Category Archives: technology Hawaii healthcare

USNS Mercy – Pacific Partnership 2010

En route on its mission: Pacific Partnership 2010, the USNS Mercy docked in Pearl Harbor to pick up supplies and volunteers from Hawaii, before heading off to Guam. The weekend stopover also allowed ship personnel to spend a brief moment in Hawaii. But judging from the amount of visitors filing through the ship, there was little time for crew sightseeing. USNS MercyThis ship tour was a quick one, unlike previous embarks to the USS Nimitz, Santa Fe and Chung-Hoon. Whereas the previous ship visits were operational tours, experiencing the USNS Mercy was like taking a walk in a giant floating hospital. We toured operating rooms, recovery rooms, CT scanners, bio-labs, well stocked cafeteria and sizable exercise rooms. The USNS Mercy was described as being one of the largest in the Navy's fleet, second only to an aircraft carrier. Interestingly, this ship wasn't built to order. It was originally a oil freighter that was later converted in the mid-1980's to function as a humanitarian, medical facility. The USNS Mercy is on its way to Guam and a 4-month exercise called Pacific Partnership 2010. From Guam they will visit Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Two additional visits are scheduled to Palau and Papua New Guinea by other Navy ships. This is the fifth in a series of U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian efforts that started in 2006. According to the Pacific Partnership blog the mission is described as:
Pacific Partnership, which is scheduled to take place between June and September 2010, is aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host nations and partner nations in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Pacific Partnership is designed to enhance these relationships though medical, dental and engineering outreach projects that reinforce the mutually supporting roles between participants. Another benefit is to help participants practice the skills that would be called upon in response to a disaster.
You can follow the 4-month mission on a variety of social media tools. The Pacific Partnership 2010 is actively updating on their own website, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and blog. Based on their schedule they will return to Hawaii in September before heading back to home port in San Diego. All the best to the mission and crew of the USNS Mercy for all the work they do.

UH Hilo gets Beacon Grant

The University of Hawaii at Hilo, College of Pharmacy will be one of the recipients of the Beacon Community program to build and strengthen health IT infrastructure and health information exchange capabilities. UH-Hilo's $16M grant was part of an overall grant totaling $220M from the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Hawaii Island was one of 15 communities across the country to serve as pilot communities for eventual wide-scale use of health information technology. According to UH-Hilo's proposal description, their goal is to:
Implement a region-wide Health Information Exchange and Patient Health Record solution and utilize secure, internet-based care coordination and tele-monitoring tools to increase access to specialty care for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity in this rural, health-professional shortage area.
Back in March we had both Karen Pelligrin and Christine Sakuda on Bytemarks Cafe to talk about the Hawaii Health Information Exchange and how it will be implemented. Karen Pelligrin is with UH-Hilo's College of Pharmacy and Program Director of Hawaii Island's Beacon grant project. The system will include patient information from Big Island physicians, health centers, island hospitals, labs and claims information to improve coordination with health providers. Microsoft's Amalga is the planned IT system to facilitate information communicated amongst participants. On a national level,  all 15 Beacon Communities will tackle specific goals of improving health care and population health status through advanced use of IT. The communities will work closely with regional technology extension centers created and funded under HITECH, as well as state health information exchange initiatives, like the Hawaii Health Information Exchange and the National Health Information Technology Research Center to ensure the dissemination of lessons learned.

