Patient Confidentiality, Wireless Devices

The Standard has an account of how one doctor made his wireless application secure to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA) ‘…to ensure patient confidentiality; Sanderson couldn’t have medical data zipping from one wireless device to another without building in security. “We have a Nortel VPN [virtual private network] so our doctors and other employees can log into our network from the outside and have a secure connection,” notes Sanderson. The trick was getting the handhelds to work with the VPN…Certicom began selling Movian VPN, which lets wireless devices securely access data on corporate networks over the Net…the new software doesn’t support digital certificates, which Nortel uses to authenticate users. Sanderson had to reconfigure the Nortel software to allow users to log in with just their usernames and passwords.’ Editor: If this is closed-source software, then the question is, who is certifying the certifiers?

Major Companies to Form Doctor Software Company

Business 2 has an analysis article which for some reason is no longer accessible as of 4/20/01 on the new IBM, Pfizer and Microsoft alliance to create wireless devices for physician practices and how Microsoft hopes to benefit: ‘…In late March, the companies announced plans to form an independent company that will develop software and services for physician practices. They envision wireless devices running powerful server-based applications that will provide health care professionals with access to medical histories, insurance information, lab results, and billing arrangements…”Microsoft wants to lock in the [PocketPC] platform for high-value applications,” says Bradford Holmes, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Medical applications are not simple and demand a richer server-based infrastructure behind them, which is Microsoft’s bread and butter. If they can support Office-based applications on the PocketPC platform, then it’s another piece of real estate that they can play a major role in, which is what they’re always looking to do.”

BBLimage 0.63 – Volume Image Tools Available

Paul Hughett on the comp.lang.python newsgroup writes: ‘…The source distribution kit for BBLimage version 0.63 is now available
from BBLimage is a collection of tools for processing volume images, especially medical images; it includes Pyvox, a Python extension
for large multi-dimensional arrays. BBLimage is currently available as an alpha release under an
open-source license and is written in ANSI C and designed to be easily portable to any Unix or Posix-compatible platform. It is known to compile and run on Linux/Intel 2.4 and Solaris/Sparc 7. Some programs also require the X Window System.

NOTE: Alas, the current version has only been tested on RedHat 6.2 Linux. We are still digesting some recent major improvements and
portability has not quite caught up yet. We *do* intend to fix this.

Paul Hughett


Paul Hughett, Ph.D. Research Associate and
Brain Behavior Laboratory Computer Systems Manager
10th floor Gates Building
Hospital of the University (215) 662-2826 (voice)
of Pennsylvania (215) 662-7903 (fax)
3400 Spruce Street
Philadelphia PA 19104

A rose by any other name confuses the issue.
-Patrick E. Raume


WSJ: Linux Gains Respectability

The public version of the Wall Street Journal has an article on how Linux is becoming respectable and is one of only 2 server operating systems that are gaining market share. The other is Windows 2000. Not a lot new here if you are familiar with Linux, however, it is another blip on the radar of success and is peppered with the names of big companies that are using Linux. ‘…a maturing Linux is starting to be used by major companies to run key businesses. Royal Dutch/Shell Group and Amerada Hess Corp. are using Linux-based supercomputers to sift through seismic data, hunting for undersea oil. Home Depot Inc. is starting to roll out Linux-based kiosks and point-of-sale systems in a project that will involve installing 90,000 terminals at all of its home-improvement stores…’

MIT’s Open Source Education

Thanks to Brian Bray for this link: Newsfactor has an article outlining the open source aspects of MIT’s recent decision to post all of its course materials online, free of charge. ‘…MIT faculty chair Professor Steven Lerman said the OpenCourseWare plan will address the academic community’s growing concern over what he called the “privatization of knowledge…We also need to take advantage of the tremendous power of the Internet to build on the tradition at MIT, and in American higher education, of open dissemination of educational materials and innovations in teaching,” Lerman said. “Everybody knows that the way to make progress in science is by using the best results of others,” MIT electrical engineering professor Paul Penfield, Jr. said. “I’m personally looking forward to having my ideas used and improved on by others.”

