Rural areas reap benefits of telemedicine

16 Aug 2008, 0430 hrs IST, Nirmala M Nagaraj,TNN




Telemedicine (the use of telecommunications to assist in the provision of medical services) is making it possible for cardiologists, neurologists or radiologists to attend to patients in rural India. For the past seven years, through video-conferencing of patients and doctors, 85,595 ECGs and 25,000 teleconsultations have been done, apart from 1,06,000 thrombosis cases by the 56 telemedicine centres in ten states. Even the postal service (Hrudaya Post) is being used where trained postal staff feed the data online (prescription, X-ray, ECG report, angiogram) for specialist consultation, a review report is sent within 24 hours, and the patient collects the report at the counter or at its doorstep (for an extra fee).




2. Issues and Contexts.

27. MULTIMEDIA IR (12/1) – X-Rays as Multimedia retrieved by medical personnel



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“A Social Network for Your Doctor, Pharmacist, and Insurer”

“A Social Network for Your Doctor, Pharmacist, and Insurer”
Washington Post, August 15, 2008

Trends in social networking are extending themselves beyond more traditional social realms and are making their way into the doctor patient relationship.  WellNet Healthcare is launching a beta version of Point to Point Healthcare, a “social network” for patients, their doctors, and other members of their health care team.   Microsoft, Google, and insurance companies are also investing resources towards increasing the popularity of online medical records.

“Imagine a virtual health clinic: Your lung doctor and heart specialist can pull up your online medical profile and chat, via instant messenger, about your medications. You schedule checkups online, create a wellness journal or even rate your general practitioner. ”

This virtual health clinic sounds intriguing and certainly better than a waiting room.  Consolidated and readily available medical records and fast feedback between patients, doctors, pharmacies, and insurance companies can potentially lead to more efficient and less expensive health care.  Well Net already provides data about patients and their use of their health care plans to employers so that employers can evaluate their health plan offerings.  This new online network may provide additional information that allows companies to better prioritize aspects of health care plans important to employees.  Point to Point Healthcare and similar technologies might also encourage individuals to be more proactive participants in their personal health care by better and more frequent interaction with health care providers.

However, despite the potential increase in efficiency and patient access to information, this medical social network raises some potential issues.
First, doctors generally like IT that is easy to use and increases efficiency or decreases work.  When technology requires a training and adjustment period, it can potentially lead to a short term degradation in patient care and higher stress levels for doctors as illustrated in the reading “Electronic Health Records: Just around the Corner?” .  Patients using the site may not be tech savvy either, so the site must be easy to use in order to ensure quality information.

Secondly, some patients might not be interested in managing their health care information to this extent .  They may choose to remain disengaged and continue to consider the management of their health care data as a service provided by doctors and insurance companies.  Additionally, despite the fact that the program is only in beta and isn’t required, the potential diversity of users should be considered up front.  A large portion of the population, particularly senior citizens, the portion of the population seeking the most medical care, aren’t comfortable or even aware of social networking sites.

Privacy is also an issue.  Point to Point Healthcare and other online records systems will need to meet privacy guidelines set out by HIPAA.  As pointed out in the Washington Post article, the ramifications around the theft of personal health information are greater than identity and financial information theft, both of which are painful, but resolvable.  Private health information is either private or it isn’t.  The damage can’t be undone.

I think there is a lot of interesting potential in a service that links patients, doctors, and the rest of their health care team, but only if it can provide the privacy patients are entitled to and lets doctors do what they do best, treat patients.

Relevant Lectures: 2. Issues and Context, 15. Personal Information Management,  19. User Interfaces, Social/Distributed Categorization

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“Library of Congress Advances 2 Digital Projects Abroad”

The Library of Congress is working on a plan to “digitize a collection of the world’s rare cultural materials” with a wide range of artifacts. They are also working with Unesco in Paris on a World Digital Library project, which will be available to the public next year.

This new World Digital Library will be modeled after the Library of Congress American Memory project (, which has millions of items on the Web, and other national libraries are joining the project.  Library of Congress librarian, James Billington, commented that the vision of this project is to encourage a “better intercultural understanding of the world”, and one of the goals is to offer the collection free on-line in developing countries.

The World Digital Library project prototype started with material from five other libraries, from other countries, and a $3 million grant from Google and technical assistance from Apple.  This digital library will be searchable in seven languages, and will ultimately be available across platforms such as personal computers, hand held devices and inexpensive laptops.

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Data Fusion: The Ups and Downs of All-Encompassing Digital Profiles

The current issue of the magazine Scientific American includes several articles on the rise of digital information and its use, from RFID and biometrics to eavesdropping. I found an article on data fusion, aka data integration, as the most relevant for this discussion.

