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Vol. 11 No. 9, April 23, 2014


The Flu Tricked Google. Can Wikipedia Do Better?
Anywhere from 3,000 to 50,000 people die from the flu each year in the United States. One of the principal challenges for public health officials is to identify the unique shape of a flu season early on. A new study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology by two researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital offers them a shortcut: Wikipedia.
By analyzing traffic on 35 of the site’s flu-related pages, David McIver and John Brownstein say they can determine flu levels up to two weeks faster than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers collected page view data from between Dec. 10, 2007, through Aug. 19, 2013.
The study found that data garnered through Wikipedia accurately estimated the peak flu week in three out of the six examined flu seasons; identified the weeks with the most flu-related activity with 17% more accuracy than Google Flu Trends; was more likely to be correct about flu intensity on any individual week than the Google tracker and identified flu trends about two weeks sooner than CDC data. The researchers also said that the Wikipedia data – unlike the Google tracker – were open to all potential researchers.
However, the study identified several limitations to using Wikipedia to track the spread of the flu. For example: Wikipedia does not record location information so the algorithm could only identify when the flu is spreading nationally and both the Wikipedia data and the Google Flu Trends data could only identify correlation, not causation.


Lightweight 3D Printed Breathable Cast with Ultrasound Therapy
Traditional cast can be itchy, smelly and really unpleasant. They are heavy and have no ventilation, so skin beneath gets no air or sun while the unused muscles weaken and reduce in size. Deniz Karasahin, an industrial designer, has proposed a new approach that uses a 3D printer to create custom breathable, washable casts. The casts would be created using 3D scans of the patient’s own limbs and printed out of plastic with some additional metal components to hold everything together. The cast can be removed when necessary without using a saw. Besides improving on the common cast, the system can be integrated with pulsed ultrasound stimulation, a therapy that can be effective in accelerating the healing of some bone fractures.
Automatic Tool Detects Ischemic Stroke from CT Scans
Detecting an embolic stroke quickly and accurately is a challenge that requires an experienced radiologist to analyze CT scans. Since time is of the essence in these situations, an automated computer system that can identify stroke can help patients get the right treatment before more damage is done. Researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University have been working on just such a system that takes CT scan data as input and puts visual markers where it suspects a thrombus is blocking a vessel. The researchers are working on developing a learning algorithm that would improve the accuracy of the system by studying the accurate diagnoses from other scans.


Statement from the Interim Privacy Commissioner of Canada Regarding Heartbleed
Heartbleed has become a worldwide issue and has raised serious concerns about the protection of personal information. Today, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced that external hackers have taken advantage of the problem and that, as a result, the personal information of approximately 900 taxpayers was compromised. The CRA contacted my Office on April 11th to notify us of the intrusion, and to tell us about the measures it is taking to mitigate the privacy risks, as well as to notify each of the individuals affected by the breach. The CRA has assured us that it is presently contacting all affected individuals.
United Kingdom Allocates New Funds for Open Data
The government is helping to unlock data from public bodies by awarding £1.5 million (about €1.8 million) to projects as part of the Release of Data fund. The Cabinet Office investment will support organizations who want to improve their data publication data as part of a government push to increase transparency. The Open Data User Group (ODUG), which acts as a bridge between the open data community and government, will collect bids for funding.
The first round of funding supports projects that will release public data directly, but also those that will help boost skills in the public sector. More funding will follow later this year.
EU: Public Consultation on the Green Paper on Mobile Health (mHealth)
The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the Green Paper on Mobile Health (mHealth), inviting comments on the barriers and issues related to the use of mHealth. Your input will help identify the right way forward to unlock the potential of mobile health in the EU. The Commission also publishes a Staff Working Document on the existing EU legal framework applicable to lifestyle and wellbeing apps, aiming at providing simple guidance to app developers on EU legislation in the field. The objective of this consultation is to receive the views of: regional and national authorities e.g. health ministries, authorities dealing with medical devices/data protection; health professionals, carers, health practitioners, medical associations; consumers, users of mHealth apps, patients and their associations; web entrepreneurs; app developers and app stores; manufacturers of mobile devices; insurance agencies; sports centres, health clubs, etc.
Period of consultation: 10 April 2014 - 3 July 2014
Saudi Arabia: Ministry of Health Pushing e-Health Programs to Meet ‘Challenges of the Future’
Saudi health insurance market could be one of the biggest in the region due to its massive reach, geographic scale and complexity in deployment, according to a medical health insurance expert. “It is a huge potential market and the Ministry of Health (MoH) has a vision to improve the equability, standards, availability and quality of care in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Saif  Aljaibeji, Vice President, Government Relations Middle East at Aetna International. Aljaibeji added that the MoH has been showing keen interest in applying the Saudi e-Health Transactions Program and meeting its requirements. During the MoH-HIMSS event held on April 13-14 at the Jeddah Hilton Hotel, Aljaibeji underscored the importance of equipping healthcare organizations with evolving and sustainable solutions that can ensure continuous return on investment while driving down total cost of ownership.

People with Chronic Conditions Want to Use e-Tools to Manage Their Care: Study
A new study suggests Canadians are interested in using electronic communications to help manage their healthcare, though few are currently using these tools.
The study used data drawn from a Statistics Canada phone survey to assess people’s willingness to use things like email and video conferencing to manage their conditions. Nearly 1,850 adults aged 40 and older in Canada’s four western provinces took part in the survey. Two-thirds of respondents were interested in using email or video conferencing to interact with a medical specialist, but fewer than one per cent had used these tools for these purposes in the year before the survey was conducted.
US: Healthcare Professionals Flock to Twitter
Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and healthcare consultants from the United States make up most of the healthcare professionals who use Twitter, according to research by Creation Healthcare, a London-based research and training consultancy. US healthcare professionals make up 31% of the 75,000 worldwide total of healthcare professionals who turn to the social media site to "tweet" information about healthcare policy, research, individual medicines and treatments for the disease, a company spokesman told PM Live. Only 23 healthcare professionals signed up to use Twitter eight years ago but the medium became more popular in 2008, when the use of Twitter rose more than 500% to more than 27,000 users.
Healthcare professionals on Twitter post approximately 152,000 tweets a day and posted 208 million tweets since the site's 2006 launch.

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