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MedInfo paper deadline extended

The deadline for submitting papers for the 13th World Congress on Medical and Health Informatics, also known as MedInfo 2010, has been extended to Oct. 15. MedInfo 2010, the triennial meeting of the International Medical Informatics Association, is scheduled for Sept. 12-15, 2010, in Cape Town, South Africa.

This will mark the first time a global health IT conference has been held in Africa, and it comes just a few months after South Africa also becomes the first African nation to host the FIFA World Cup next June and July (you know, winter in the Southern Hemisphere).

I covered the last two MedInfos, in Brisbane, Australia, in 2007, and in San Francisco in 2004. I had stories to write for months after the fact. I also was the only professional journalist from either North America or Europe to make the long trip to Brisbane, and, if all goes as planned, I expect to be in Cape Town a year from now for all your coverage needs. (Subtle hint.)

September 20, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Benefit album for health IT. No, really.

Remember a few months back how I said health IT needed a rock star? I didn’t mean it literally.

Grammy-winning Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour is spearheading a charity album to benefit and raise awareness for the IntraHealth OPEN initiative to help bring open-source health IT to health workers across Africa. Also participating are rap star Nas, singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik and a real, live rock star, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck.

The album, “OPEN Remix,” features N’Dour’s 2007 song, “Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling),” which originally was a duet with Neneh Cherry, plus remixes of that song by Nas, Sheik, Buck and other artists. The downloads are free via Rhapsody, iLike and Amazon MP3, but you can donate to the cause through those sites.

Indaba Music, a social networking site for musicians, will have a worldwide remix contest starting in April.

According to an e-mail from IntraHealth’s publicist, “IntraHealth has been collaborating with African governments and private institutions to design and apply open source solutions to strengthen their ability to use health information for strategic health policy and planning. Using mobile phones, PDAs and taking advantage of growing connectivity across Africa, the initiative aims to increase fluency in open source systems and help support a new generation of eHealth workers, technology professionals and national leaders in Africa who understand, customize and apply open technologies to improve health.”

This sounds a lot like what the OpenMRS and Partners In Health folks are working on, and a lot like what I heard at the Making the eHealth Connection conferences in Italy last summer. Funny how there seems to be more organization around e-health in Africa than in the U.S.

February 16, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Mobile phones to the rescue

Australia 7 News reports that a British surgeon working amidst armed conflict in Congo saved the life of an injured teenager by performing an amputation procedure he had never done before. The surgeon got detailed instructions on the operation from a colleague back in the UK. Via text messaging.

Click here for the story.

December 3, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Mobile phones for HIV/AIDS treatment

In honor of World AIDS Day, I’m linking to a post on the MobileActive.org blog about treating HIV/AIDS patients via mobile phones. The post discusses two programs to engage patients with “virtual call centers,” text messages and, eventually, home testing services, particularly in South Africa, which has the world’s highest population of HIV-positive residents.

(Thanks to Dr. Enoch Choi for alerting me to this post.)

I’ve covered mobile health in the developing world several times on this blog and elsewhere, notably from one week of the the Making the eHealth Connection conferences in Italy last summer, and subsequent follow-up coverage. See “The Davos of health IT?” and “Desmond Tutu Presents e-Health Call to Action.”

Those who attend the 25th annual TEPR conference in February should expect to hear a progress report on a project to promote health information interoperability in the U.S. by cell phone. The Medical Records Institute, the group behind TEPR, also is pushing mobile technology in healthcare through the Center for Cell Phone Applications in Healthcare.

Looking ahead, I’m hoping to get a closer look at mobile technology for HIV treatment at MedInfo2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. But that’s a long way off. The HIV epidemic is not going to wait.

December 1, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

More from Bellagio

Here’s one more story I wrote as a result of the Making the eHealth Connection conferences in Bellagio nearly a month ago. It’s about RAFT, the Réseau en Afrique francophone pour la télémédicine (Telemedicine Network in French-speaking Africa), which connects remote and underserved African communities in 15 countries to medical professionals worldwide. RAFT is a program of the Geneva University Hospitals and the cantonal government of Geneva, Switzerland.

The story appeared in E-Health Europe on Aug. 4, while I was still in Italy.

August 27, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

The Davos of Health IT?

BELLAGIO, Italy—As promised, I am at Week 3 of Making the eHealth Connection at the Rockefeller Foundation‘s unbelievably gorgeous retreat and meeting center on the banks of picturesque Lake Como. (Full disclosure: The foundation is paying my travel expenses and providing me with room and board on the campus.)