Data Fusion: The Ups and Downs of All-Encompass Digital Profiles

The article begins with the author’s reflection on his experience traveling internationally several years ago, when his credit card issuer blacklisted his card because the company’s anti-fraud data mining algorithm detected potential fraud. He had merely bought a latte and a cell phone SIM in England. The company knew he was in England, as he’d bought his ticket to England with the same credit card! Shouldn’t they have known it was him?

From this introduction the author traces the history of data mining efforts in the United States, focusing in particular on the challenges of integrating multiple data sources together in order to data mine effectively. He cites examples from DARPA’s counter-terrorism efforts and the Department of Health & Human Services anti-fraud efforts, exploring how data mining is viewed as an ultimate tool, however one that is still rife with inconsistency and errors.

Errors primarily arise from the difficulty normalizing data from varying sources with varying levels of detail and uncertainty. And perhaps most importantly, that once those data sources are aligned, how does one guarantee identity? Who’s who? Am I Andy Brooks, A.L Brooks, and/or Andrew Brooks?

After examining data mining’s shortfalls, the author turns to examples of more effective work done with data fusion and data mining. The winners? Casinos! Think of those wallet-sized perks cards casinos are so happy to give you. In order to counter the efforts of cheaters, casinos have long funded development of non-obvious relationship analysis techniques. The techniques attempt to normalize data across multiple sources in an evolving way, one that tolerates error and uncertainty, and strives to grow more intelligent over time.

The article concludes with the author’s most important point – that similar to the history of cryptography, the public is essentially left out of any discussions about the use of data mining and data fusion. We don’t really know when it’s used, by whom, and for what purpose. We often only know after the fact, such as when the author’s credit card was declined when trying to buy a train ticket in London.

Candidate Lectures:

11. Information Integration & Interoperability (10/6)

15. Personal Information Management (10/20)

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Pensieve, Delicious and “trails”

About a month ago, IBM published a press release about a project for personal memory organization called “Pensieve“.  There are a lot of similarities to MyLifeBits — its focus is on recording disparate types of information (business cards, photographs, timestamps, etc.) and then associating them together in the data store to ease retrieval.

That associative quality reminds me a lot of Vannevar Bush’s “trails”.  The reader wants to connect several documents together (or have it done automatically) so that they can be easily retrieved together later.  I can’t wait for this sort of technology to be commonplace (though I wonder if it will need to be done with a monolithic application like MyLifeBits or PENSIEVE rather than a series of integrated applications like Flickr, Delicious, GMail, etc.).

And just finding this link for this blog posts gives an example of why I’d like this “associative” information organizer.  Using delicious (a bookmark organizer that I’d heartily recommend to all of you), I wanted to connect the MyLifeBits link and the Pensieve link since there was such an explicit comparison there.  But delicious doesn’t provide functionality for explicit connections (Vannevar Bush’s trails are still lacking, even for something as simple as links in a single service).  Instead I’m forced to awkwardly create a unique tag (“cPensieve”) for the connection between them (that won’t recall lots of Harry Potter links as well).  So to see all the projects I’d like to compare to MyLifeBits (there’s another called Daytum that’s also worth looking at), you can go to this link:

(This should fit into the next lecture, or whenever we talk about Vannevar Bush and MyLifeBits.)

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Changing accounting standards in the U.S.

U.S. Moves Toward International Accounting Rules

The New York Times reported today that the S.E.C. is moving toward requiring U.S. companies to follow international accounting standards. It has proposed a roadmap that allows some large businesses to begin using the international standards in 2009 and will require all companies to use them by 2016. Embracing the international standards will make it easier to compare the financial performances of U.S. companies with those of foreign companies, and it will make it easier for businesses to make money across international borders. There are concerns, however, that the standards of the International Accounting Standards Board are less rigorous than the current U.S. rules and that some countries may adopt them more fully than others.

Relevant lectures: 11, Information Integration & Interoperability (10/6) and 12, Enterprise / Institutional Categorization & Standards (10/8).

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Mozilla Ubiquity

Mozilla Ubiquity is a new Firefox extension which adds a command-line interface to Firefox–for instance, you can email the current page by bringing up the command line and typing ’email this to Joe’, insert Google maps in emails without leaving the page, and eventually hopefully ‘post this page to i202 blog with tags mashups, web 2.0, integration, folksonomy’. New commands can be developed by anyone and subscribed to as you see fit. I think it’s compelling in the same way as Launchy—it’s fast and it enables you to work with basically any web service from any page without using the mouse. I’m also interested in natural-language search, which Ubiquity uses. Basically, their goal is to allow information retrieval with verbs, not nouns.

Class session: 21. Search Models and UI for IR

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