2006-09-15 00:00:00

Air Fresheners May Harm Lungs

A chemical compound called 1,4 dichlorobenzenzene (1,4 DCB), found in many air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, mothballs and other deodorizing products, may be harmful to the lungs, according to a new study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).? 1,4 DCB belongs to a group of volitile organic compounds, which are emitted as gases from thousands of commonly used products including tobacco smoke, pesticides, paints, cleaning products and car exhausts.

The study found that 96 percent of the population studied had detectable 1,4 DCB blood concentration levels.? The report stated that 1,4 DCB may cause modest reductions in lung function, and even a small reduction in lung function can harm lungs.? The effects of 1,4 DCB might be greater for those with asthma and compromised respiratory systems.

Form more information read the NIEHS press release on air fresheners

Filed under: — @ 2006-09-15 00:00:00
2006-09-13 00:00:00

Is Oregon a Fat or a Fit State?

With all the outdoor activities in arms reach from the majority of Oregonians, we might expect to be one of the fittest states on the map.

Each year a study is done to determine the levels of obesity in our 50 states.? Even with the a recent focus on obesity prevention, this year 31 states had an increase in obesity levels and the number of obese adults was over 25% in 13 states. There was a direct correlation between poverty and obesity rates with nine out of the ten states in the south.

Colorado remains the fittest state with only 16.9% obesity among residents and Nevada was the only state to have a decrease in obesity.

How did Oregon do?

To see the nationwide results click on this link: www.MSNBC.com

Filed under: — @ 2006-09-13 00:00:00
2006-09-13 00:00:00

How to Calculate your BMI

BMI stands for Body Mass Index.? It is value that is calculated to determine an individual’s weight to height ratio.? The BMI provides a more accurate description of a patient’s health when compared to weight measurements alone.? Insurance companies have started to use this number when determining the risk factors associated with a patient.

A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, 25 to 29.9 is overweight, and 30 to 34.9 is considered obese. Any score higher than 35 is considered morbidly obese.

Here are the steps to calculate your BMI, courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Multiply your height in inches by itself (height in inches squared).
  • Divide your weight in pounds by the result of the first calculation.
  • Multiply the result by 703 to calculate your BMI.
    BMI = [weight (lb) / height (in)2] x 703
  • Or, take your weight in kilograms and divide it by your height in meters squared.
  • Compare your score to recommendations for a healthy BMI.
Filed under: — @ 2006-09-13 00:00:00
2006-09-13 00:00:00

The Computer Language Shootout Benchmarks

In case you haven’t seen them before, it’s interesting to look at how different computer languages implementations fare on different hardware. Check them out at The Computer Language Shootout Benchmarks.

Filed under: — @ 2006-09-13 00:00:00
2006-09-13 00:00:00

The Computer Language Shootout Benchmarks

In case you haven’t seen them before, it’s interesting to look at how different computer languages implementations fare on different hardware. Check them out at The Computer Language Shootout Benchmarks.

Filed under: — @ 2006-09-13 00:00:00
2006-09-12 00:00:00

Analytics tools are bit more expensive than you think

Many of us run to reporting and analytics vendors because our users scream for reports and we think that if we “just give them a tool” they will be able to make things work and get their own reports. Most of us are finding that not to be the case because we underestimate the effort and time necessary to do analytics and run “user friendly” reporting systems.

The main reason we’re surprised is that we believe everything we see during the web analytics demos that vendors present. It’s not their fault, really — they are trying to show us that everything is much easier with their tool. Well, the reason that’s the case is that they (the demonstrators) understand the data they are presenting. Of course, our users who will use the tools with our own data don’t understand the structures we designed.

A simple rule is that unless the data models underneath are pretty well design and just as well understood no tool will be able to do “easy analytics”. Even if you have a free analytics tool it will take hours to setup each report and more hours to maintain the reports as time progresses. This means that no matter how nice the reporting tool, without complete understanding of the data in the data stores you can’t have good reports.

When calculating costs, don’t forget all the time needed to include internal stakeholder participation, testing the reports, and ongoing maintenance. Data collection is an ongoing activity, data structures change, and data is dynamic. Choosing a reporting solution should take that into account.