Wired: Houston, Windows has Problems

Wired has an article by Leander Kahney that says the International Space Station is having problems with its Windows based computers: ‘…Most of the problems appear to be related to Microsoft’s Windows NT, while Russian-made software seems to be more reliable. “The day really gets off to a bad start,” writes Commander Bill Shepherd in an entry dated February 22. “The server connection to the (Net) is down hard. We worked on it last night until 0100 and could not bring it up…At about 2200, we were reconfiguring some mail files which, with a lot of help from Windows NT, got put in the wrong place during the backup procedure…’ Editor: I wonder what happens in hospitals?

Retinal Display for Doctors

Wired has an article about a device that displays data directly onto a surgeon’s retina. ‘…The in-your-face display allows a surgeon to view information about a patient’s vital signs and look at the digital schematics that are used as guides for particularly difficult operations without ever having to glance away from their patient…’ the article goes on to say that it is ‘not distracting.’

Should Public Software Be Public?

Tim Benson has written a letter to the editor of the British Medical Journal reacting to Douglas Carnall’s Medical software’s free future article. Benson argues that: ‘…An obvious route forward for the public sector would be to state that all software developed at the public’s expense be licensed as open source…’ He also weighs in on the commercial side: ‘…Unfortunately, the title of Carnall’s editorial gives the impression that open source software costs you nothing. This is not generally true. Open source software is “free as in speech, not as in beer.”…’

Your Turn: LinuxMedNews Future

LinuxMedNews has now passed its first successful year. Fine. It is time to look at the formula and see if the race-car needs just a few changes or a major overhaul. Participate in an online business plan discussion that is important for the future of your favorite web site. The questions at hand along with the rationale are:

  1. Should LinuxMedNews become ‘more corporate’? Please vote on the front page poll. If so, why, if not, why not? This could mean removing the humorous ‘dept.’ field, and other ‘unusual’ things on the site, perhaps change the Slashdot theme colors and in general be more conservative in its approach. All this would be an effort to attract and keep the audience it hopes to attract: practitioners, health IT workers, managers and decision makers. Anyone else you think we should serve?
  2. Should LMN go for more original articles and fewer ‘link’ type articles to other sites? This would possibly slow down the pace of the site, but also might be more thoughtful.
  3. What do you think LMN does exceptionally well right now and should keep doing? What do you think really needs to go?
  4. What would you like to see in LMN’s business plan? What do you think would make LinuxMedNews more successful and hopefully generate revenue to keep the doors open?

The implications of these questions are important to the future of LMN if it hopes to expand and continue to be influential. Please post your thoughts and take our readers poll on the front page.

Computers in Cardiology Challenge 2001

Can paroxysmal atrial fibrillation be predicted? That’s the question
PhysioNet (NIH/NCRR Research Resource for Complex Physiologic Signals) and Computers in Cardiology want to answer in its 2001 CinC Challenge 2001. This is the second in a series of annual open contests aimed at catalyzing research, friendly competition, and wide-ranging collaboration around clinically important problems. Prizes will be awarded to the most successful participants.

The challenge is to develop a fully automated method to predict the onset of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation/flutter (PAF), based on the ECG prior to the event. Atrial fibrillation is associated with increased risk of stroke and cardiac disease, and is the most common major cardiac arrhythmia, affecting an estimated 2.2 million people in the United States alone. Currently, no reliable validated methods exist to predict the onset of PAF. Given recent advances in clinical electrophysiology, a prediction tool that would allow for detection of imminent atrial fibrillation is an important step toward the application of targeted therapies that may increase longevity and improve the quality of life for many people.

Typically, those interested in working on such problems must undertake a costly and time-consuming effort to collect and to assess the necessary data, a prerequisite that excludes many researchers and students who might otherwise make important contributions to the field. PhysioNet and the NIH/NCRR seek to eliminate this barrier to research by providing large, well-characterized, and freely available data sets for the study of important unsolved problems in analysis and modeling of physiologic signals and time series, including the problem posed by CinC Challenge 2001. For details of the contest rules, background information, data, and software, please visit PhysioNet (