Sharing health information.

I spent some time in the healthcare informatics business, the people responsible for data and content in the medical world. I’ve seen a few articles recently about health care information; particularly regarding privacy and sharing. David Weinberger’s post on the National Health Information Infrastructure (NHII) got me thinking.

Net users think in terms of internet protocols – simple connectivity and ease of information flow. Medical information isn’t like that. It uses archaic, essentially proprietary protocols like DICOM and HL7, with nary a bit of XML in sight. Different specialties like Radiology and Cardiology don’t always agree on protocols, or even terminology. A great deal of information is analog rather than digital, and plenty is still captured on paper. Security of the information is a concern as well.

The NHII aims to improve the secure movement and usage of patient health care information. David suggests that if patients don’t trust the system, they won’t provide information. That isn’t really accurate though; information is created (and provided) everytime we visit our primary care physician, a clinic, a hospital, or any other healthcare provider. The data exists, so we need to ensure that it is secure, yet can be used by those providers who need it. The holy grail of healthcare informatics is the Electronic Patient Record, a patient’s lifetime record of their health history, care, and treatment. That is what the NHII can help achieve, allowing providers to have a clearer picture of a patient’s case history.

Doing away with some of the arcane protocols and adopting more flexible web standards would be a start.

Not quite as planned.

Ottawa Protest
Imagine if you threw a protest and nobody came.

President Bush visited Canada today and met with primarily muted protests. A large anti-Bush crowd was expected, but according to The Globe and Mail there was “a crowd of several hundred protesters”. The CBC reported that “as many as 5,000 protesters thronged the streets around Parliament Hill.” This CBC blog indicates that crowd estimates by police ran from 2500-4000, though the protesters stated that there were 15,000 people there.

Most of the coverage was quite relaxed, except for this Toronto Star article (registration may be required), which referred to the president as “defiant.”

Home computer circa 1954.

Home computer

My father sent me this photo from a 1954 copy of Popular Mechanics depicting what a typical home computer might look like in 2004.

According to the caption, “with teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use.”

Submarine control panel
Update: Oops. I assumed that my dad had sent me something from an old copy of the magazine; he does save such things. Unfortunately this is a hoax. The picture is a heavily modified version of an submarine control panel exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, pictured here. You can read more at

My first clue should have been when both my sons, obviously much smarter than me, asked what the steering wheel was for. I just assumed it was an early pointing device.

UPI and fair use.

As I was doing the last post I noticed a comment at the bottom of the UPI story:

Want to use this article? Click here for options!
Copyright 2004 United Press International

I clicked and was taken to Valeo Intellectual Property, where I saw the following:

Personal Use

Anyone is free to make one copy for personal use. This can include one photocopy, one printed copy, one email copy, or posting an HTML link (without text or photos). This includes use by a student for an academic purpose. Click on the article title above to go back to the article. From there, you can print (or use) the content as described here.

When I clicked on “More Info” I saw this:

The content will be used by one person, for personal reference, and will not be copied or redistributed to any other person in any form.

Does this mean that I can put up an HTML link as long as nobody sees it? Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose?

Microsoft patents “teaching”.

Microsoft is seeking an education-related patent for a “System and method for providing instructional feedback to a user”, something for which there ought to be plenty of prior art – perhaps like every electronic educational toy ever made.

A closer look reveals that the patent suggests that a multimedia tablet PC can be used to instruct, or correct, a student as they go through the process of learning to print, or perhaps do long division. By seeing the work as the student does it, the computer can correct it and suggest hints through the various stages. To quote the patent:

Additionally, unlike traditional teaching environments, the user may be provided with immediate instructional feedback, rather than competing for the limited time of a teacher.

The patent application does seem an overly broad way of accomplishing what sounds like a worthwhile goal.

(Link via Techdirt)

It was funny.

Jeremy Zawodny wonders if bloggers are so dumb that they take the appearance of marijuana on Target’s site to be a national crisis. Steve Rubel did go a bit far by calling it a PR crisis.

I just thought it was funny and had a good laugh. A search for marijuana on Target’s site turns up several books and DVDs about marijuana, so it was no big deal.

Not everything has to be serious all of the time. And look at the conversation value Target has generated this weekend alone.

Blogging makes teen kill mother.

Not really, but I’ve seen a few blogs refer to the story of the Alaskan girl who killed mer mom. The original news stories, around November 21, fail to identify her as a blogger, but I notice that Boing Boing refers to an Associated Press story dated November 23 that refers to her online journal.

I hope that this isn’t going to lead to criminal defenses like “the blogosphere made me do it”, similar to when we used to hear that rock music, or more recently the internet made me commit that crime.