College of American Pathologists
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cap today

June 2003

Raymond D. Aller, MD,
Hal Weiner and
Michael Weilert, MD

Slamming spamming

Do you receive lots of junk e-mail messages from people you don’t know? Welcome to the club.

After one week away from my office, I returned to more than 100 junk e-mail messages—and my computer is installed with the latest spam-filtering software. Unsolicited commercial e-mail, known as “spam,” is annoying and time-consuming, and, worse yet, it can cost you money in lost productivity and bogus marketing offers.

The Federal Trade Commission receives approximately 130,000 forwarded messages daily from consumers and businesses complaining about spam. A “spammer” typically buys a list of e-mail addresses from a list broker, who compiles it by “harvesting” addresses from the Internet. The marketer then uses special software that can send hundreds of thousands or more e-mail messages to the addresses at the click of a mouse.

The amount of junk e-mail has become so overwhelming that unless action is taken to reduce the amount of spam, “e-mail is at a risk of being run
into the ground,” says Eileen Harrington, director of marketing practices for the FTC.

In March 2003, reports the Associated Press, 45 percent of all e-mail sent was spam. Twenty-nine states, however, have adopted some form of anti-spam legislation and others are working on it. Virginia, in particular, has taken a tough stance, giving law enforcement the power to seize assets and setting penalties of up to five years in prison.

At a recent anti-spam forum in Washington, DC, participants called for strong federal laws to help protect consumers against spam. They also warned about companies that are starting to send spam to the new breed of cell phones that can accept text and graphics.

Bills are being created at the federal level to address this issue, but
how effective these laws will be remains to be seen. Let’s encourage our senators and representatives to take a tough stance on this insidious problem. —Hal Weiner

Federal initiative embraces health information standards

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, and Veterans Affairs recently introduced the first set of uniform standards for exchanging electronic clinical health information across the federal government.

These departments are working with numerous other federal agencies, including the National Institute of Science and Technology and the Social Security Administration, to standardize clinical health information under the Consolidated Health Informatics initiative. “VA has long advocated national standards for computerized patient records and has joined with HHS, DoD, and others in the aggressive, collaborative pursuit of the adoption of national standards by all health care providers, payers, and regulators,” said Anthony J. Principi, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in announcing the new standards.

The CHI will establish a portfolio of existing clinical vocabularies and messaging standards, allowing federal agencies to build interoperable federal health data systems. This will permit all federal agencies to “speak the same language” and to share information without translation or data re-entry. These federal agencies could then pursue projects that focus on sharing electronic medical records and electronic patient identification.

The CHI standards will work in conjunction with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act transaction records and code sets and HIPAA security and privacy provisions.

As part of the government’s systems development efforts under the CHI initiative, all federal agencies will:

  • Implement Health Level 7 (HL7) messaging standards.
  • Adopt Digital Imaging Communications in Medicine (DICOM) standards, which allow images and associated diagnostic information to be retrieved and transferred from various manufacturers’ devices and medical staff workstations.
  • Adopt Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) to standardize the electronic exchange of clinical laboratory results.

The CHI initiative is the health care component of President Bush’s e-government plan, which was developed under the president’s management agenda to streamline transactions between the private sector and federal government and save taxpayers’ money. —Hal Weiner and Kimberly Carey

CCA to release updated version of CyberLab

Creative Computer Applications has announced plans to release
CyberLab version 7.0, the browser-based version of its CyberLab laboratory information system.

CyberLab version 7.0 offers a thin-client environment and real-time input and validation, including automatic flagging and call prompting of critical result values. It can be used in an Internet or intranet environment.

CCA plans to make CyberLab version 7.0 available to the company’s user base as a general product release during the third quarter of 2003. CCA

New handheld PC

NEC Solutions has introduced the NEC MobilePro 900 handheld PC.

Known as a “clamshell” PC, the MobilePro 900 weighs less than two pounds and offers a nearly full-size touch-type keyboard.

The handheld PC also offers integrated synchronization capabilities for data uploading and e-mail, instant-on functionality, and an industrial design with no moving parts.

The MobilePro 900 features a Microsoft Windows H/PC 2000 operating system, Intel PXA255 processor with Intel X-Scale technology, and a type I/II PC and type I/II CF card slot. NEC Solutions


McKesson Corp. recently signed a seven-year agreement to provide its Horizon Clinicals information technology products and services to Hospital Sisters Health System, a 13-hospital network in Illinois and Wisconsin. McKesson Corp.

America’s Blood Centers, which operates more than 450 community blood centers in 46 states, has signed a four-year agreement with Information Data Management for the Surround laboratory information system. Information Data Management Dr. Aller is director of bioterrorism preparedness and response for Los Angeles County Public Health Acute Communicable Diseases. He can be reached at Mr. Weiner is president of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at Dr. Weilert is director of laboratories, Community Hospitals of Central California, Fresno. He can be reached at