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Vol. 12 No. 8, April 22, 2015


Another Reason to Use Twitter: Tweets Can Predict Emergency Room Visits
Twitter users who post personal health-related information online may help hospitals predict how many emergency room visits they can expect on a given day, according to new research from the University of Arizona, published in Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics.
Researchers, led by Sudha Ram, a professor of management information systems and computer science at the university, created a predictive model that used tweets to predict roughly how many people would visit a large Dallas hospital's emergency room for asthma-related issues on a particular day. Ram and her team collected air quality data from environmental sensors near the hospital as well as tweets that contained terms such as "inhaler," "wheezing" or "asthma" over a three- month period. They then used text-mining techniques to narrow down the millions of tweets to those within ZIP codes associated with the hospital's patient population, according to the study.
The data they collected indicated an increase in asthma visits to the emergency department as certain air quality measures worsened and as the number of asthma-related tweets increased. Analysis of air quality measures in combination with tweets enabled Ram and her team to predict ED volume levels on a given day with 75% accuracy. Researchers also analyzed the frequency of asthma-related Google searches but found no meaningful relationship between them and ED visits for asthma. (PDF)


Nanoparticles to Prevent Tooth Decay; Looking to Put Dentists Out of Business
Researchers from the University of Rochester and University of Pennsylvania have designed drug-releasing nanoparticles to protect the teeth from bacterial damage and decay. The particles are engineered with a positively-charged outer segment to bind to negatively-charged sites on plaque biofilms and tooth enamel, effectively anchoring the particles in place. The particles’ cores are hydrophobic and loaded with farnesol, a hydrophobic antibacterial drug. They showed that head-to-head in a topical application, the drug-loaded nanoparticles were four times more powerful in destroying the bugs (Streptococcus mutans, in this study) than the free drug alone. They attributed this fact to the ability of the nanoparticles to adhere and deliver the drug in a controlled-release fashion, targeting sites of bacterial growth (biofilms) to deliver higher concentrations locally. Additionally, laboratory models of teeth and decay showed that the particles were able to greatly reduce the mechanical stability of the biofilms, rendering them more brittle and breakable.


New Australian Guidelines Based on Established COACH Resource
Australians are benefitting from a new health information privacy and security guide that HISA, the country’s health informatics organization, recently published based on the COACH Guidelines for the Protection of Health Information, an important standards-based and professional practice resource in Canadian healthcare since 1989.
The new Australian Guidelines for the Protection of Health Information: Protecting Health Information is Everyone’s Business was developed after COACH set up a licensing agreement with HISA for use of the COACH Guidelines in Australia – the first agreement of this kind with a jurisdiction outside of Canada.
Brazil Deploys Tech Solution to Improve Health Data Interoperability
The Ministry of Health Brazil deployed Oracle Healthcare Master Person Index running on Oracle engineered systems to advance nationwide e-health initiatives designed to improve care quality while reducing costs. This is the largest enterprise master person index (EMPI) implementation in the world, covering Brazil’s entire population of more than 200 million.
In order to create a national electronic health record system and health information exchanges that serve every resident, the Ministry of Health Brazil must first ensure health data interoperability. As a foundation, it has created a highly scalable, reliable, and standards-based EMPI using Oracle Healthcare Master Person Index running on Oracle Exadata Database Machine and Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud. Oracle Healthcare Master Person Index enables the Ministry to accurately and rapidly match, deduplicate, link, and search personal records to support accurate decision-making at the point of care.
Canada: Community Paramedicine Continues to Grow in Grey County
Remote patient care (RPC), also referred to as remote patient monitoring, is coming to the homes of more Grey County residents living with Chronic Heart Failure (CHF) or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), announced Mike Muir, Director of Paramedic Services, Grey County.
Grey County is teaming up with Future Health Services Inc., a company operating under South Central Community Development Corporation (SCCDC), to deliver a remote patient care demonstration project, which uses specialized in-home medical technology to monitor patients and connect them with a team of medical professionals and family members. The technology monitors a patient’s vital signs including heart rate, blood pressure, weight and blood oxygen saturation levels. If daily monitoring shows warning signs, a Community Paramedic is automatically notified and checks-in on the patient before symptoms worsen. They also have the ability to share alerts and progress reports with other authorized clinicians and family members via a secure social networking tool as required. The goal of the program is to demonstrate RPC’s impact on reducing hospital admissions and overall healthcare costs. To qualify for RPC, a patient must be diagnosed with CHF or COPD and meet one of the following criteria: three or more 911 calls in the past 12 months; two emergency room visits in the past 12 months; or one hospital admission in the past 12 months. There is no cost to participate in the program. The local paramedic services will be sending eligible patients a letter, information package and application form in the mail, as well as engaging other community partners to refer eligible patients.

Home Health Tech Market Expected to More than Quadruple by 2020
The home health technology market is expected to grow to more than four times its current size by 2020, according to a report from market intelligence firm Tractica.
In 2014, approximately 14.3 million individuals worldwide were utilizing home health technologies. That number is expected to increase to 78.5 million by 2020, according to the Tractica report. Tractica anticipates that medical monitoring, diagnosis and treatment will be the largest application market during that timeframe and will drive the deployment of a wide variety of connected health devices and software applications. Other key segments of this market are remote consultations, eldercare and health and wellness. Key drivers of the growth of the home health technology market include rising healthcare costs, the aging population and an increase in people with chronic conditions.
29 Million US Health Records Exposed by Data Breaches between 2010 and 2013
Approximately 29 million health records were affected by data breaches between 2010 and 2013 in the US — 67% of which were stored electronically, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. These data breaches involved unencrypted information that could be identified and tied back to individuals. And what's worse is that the study indicates that these data breaches are on the rise.
Overall, 58% of the data breaches occurred via theft. The other 42% had to do with loss or improper disposal of data, unauthorized access or disclosure of health information, and hacking or information technology incidents. In 67% of cases, data breaches involved health information stored electronically. And most of the time, these breaches were connected to laptop computers and portable electronic devices, like cell phones and tablets.
But the frequency of these data breaches might actually be the most worrisome aspect of this study. In 2013, the frequency of breaches that occurred through hacking, unauthorized access, or unauthorized disclosure increased to 27%, from 12% just three years prior. And the frequency could increase further still, the researchers say.
To get these numbers, the researchers sifted through a government database containing information about data breaches involving unencrypted health information reported by clinicians and health plans. They analyzed reports of data breaches involving 500 individuals or more — about 82% of reports, or 949 breaches total. All the health information was protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), an act designed to protect the confidentiality and security of health care information.


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