Filed under: — @ 2006-09-12 00:00:00
2006-09-12 00:00:00

Analytics tools are bit more expensive than you think

Many of us run to reporting and analytics vendors because our users scream for reports and we think that if we “just give them a tool” they will be able to make things work and get their own reports. Most of us are finding that not to be the case because we underestimate the effort and time necessary to do analytics and run “user friendly” reporting systems.

The main reason we’re surprised is that we believe everything we see during the web analytics demos that vendors present. It’s not their fault, really — they are trying to show us that everything is much easier with their tool. Well, the reason that’s the case is that they (the demonstrators) understand the data they are presenting. Of course, our users who will use the tools with our own data don’t understand the structures we designed.

A simple rule is that unless the data models underneath are pretty well design and just as well understood no tool will be able to do “easy analytics”. Even if you have a free analytics tool it will take hours to setup each report and more hours to maintain the reports as time progresses. This means that no matter how nice the reporting tool, without complete understanding of the data in the data stores you can’t have good reports.

When calculating costs, don’t forget all the time needed to include internal stakeholder participation, testing the reports, and ongoing maintenance. Data collection is an ongoing activity, data structures change, and data is dynamic. Choosing a reporting solution should take that into account.

Filed under: — @ 2006-09-12 00:00:00
2006-09-11 00:00:00

The First One is Free…The Next One Will Cost You!

There are few companies that spend the amount of money on marketing that pharmaceutical companies do. This should come as no surprise if you have turned on a t.v. or opened a magazine in the last 5 years. In her new book, The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It, Marcia Angell writes that big pharma spend 2.5 the amount of money on marketingthat it does on research and development.

A new type of marketing has consumer groups concerned, free drugs! Companies making the offers include Pfizer, which offers a free prescription of the impotence drug Viagra for every six filled, and Sanofi-Aventis, which allows patients to try seven days of the sleeping pill Ambien at no cost. These offers are not tracked by doctors or pharmacists, unlike some free trial vouchers.

Providing a drug at a discount or for free might persuade them to insist on a drug that is not right for them and might be more costly in the future. Currently 23 groups have submitted complaints to the FDA regarding this new form of drug promotion.
It is true that the cost of drugs have become increasingly more expensive, but their are more effect ways to lower the cost of drug other than “free” samples. If spent less money on marketing drugs, those savings could be passed along to the consumer.

Read on at Yahoo News?

Filed under: — @ 2006-09-11 00:00:00
2006-09-10 00:00:00

Getting small databases like Access and Excel under control

One of the most difficult tasks I have seen my customers grapple with as I advise them on technology strategy for their information management needs is how to get a handle on those pesky Microsoft Access and Excel “files”. While we tend to treat these ”documents” as simple file management problems they are far more than that: they are real applications and they are real databases with complete enterprise architecture impacts. I remember at one of my clients when were doing analysis of HIPAA privacy concerns related to patient information we calculated over a thousand MS Access and Excel “files” with health data that needed to be protected.

What can be done to rope in these real (small but important) databases and get them under control? First, we need to figure out why people use Access and Excel. Well, that’s simple: with those tools users are in control, they don’t need permission from the CIO to create a new app or database, they can connect to external databases, and most importantly they get their job done. Now, if you can give them those same capabilities but in a centralized manner, would your users use it and let you manage, secure, catalog, backup, and protect the data? The answer is: probably not immediate-term, but certainly yes in the medium- and long-term if you can setup appropriate policies.

So, how do you give your users those features? Well, a new class of end-user-friendly application-creators are hitting the market. There are enterprise-hosted systems like Caspio and Internet-hosted systems like Zoho Creator. Zoho Creator is currently more feature rich than Caspio but Caspio is pretty user friendly and can be installed behind your firewalls and the data goes into your own (SQL Server) databases instead of sitting on the Internet. I’ve spoken to the folks at Zoho Creator and they said they are working on an enterprise-hostable system that should be ready soon as well.

