Raymond D. Aller, MD;
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
» 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
"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,
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, www.results-direct.com,
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 email@example.com.
Weiner is president of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Weilert is director of laboratories, Community Hospitals of Central California, Fresno. He can be reached at email@example.com.