Activity Monitors

Unconferenz 2010At this year's Unconferenz 2010 there were many session topics that warrant their own blog post but this one I will put to keyboard, so to speak. We usually have a gadget session and talk about smartphones, Kindles, Livescribe, etc. This year the gadget that caught my attention was the personal activity monitor. Bob Lew headed the show'n tell and demonstrated two devices while Kevin Lohman had on him the third one. Bob showed off the Fitbit and Philips Direct Life. Kevin passed around the BodyBugg. Each of these are geared to be worn over longer periods of time, as compared to the Nike+iPod Sport Kit that came out last year which is more geared around the run. The idea behind Fitbit, Direct Life and BodyBugg is that we need to understand what is happening with our waking and resting activity throughout the entire course of the day and perhaps measured for weeks. They each have the capability of synchronizing their information with a nearby computer either by Bluetooth or USB connected device. With information about heart rate during a run contrasted to a period while sitting behind a desk one can get a better picture of your overall physical condition. These devices will also monitor you while you  sleep and graph your sleep patterns over the period that you are wearing it. For sleep deprived people like me it will probably come back and tell me the 5-6 hours of sleep I have each night is not enough. Oh well. The price points on each device is different. Fitbit cost about $100 while the Direct Life cost $100 and has a monthly recurring fee. This goes toward a health coach which you are able to access as a part of the service. The BodyBugg cost the most at $179 which has sensors to determine calorie expenditure. Obviously this is the wave of new devices that will help us better monitor our physical activity with the goal of maintaining better health.  With health care reform now passed the House, there will be a big push toward lowering the health care costs by being more healthy. The technology is becoming readily available. The more informed we are about how we are taking care of ourselves the better we are able to stay healthy. I hope to get my hands on one of these mobile devices and will  keep you informed of my tech/fitness journey.

EUTF Revisited

A couple of days ago this video about the current EUTF Open Enrollment surfaced on YouTube. I got alerted to it by an email from a fellow co-worker at HMSA. The message was clearly pro-HMSA. The video was a montage of clips from a variety of sources including HMSA's current ads on television, a Common Craft-esque video, Did You Know 3.0, Today Show clips and some original footage comparing HMSA to HMA. Of course I thought this was Twitter worthy so immediately sent the tweet out. It was the buzz around the office. Someone even paid me a complement when they thought I did the video. It is really well done and way beyond my video editing skills. It remains a mystery who did this video. There is a disclaimer at the end of the video stating that it is not endorsed by HMSA and done by a health insurance consumer. Obviously, this person felt quite compelled to get the message out. If the person who did this video wants to reveal themselves to me, I will surely complement them on a job well done. In related EUTF news, Ian Lind, long time journalist and blogger, posted some interesting information on his blog. Based on information he received from Univ. of Hawaii Professional Assembly, HMSA was not allowed to offer a comparable 90/10 plan because the EUTF computer application could not accommodate the additional "code space" for the plan. What? Are we talking pre-Y2K computers? This seems pretty bizarre given the sophistication of today's computer systems. I asked around at work and they too had heard a similar story although could not confirm whether it was in fact a true condition of the EUTF computers. All I can say is Caveat emptor.

Where’s the Party?

American Well PresoThis past Wednesday's, June 18 big announcement at HMSA hit all the major media in Hawaii. HMSA, in partnership with American Well and Microsoft HealthVault will offer online health services to the residents of Hawaii. The Star-Bulletin had an article by Kristen Constillio that went into good detail about what the service will entail. The article was also linked to a video that ran on KITV on the evening news. In comparison it appeared like the Honolulu Advertiser pulled its article right off the press release. What was interesting was the amount of national coverage this announcement got. It seemed like every publication from Forbes to InformationWeek wrote something about this partnership. Just Google HMSA American Well and you will see how widespread this announcement got. When you think about it, this is a pretty big deal and could mark a sea change in the delivery of healthcare and personal health records. Ever since my involvement in telecom, I've been interested in telemedicine. Application partnerships like these will bring telemedicine to the masses. This is health care delivered right to you at home. Whether this new service will be a success still remains to be seen. It will depend on users feeling comfortable enough to use it, whether health care providers (i.e. physicians) will adopt it and what the insurers will cover for the online service. We will learn more once the service is rolled out in Jan 2009. As Matt Holt points out in his blog post, Hawaii is a logical place for HMSA and American Well to roll out this offering. It will compete directly with what Kaiser is offering in this market. So here I am again in the middle of it all. What I would like to know is where was the mai tais and lei Matt was talking about. We never heard anything until the KITV 10pm news.