College of American Pathologists
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cap today

December 2003

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

Novel technology endeavors with pizzazz

They’re comprehensive, they’re computer based, they’re cutting edge-they’re among the latest novel technologies to receive a National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Technology Program grant.

Among the 35 companies and nine joint venture partnerships that received the development award this fall, which totals $104.5 million in ATP funding if all projects are completed, were several companies whose projects have the potential to benefit the health care industry. Four of those companies are featured below.

» Medaxis Corp., Los Angeles, is developing software architecture for physicians and researchers that would automatically extract patient data from electronic medical records, regardless of the location of the data, type of database, or computer code. The software would generate a list of patient problems and organize and display the information in a manner that supports diagnostic and treatment decisionmaking.

The developers believe this technology will improve information management, thereby reducing medical errors and improving researchers’ access to clinical data.

» TechGuard Security, LLC, Chesterfield, Mo., is developing a computer network firewall that combines conventional rules-based screening with behavior-based screening using sets of artificial neural networks to recognize malicious traffic. With current firewall systems, a rules-based filter blocks data the filter is programmed to reject. The proposed firewall would add a neural network that functions similarly to the human brain and further scrutinizes the data that passes through for patterns of viruses.

"The obvious benefit is that it will allow hospitals, doctors’ offices, and medical facilities to be more in compliance with HIPAA regulations," says TechGuard’s chief technical officer, James Joyce.

The same technology, adds Joyce, can also be used as a diagnostic tool for analyzing tumors or unusual cell characteristics from an MRI, for example. "The key component of this technology is pattern recognition," he says.

» TeleContinuity Inc., Rockville, Md., is developing a system to maintain telephone service during catastrophic events, equipment failure, or as a result of human error. Combining the capabilities of the Internet and the Public Switched Telephone Network, the system would allow users to be reached at their existing telephone extension-via any network or device and at any location-as though no service disruption had occurred. During an emergency, telephone traffic would be routed around network congestion and network failure points using a combination of path diversity, network diversity, geographic dispersion, and distributed network architecture.

"In a disaster, nobody knows where they’re going to be-that’s the problem with all current disaster recovery systems," says Roy Pinchot, CEO of TeleContinuity. "With our system, though, any device that you have, whether it’s a laptop or a PC, an IP phone, your cell, your regular home phone, a business phone, it doesn’t matter. We’ll put the calls back onto anything that’s working."

Pinchot expects a prototype to be completed in about eight months.

» Haptic Technologies Inc., West Newton, Mass., is developing a virtual reality surgical simulation system for training surgeons. Along with realistic touch and force sensations, the system would provide students with realistic views of tissue and organs and their deformation when cut or probed with virtual surgical tools. The system is intended for minimally invasive surgery procedures and has the potential to be customized to each surgeon’s skill level.

In July, the NIST had announced grants for 13 companies, totaling $35.46 million in ATP funding. Among the companies that received a grant was Inrad, LLC, Knoxville, Tenn.

Inrad is developing an automated software system to help researchers and others locate and organize content from Internet sites and databases that precisely matches a user’s information requirements. Using any narrative describing the subject of interest, the automated knowledge discovery system, or AKDS, will generate a model of key vocabulary words and their semantic relationships to direct the search for relevant document content, which the system will then evaluate and classify.

"We’re trying to sort the sand on the beach," says Inrad’s chief manager, Richard Neal. "And to pull out from all of those grains of sand, the grains of sand that will help an individual person do their job better."

If the project proceeds as planned, says Neal, an application for the medical industry should be available in about three years.

New software package for direct-access testing

Results Direct has introduced a software package for laboratories interested in entering the consumer-directed laboratory testing market.

The software package, which can be branded for any lab’s direct-access testing program, includes a Web site,, editable test directory with clinical information and pricing, Web-based ordering, and individualized maps and driving directions to customer service centers.

The software package contains all functionality necessary to order tests, report results, and process payments at customer service centers. The application also includes numerous financial reporting options for monitoring the performance of a direct-access testing program.

Results Direct is the direct-access testing venture of Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories, Spokane, Wash.

Results Direct, Circle No. 194

A new spin on computer speed

Imagine owning a computer that booted up Windows instantly or a watch that contained a million gigabytes of storage that could be accessed instantly and would not lose data if the battery went dead. Imagine if it cost only pennies to make a flat panel display.

Such offerings may become reality through the next generation of computer technology using spintronics, or spin transport electronics, according to an Aug. 21 article in Computerworld magazine.

Devices that rely on spinning electrons to perform their functions form the foundation of spintronics, also known as magnetoelectronics. Electronic circuitry currently stores computer data based on a binary code of ones and zeroes, depending on whether an electron is present or absent. With spintronics, the direction of a spinning electron-up or down-could also be used as data, enabling computers to store and transfer twice as much data per electron.

Because of its spin property, an electron behaves like a small magnet: when it moves, it carries magnetization. Once an electron has been moved into a direction of spin with a magnetic field, it will continue to spin in the same direction until another magnetic field causes the direction to change. This technology could be used to instantaneously access information stored magnetically, even without power, since the electron will continue to spin.

The federal government, through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is funding much of the basic research into this technology. Researchers hope to be able to produce a new type of memory called magnetic random-access memory (MRAM), which will store data using magnetism rather than electrical pulses. Using this type of technology, memory could be 50 times faster and contain 10 times the amount of data in the same space.

IBM is hoping to use MRAM by 2005. The company began using a form of spintronics technology commercially in 1997. The technology, giant magneto-resistance, has increased disk capacities over 100 fold in the past five years. -Hal Weiner

Wyndgate enters agreements with Healthcare-ID, Lattice

Wyndgate Technologies, a division of Global Med Technologies, has entered a strategic alliance with Healthcare-ID whereby it will market Healthcare-ID’s Donor-ID and Transfuse-ID blood center donor and transfusion software.

In a separate announcement, Wyndgate reported that it has signed an agreement with Lattice Inc. to market the transfusion module of Lattice’s mobile applications software for handheld devices.

Terms of both agreements were not disclosed.

Wyndgate Technologies, Circle No. 190
Healthcare-ID, Circle No. 191
Lattice Inc., Circle No. 192

Orchard releases new version of Harvest LIS

Orchard Software recently released Harvest LIS version 5.5.

Version 5.5 offers flexible, lab-defined order splitting rules to automatically segregate procedures requiring unique handling from a consolidated order and lab-defined CPT calculation rules to automate the process of modifying billing procedures based on conditions specified by insurance and Medicare.

Additional enhancements include separate report headers and report bodies, expanded capabilities for bar-code readers, and new security group settings.

Orchard Software, Circle No. 193

Dr. Aller is director of bioterrorism preparedness and response for Los Angeles County Public Health Acute Communicable Diseases. He can be reached at
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