I am one of perhaps three or four members of the media here this week, which features mostly separate conferences on electronic health records and on mobile health and telemedicine. The sessions are pretty fascinating, but also off the record. I’m only allowed to report on general concepts, not quote people directly from the open forum. I may approach individuals for on-the-record chats during breaks, however, and the plenary sessions are on the record.

I had a story yesterday in Digital HealthCare & Productivity about Monday’s keynote speech of Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of South Africa-based Econet Wireless Group. Masiyiwa, a confidant of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and a Rockefeller Foundation board member, has been called the “Bill Gates of Africa,” at least according to his Wikipedia entry. This bit of trivia, which was not in the bio I was provided, neglects the facts that: Gates is a hardcore geek, not an entrepreneur, which is why he turned over the day-to-day leadership of Microsoft to Steve Ballmer; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pouring billions of dollars into Africa. (For a discussion on the accuracy of Wikipedia, see www.wikiality.com/Wikiality. Or just watch the video below.)

Now that most of my deadlines for paid gigs are out of the way, I’ve got some time to blog. I will have a podcast with at least one Rockefeller Foundation executive on this series of conferences, which I’m taking the liberty of dubbing the “Davos of Health IT.” In fact, Davos, Switzerland, is less than 100 miles from here. Or should I say less than 160.9 km?

July 30, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Priorities

What would my blog be without a random item from weeks ago? On Tuesday I discovered a news story from Dec. 31 about an e-health strategy in Rwanda. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly is helping to fund the installation of Internet links between the three major hospitals in the Central African country, known in these parts mostly for its brutal, 1990s civil war.

According to the story, lack of high-speed Internet is holding back a national e-health strategy, “meant to help Rwandan medical experts exchange health information with their overseas counterparts.” Those overseas counterparts included “two U.S. universities of George Washington and New Jersey.” So George Washington University in Washington, and, I presume, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey? (Anyone know for sure? I’m too tired to hunt down that information.)

So, basically, U.S. taxpayers are financing international interoperability testing in a country with limited health infrastructure of any kind, but we can’t find more than $100 million or so (counting various HHS offices) in a $3 trillion federal budget for health IT at home? Interesting.

Yes, President Bush did discuss electronic health records in his State of the Union again this year, and yes, Sen. Hillary Clinton did give a pretty lengthy argument in favor of EHRs during last week’s Democratic presidential debate in Los Angeles, but are we really getting more than empty election-year posturing? Prove me wrong, politicians, prove me wrong.

And while we’re pondering interoperability conundrums, here’s a good one from Tim Dotson, my editor at Inside Healthcare Computing. In the Feb. 4 issue of that newsletter, he asks: “Why can’t somebody figure out a way for hospitals to share clinical decision support rules that will work on any vendor’s system instead of letting those systems go to waste because hospitals never develop their own rules?”

Good question. I suppose that’s why Cerner sold off Zynx Health a couple of years ago, but the issue is a lot deeper than one set of rules being tied to one vendor. Collaboration sure is hard, isn’t it?

P.S. Is anyone arriving at HIMSS early? I may come in as early as the Friday, Feb. 22, just because I hate 6 a.m. flights. Drop me a line if you’ll be in Orlando before Sunday.

February 5, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Learning from others’ mistakes

I’ve had a theory for a while, that developing countries may have an easier time adopting IT in healthcare than rich nations that have a long history of inefficient, paper-based practice. It’s worked that way in telecommunications, in that many African countries had underdeveloped phone systems for decades, but quickly adopted mobile phones because it’s easier to put up some cell towers than to string wires to remote villages and urban slums.

Today, I came across this story about efforts to build electronic health systems. “Information technology is no longer a luxury purchased at the expense of other needs, but a basic tool, heard an annual pan-African government ministerial information technology summit last week,” the story says.

Would you believe that wireless, handheld computers are catching on with doctors in Uganda or that clinics in Mozambique have electronic scheduling systems to ensure that HIV/AIDS patients get regular care?

I’ve heard from World Health Organization officials that millions upon millions of people in places like India would rather have access to basic health services than advanced technology, so don’t expect EMRs to proliferate across the developing world any faster than they are in North America and Europe. But if you have a chance to build from the ground up, why not go with something modern and efficient instead of creating isolated silos of incomplete information?

Yes, I have an interest in Africa because my uncle has worked in economic development over there for years. I visited him in Senegal a couple of years ago and was fascinated by what I saw and experienced—though I had no real contact with what passes for a health system.

And Wednesday at the TEPR conference in Dallas, I heard a presentation from a Brazilian health official about some ambitious plans to wire her country’s health infrastructure. I’ll try to write about that another time.

May 23, 2007 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.