Late Breaking News
MEDICAL IMAGING AT THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS reached a milestone this year, attaining over 1 billion stored images, according to the department. The imaging system captures clinical images, scanned documents, motion video, and other non-text data, and makes them part of the patient’s electronic record. In the course of serving 1.2 million patients a month, VA stores 20-25 million images in the VistA Imaging system. In 2009, a total of 290 million are expected to be stored. Storage space used today is approximately one pedabyte—one million gigabytes. Using digital images makes remote diagnosis and treatment possible, and permits in-home monitoring of some patients’ conditions. It also eliminates travel for patients needing follow-up care and makes services available in medically underserved areas. VistA Imaging first became operational in 1990 at the Washington, DC, VA Medical Center to handle radiology, and in 1999, VA spread its use to all VA medical centers.
AUTHORITY FOR THE ENFORCEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE HIPAA Security Rule was delegated to the Office for Civil Rights last month. OCR is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 provides federal protections for personal health information held by entities covered by the rule, and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. Enforcement of the rule had previously been delegated to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Through a separate delegation, CMS continues to have authority for administration and enforcement of the HIPAA Administrative Simplification regulations, other than privacy and security of health information.
THE NATIONAL INSTITTUE OF NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS AND STROKE has named William D. Matthew, PhD, as director of its Office of Translational Research. Doctor Matthew will lead the Institute’s efforts to translate the results of laboratory research into treatments for neurological disorders. Doctor Matthew was formerly Vice President of R&D Partnering and Business Development at UCB, an international biopharmaceutical company based in Brussels. He holds a PhD in biochemistry from the University of California, San Francisco, and has served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School in Boston and Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. An untold number of potential therapeutic drugs disappear into a critical gap between academia and industry. Academia is the main source of insights into the mechanisms of disease — and hence insights into potential drug targets — but few academic scientists have the means to develop a drug. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies have the resources to formulate a drug and test it in clinical trials, but they cannot invest in a drug without some sign of market value. The OTR aims to close this gap and accelerate drug development for neurological disorders. The OTR replaces the NINDS Office of Technology Development, and will build on NINDS’ existing programs in translational neuroscience research. According to NINDS, Dr Matthew was selected to lead the OTR because his career ranges from academic neuroscience research to all stages of the drug development process.
THE SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION is moving to provide urgent funding to suicide prevention centers around the nation that are dealing with the enormous hardship wrought by the economic downturn. Many
of these centers must cope with a sharp rise in the number of callers in crisis (often because of financial problems). At the same time, these centers are threatened with significant cutbacks in funding from state and local governments and other sources of support. SAMHSA funds the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline through a cooperative agreement for Networking, Certifying and Training Suicide Prevention Hotlines that was awarded to Link2Health Solutions, Inc. SAMHSA is providing more than $1 million in additional funding through a fiscal year 2009 supplement to this cooperative agreement. This supplemental funding will help expand the ability of the network of up to 20 crisis centers participating in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to deal with the increased demand for services during a time of financial hardship, and to reach out to those in their communities most at risk. The $1,050,000 supplement will be overseen by SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services.