Day: March 18, 2005

Emergency Room Overcrowding Online

In a continuation of a previous post, I've found 2 more sites that reflect emergency department overcrowding and diversions in real or near-real time.  The first is MIEMSS, the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems. The far left column on the bottom half of their site has a section titled CHATS (for County Hospital Alerts Tracking System).  Below CHATS are links to three different regions of the state, listing all the hospitals in that region and color coded status for various degrees of overcrowding and bypass. This Friday shows 13 out of 58 hospitals showing some sort of divert status (that's 22 percent). The MIEMSS Annual Report notes (page 15) that emergency room overcrowding has gotten more acute in the current reporting period (2003-2004) than in previous years, with record peaks during the flu and respiratory season.  While not as cool as the Med Media website that the Emergency Health Services Federation in Pennsylvania has, the MIEMSS site is informative and updated regularly. Our second status site covers 17 Montreal area hospitals. This site is updated at 8 am daily.  For each hospital the site shows "stretcher capacity", i.e., beds, occupied stretchers and stretchers occupied for more than 48 hours (yikes!).  As of 8am this morning (Friday, March 18, 2005), capacity was at 120 percent, and 79 patients had been boarded more than 48 hours waiting for a hospital...

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Siemens First to Offer Virus Protection for Medical Devices

This is a huge step in medical device security, and the first of its kind. Read about it here, and if you're asking, "what's the big deal," read on... Many medical devices are built on general purpose computing platforms.  Holter systems, PACS, and central stations are obvious examples, but many seemingly "embedded systems" are also using general purpose computing platforms. The most common general purpose computing platform is Windows running on Intel microprocessors. There are several flavors of Windows used: XP, 2000, NT, and CE.  Susceptibility to malicious code like viruses and worms is more dependent on the operating system than the microprocessor.  And since more and more medical devices are getting networked, more devices are getting infected with malicious code. (Here is a good explanation of different types of malicious code.)  Unfortunately, due to Windows overwhelming market dominance, the vast majority of malicious code is written to target Windows computers. Solaris, Unix and Linux are also used in medical devices -- the good news is that few hackers target these platforms due to their small market share, the bad news is that there are few protective software tools available for the same reason. How big is the threat? At HIMSS last month, John Glaser, CIO at Partners Healthcare, reported that they receive 500,000 emails per day from the Internet, of which 7 percent carry malicious code (that's 35,000 infected emails).  He...

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