By setting up a server or service and training your users to use the new tools instead of Access and Excel, they can:

  • Create applications from scratch
  • Create applications using templates that other users (or you) can create for them
  • Create applications by importing existing spreadsheets or databases
  • Share applications with their colleagues and clients without sending secure data via email
  • Get email notifications when records are added/updated but only notifications (not the data) is sent across mail
  • Export data in formats that be analyzed in Excel or Access

Here’s what you get out of systems like these:

  • Manage the tool and the database server and all your data is in one place instead of strewn across hundreds of spreadsheets and little databases files
  • Secure the data and protect health information centrally
  • Look at the kinds of applications users are creating and learn from the requirements they’re fulfilling themselves to see if your group should be doing that work instead of users creating custom apps
      Filed under: — @ 2006-09-10 00:00:00
      2006-09-10 00:00:00

      Guest Article: Is e-Health An illusion?

      Dennis de Champeaux, who runs Ontooo, questioned the viability of eHealth last year. He argued the US has not been able to achieve cost effective quality healthcare (which is eHealth’s key potential contribution) and there is no stakeholder that eHealth can do business with. His post was picked up by an east coast VC - who was sick and tired from pie in the sky eHealth business plans - that he put it on his blog at www.sacredcowdung.com. It was actually a devil’s advocate argument against eHealth with the hope to elicit defenses for eHealth. The opposite happened and respondents agreed with the conclusions. I enjoyed his earlier article and asked him what he thought about eHealth, one year later. Here’s his guest article answering the question.

      The arguments against eHealth are grounded on an astonishing phenomenon: the nation spending nearly twice as much on healthcare (in terms of percentage of GDP) than other nations while the yield is less. Apparently the nation is not able to cap spending, enforce quality control and do productivity management of this cost component of the economy.

      This phenomenon is at the same time the ultimate justification for eHealth: the trend of gobbling up an increasing percentage of the nation’s revenue cannot be sustained. However, this begs the question when the trend will max out, and whether we will live to witness it.

      At this point, we can point only to some lights at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

      Business CEOs use typically the polite phrase “the healthcare system is broken”. They have been confronted formany years with double digit premium increases for the healthcare benefits of their employees and their dependents. Although these benefits have taxation advantages the money has to be earned first. Many companies have decided that they cannot continue subsidizing the nation’s healthcare largesse. Hence they demand increasing co-payments from their employees or they negotiate programs where the employees are fully responsible for the premiums, with or without a range of deductibles. Unions have organized strikes to counter these developments, but the message is clear: someone else paying the healthcare bills for those in the workforce is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Most people in the workforce are actually light users of the healthcare services - according to the 20-80 rule - and hence are not financially impacted by large expenditures. Still uncertainty is injected in their lives, which makes them potential clients for decision support services provided by eHealth.

      New Medicare recipients are confronted as well with multiple choices regarding the programs they can subscribe to, which have their own ranges of premiums, deductibles and co-payments. The current Medicare recipients are not yet computer literate enough to be customers of decision support services and/or of eHealth services for treatments of chronic conditions. The upcoming generation of baby-boomers is a different story. It is hard to envision how to takecare of this cohort without increased self help facilities provided by eHealth services.
      The key novelty in both preceding developments is that the patient, the care consumer, becomes - at least partially - financially responsible, which is a prerequisite for being a customer of eHealth services.

      Rolling back an entitlement can produce counter maneuvers. A recent development in the Netherlands is a baroque illustration. The Dutch government, which is a major force in the Dutch healthcare system, introduced on January 1st new, nationwide procedures. To increase self responsibility they created financial rewards for those that do not use certain healthcare services during a certain period; a kind of no-claim arrangement. Lawyers filed immediately a class action suite arguing that chronic patients were discriminated. A judge rejected the claim, which is surprising since ’solidarity’ is a deeply entrenched principle in the Netherlands that has been used to accommodate the disenfranchised. Creative US lawyers will likely also temporarily derail measures to make individuals more financially responsible for their care.

      The medical establishment is another inhibitor against eHealth innovation. General practitioners have claimed that tele-diagnosis is “bad medicine” and since patients did not pay for services, and thus could not vote with their feet, there were no incentives for physicians to offer tele-consultation services. Consumers becoming more financially responsible for their care is changing the status quo. At least one company is offering already tele-consultation services. An early report claims that they have to advice only in 8% of the tele-sessions that a face-to-face consultation is required. No law suites were filed thus far and customer satisfaction appears to be OK.

      Conclusion: eHealth appears to be viable after all and the lights in the tunnel are brightening.

      Filed under: — @ 2006-09-10 00:00:00
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