 for 14% of those surveyed to $10 million to $19 million for 6% of respondents. The greatest number of IT executives – 17% — said their companies have to spend $1 million to $2 million to achieve stage one of meaningful use while 11% expect to spend $3 million to $4 million.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has to date dispensed more than $7.7B in reimbursement payments to more than 307,000 healthcare professionals and 4,000 hospitals deploying EHRs under government guidelines.

The federal government requires that healthcare facilities eventually achieve three stages of meaningful use of EHRs over the next five years.

To date, Stages 1 and 2 of the meaningful use criteria have been defined by the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC), meaning health care providers can be certified for compliance.

The total cost for the EMR incentive program is expected to hit $22.5 billion over the next decade, according to the latest estimate of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Physicians and other qualified healthcare workers can receive up to $44,000 apiece in incentive payments while hospitals are eligible for base payments of $2 million a year.

Over the past few years, the focus for spending on health care IT has also shifted from deploying EHRs to implementing the World Health organization’s ICD-10 classification system.

The move from ICD-9 to ICD-10 calls for replacing about 15,000 codes with approximately 68,000 new ones. It comes at a time when care providers are already under the gun with regulatory and mobile initiatives.

Stephen Fanning, vice president of healthcare industry strategy for CRM and ERP vendor Infor, said an aging IT workforce at the same time the health care industry is under the gun to implement ICD-10 code standards by Oct. 2014.

“We’re concerned with … a 30% loss in productivity as you make the transition [to ICD-10] in addition to an aging workforce where some of those skilled laborers in coding are deciding to retire,” Fanning said.

Source: Network World

Microchip Implant Lets Blind Patients See Shapes

An eye-implanted chip from Retina Implant has restored patients’ ability to discern light during its latest trial, according to German researchers.

The device works in a similar fashion to the newly FDA approved Argus II retinal prosthesis to return limited vision in patients with photoreceptor cell diseases like retinitis pigmentosa.

Unlike that system, however, light is picked up via 1,500 pixels on a retinal implant instead of an eyeglass-mounted camera. The signal is boosted by a coil implanted in skin behind the ear and sent back to so-called bipolar cells still active on the retina, which in turn send an image to the brain through regular neural circuits. A small battery mounted behind the ear — the only external sign of the device — contains controls for brightness and contrast.

The recent trial let 8 out of 9 patients see in varying degrees, with three in the study even able to read letters and see the faces of family members. Given that the Argus II finally crossed the FDA’s bionic eye barrier, hopefully we won’t have to wait nearly as long for research like this to become a product.

Source: Engadget