Red Hat Linux to Drop Netscape Browser When Mozilla 1.0 Ships

Red Hat�s Melissa London in MozillaQuest Magazine says that Red Hat�s plans are “to drop the Netscape browser as soon as Mozilla has equal functionality.”

The Linux desktop battlefield seems to be Netscape� last stand. There is no Microsoft Internet Explorer browser to compete with Netscape for the Linux desktop

When and if more Linux distributors drop Netscape, Netscape will have lost its last stronghold and will have lost the browser wars.

LMN Questions: Touch Screen Patient Registration Software?

Streamlining is the big buzz word. I supoprt a clinic that wants to have patients who are so inclined to type in their own registration information (name, address, coverage, med history (via check boxes)) using a touch screen station(s) in the waiting area. Is there an open-source product that does JUST that and provides a backend to talk to an EMR system? Is this a good idea? Would most patients do this?

Getting There: Mozilla 0.9 and Medicine

Mozilla 0.9 (release notes: here, download here) has been released. Mozilla is a web browser that is the open source base code for Netscape Communicator 6.x. This release now clearly surpasses the creaky old Netscape 4.7x program in most areas and is rapidly advancing on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in terms of features, usability and performance. It appears on track for a 1.0 release this year. This is significant to medicine for several reasons.

1) Once again proves open source development works and works under harsh conditions (can you say medical computing?) The project has endured several years of adversity but is closing in on developing the real thing. Other development methods such as closed source methods would have likely folded by now, come up with a product that missed the mark or be short on features. This wasn’t a toy program by any means, neither is clinical computing. Score a big one for open source.

2) Open source means it is likely to have more adaptability and security as well as carry on even if individual players stop participating. Medical applications that depend upon it will not get stranded. Wouldn’t it be great to have a guarantee that clinical computing software will never get stranded if a company folds or is bought out? Contrast with the current medical computing landscape.

3) Convergence is beginning to happen on several fronts: the Nautilus file manager is likewise moving along rapidly and will make the Linux desktop interface as good or better as any other. Anti-aliased fonts I predict will be widely available by years end further enhancing the user experience. The only question mark is whether the front-running office suite StarOffice will be able to deliver 6.0 this year. Adoption of it would result in a likely huge cost savings for medicine.

Prediction: December 2001 will likely be the month Linux comes of age on all fronts: server, desktop, commercially and possibly in medicine. This release of the Mozilla web browser performs well and has a rich feature set. It could be a bellweather for things to come in medical open source.

NYTimes: Cryptography Not the Answer

The NY Times (free login required) has an article on encryption and safety of computer data. They are pessimistic: ‘…
“Can encryption safeguard the Internet?…Clearly the answer is no,” said Whitfield Diffie, the inventor of public key cryptography, a method of encoding communications sent on the Internet. “Cryptography is a long way from where the real security problem is…technology alone would not bring about privacy protections. “It really isn’t an issue about encryption and having secure communications,” said Michael Rabin, professor of computer science at Harvard. “The main issue is how is our personal data handled and how is it protected…”
Former White House chief of staff John Podesta stated: ‘…this year is the 125th anniversary of the gummed envelope…Podesta noted that this invention had provided “pretty good privacy.” Not because the technology of licking and sealing an envelope was particularly secure, he said, but because “there was a legal, moral and cultural agreement” binding those involved in its transit…’

The Globe: HMO aims to improve with e-prescriptions

Yet another article, this time by the Boston Globe, in the continuing media coverage of companies and healthcare entities promoting e-prescribing: ‘…Tufts Health Plan will give 200 of its physicians hand-held computers on which to write and transmit prescriptions – a program the health plan hopes will eliminate handwriting errors, lost orders, and other pharmacy hassles…’

CPT Code Ownership Controversy

Thanks to John S. Gage for this link. a site that bills itself as ‘Healthcare Quality Information for Consumers’ has an article and active discussion about the American Medical Associations ownership and rigorous defense of that ownership of CPT Codes: ‘…Imagine a restaurant patron sitting down for lunch. The waitress approaches and requires the diner to pay a $10.00 fee to look at the menu before ordering! This reflects the American Medical Association (AMA) policy for charging patients to view the treatment codes and descriptions employed by all the physicians in this country using the (formerly MECQA) web site. Under these conditions, most of us would take our business elsewhere, if there was another choice…’ This also effects open software engineers since costly access to these codes restricts developer participation and introduces the requirement for proprietary intellectual property for the functioning of open software systems.

Reuters: Prescription Systems Cut Error Deaths

Reuter’s health is reporting that: ‘…Computerized prescription monitoring systems could drastically cut down on the number of medical errors in American hospitals, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives each year, a Harvard Medical School (news – web sites) official told health care executives Thursday. Computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems have helped two Harvard hospitals more than halve their prescription error rate and have saved the facilities between $5 million and $10 million, according to Dr. David W. Bates, the chief of general medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston…’

Infoworld: Industry braces for privacy regs

The medical IT industry faces its ‘stickiest challenge’ says an Infoworld article about the new Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) recently re-affirmed by president Bush: ‘…he long journey to electronic records was meant to unfold around a package of “interlocking” federal rules, which include standards for transmitting health data, privacy guidelines for data sharing, and standards for ensuring the security of medical data. But satisfying the cumbersome privacy component — which requires notifying patients as to how data will be used, kept, and disclosed; offering patients a chance to see and amend records; and asking for patient consent before disclosing data — has posed the stickiest challenge to health care IT staffs…’

Economist: Out in the open

The Economist has a series of articles on the economic aspects of software, including an article on open source software: ‘…the open-source movement is less about “world domination”, which hackers often joke about, and more about an industry which, thanks to the Internet, is learning that there is value in deep co-operation as well as in hard competition. “Much more than a cause, the open-source movement is an effect of the Internet,” says Tim O’Reilly, head of an eponymous firm that publishes computer books, and a leading open-source thinker. Open-source is often described as the software industry come full circle. Indeed, in the early days of computing, programs came bundled with the hardware and complete with the source code (the set of computer instructions which are then translated into binary code, the form of software that computers can understand and act on). Pioneers needed to tweak their programs, and were happy to share the improvements they made…’