Biden Versus Palin: The Tech Debate

Vice presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Sarah Palin will face off in their first and only debate Thursday, most likely touching upon the teetering economy, the war in Iraq, and the issues of experience and leadership.

The debate will probably bypass technology issues. But assuming it doesn’t, what type of expertise does each bring to the table?

Biden, a Democrat and senator from Delaware since 1972, chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. Palin, a Republican, served as the mayor of her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska and took office as Alaska’s governor in late 2006.

Outsourcing aids many data thefts, Verizon says

IT outsourcing eases organized crime’s theft of credit-card data from chains, Verizon says
NEW YORK (Associated Press) – The reliance of restaurant chains and retail stores on outside companies to handle credit-card processing and other information-technology functions is partly to blame for a rash of consumer data breaches over the last few years, according to data sleuths at Verizon Communications Inc.
Even a chain with thousands of restaurants might have only 100 employees in information technology, so it uses outside vendors for many IT functions, said Bryan Sartin, director of the investigative response team at Verizon Business.

Stacking Up Biden and Palin on Tech

Political experts don’t expect tonight’s debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin to hit on a lot of technology too much. But that didn’t stop PC Magazine from breaking down their respective technology record and positions. The magazine gives the techno nod to Biden, but that’s because “with 30 years of experience in the Senate, Biden has obviously had the opportunity to touch on more technology issues than Palin.” That would include working on children’s Internet safety, combating Web predators, and piracy and copyright issues.

For Palin, the magazine reports “her experience appears to be limited to evaluating tech-related projects included in the state budget, and vetoing or approving tech-related bills.” She has signed laws that feature some tech, “but her most notable contribution might be the numerous vetoes this year for school technology projects.”

The analysis on Palin is almost 180 degrees different from what the federal research firm INPUT found when analysts there looked into Palin’s technology record. But then again, INPUT looked through the government operations prism when it considered technology and PC Magazine analyzed technology policy.

eHI report shows growth in health data exchanges

The nation’s healthcare IT chief, Robert M. Kolodner, MD, says a new report released by eHealth Initiative shows tangible evidence of healthcare IT progress. Kolodner and other leaders at a briefing last month commented on eHI’s “Fifth Annual Survey of Health Information Exchange at the State and Local Levels,” a poll of 130 community-based initiatives in 48 states, which revealed significant advances in healthcare information exchanges.

Healthcare IT has “without question” changed and will continue to change over time, Kolodner said. The use of electronic health records by providers has become more routine, he said, and personal health records are emerging. Kolodner said the federal government needs to continue to drive healthcare IT adoption and interoperability. Healthcare IT needs to be combined with other aspects of reform, such as those promoted by the HHS value-driven healthcare initiative, he said.

Schwarzenegger signs bills creating hospital privacy oversight office

Hospitals and other health facilities will face harsh new penalties if their employees snoop in the medical records of patients, under legislation signed Tuesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after privacy was breached on celebrities’ files — including his wife’s — at UCLA Medical Center.

Schwarzenegger approved two bills creating a state office to police patient privacy and to allow the state to issue fines as high as $250,000 for multiple violations.

The governor rejected most other major healthcare legislation aimed at protecting average Californians who face significant medical bills or inadequate insurance. In his veto messages, Schwarzenegger vented at the Legislature for rejecting his $14.9-billion plan to overhaul the state’s healthcare system in January and castigated lawmakers’ incremental proposals as inferior.

Thieves take laptops with data about Houston patients

Two laptops containing confidential medical information about Houston-area patients were stolen from a car parked at a Galleria-area store today and authorities are asking for the public’s help find them.

A man who serves as a consultant for a local hospital parked his car at the Best Buy store at 5133 Richmond about 10:30 a.m. and went inside to buy a power cable. When he returned to his vehicle about five minutes later, he found that a window had been smashed and the two computers stolen.

Content of weblogs written by health professionals

BACKGROUND: Medical weblogs (“blogs”) have emerged as a new connection between health professionals and the public. OBJECTIVE: To examine the scope and content of medical blogs and approximate how often blog authors commented about patients, violated patient privacy, or displayed a lack of professionalism. DESIGN: We defined medical blogs as those that contain some medical content and were apparently written by physicians or nurses. We used the Google search term “medical blog” to begin a modified snowball sampling method to identify sites posting entries from 1/1/06 through 12/14/06. We reviewed five entries per blog, categorizing content and characteristics.
RESULTS: We identified 271 medical blogs. Over half (56.8%) of blog authors provided sufficient information in text or image to reveal their identities. Individual patients were described in 114 (42.1%) blogs. Patients were portrayed positively in 43 blogs (15.9%) and negatively in 48 blogs (17.7%). Of blogs that described interactions with individual patients, 45 (16.6%) included sufficient information for patients to identify their doctors or themselves. Three blogs showed recognizable photographic images of patients. Healthcare products were promoted, either by images or descriptions, in 31 (11.4%) blogs. CONCLUSIONS: Blogs are a growing part of the public face of the health professions. They offer physicians and nurses the opportunity to share their narratives. They also risk revealing confidential information or, in their tone or content, risk reflecting poorly on the blog authors and their professions. The health professions should assume some responsibility for helping authors and readers negotiate these challenges.

Law will fine hospitals, staffers for sharing patient records

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law today a bill that would fine health care facilities where patient confidentiality is breached, as well as employees who do the snooping.

The law comes in response to a federal lawsuit against a UCLA Medical Center staffer who allegedly downloaded the medical records of celebrity patients and sold the information to tabloid newspapers.

Schwarzenegger said patient privacy is a fundamental right and critical component of good medicine. Patients seeking care at a hospital “should never have to worry that their private medical information will be shared,” he said.

Hospitals and other medical facilities where patient confidentiality is compromised could be fined from $25,000 to $250,000, as could individuals who illegally disclose medical records.

The legislation also creates the state Office of Health Information Integrity.

Appeals court will decide whether feds can use steroid test results of 100 pro baseball players

A federal appeals court today escalated the heated legal feud between the federal government and the Major League Baseball players’ union, deciding to rehear a case involving the controversial seizure of the names and urine samples of about 100 players who failed a 2004 steroids test.

In a brief order, the 9th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to rehear the case with a special 11-judge panel. The order effectively wipes off the books a divided 119-page ruling issued in January that generally sided with the Justice Department in its effort to use the test results, initially obtained in an offshoot of the Balco steroids investigation.

While it was never clear whether the test results would have any impact on the pending perjury case against former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, today’s legal development makes it even more unlikely the potential evidence could play a part in his trial, scheduled for next March. The 9th Circuit ordinarily takes months or longer to decide such appeals, and the losing side would still have the opportunity to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Legislation signed by Schwarzenegger means big trouble for hospital snoops

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took action today to enable the state to impose stiff fines on hospital employees who snoop in the files of patients — months after California first lady Maria Shriver was one of several celebrities whose privacy was invaded at UCLA Medical Center. The governor approved the creation of a new state Office of Health Information Integrity, with power to review security plans and violations and assess fines of up to $250,000 against people who violate patient privacy.

The governor’s decision follows a series of reports by The Times during the last year that at least 127 employees at UCLA peeked at the confidential medical records of celebrities including Britney Spears, Farrah Fawcett and Shriver.

“Repeated violations of patient confidentiality are potentially harmful to Californians, which is why financial penalties are needed to ensure employees and facilities do not breach confidential medical information,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement after signing AB 211 by Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), which creates the new oversight office and fines on individuals.