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Technology News

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NCPA Tool Helps Pharmacists Evaluate Technology
In an educational session at the National Community Pharmacists Association’s (NCPA) 112th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition in October, independent pharmacy owner Tim Davis, PharmD, examined the challenges of researching, selecting, and implementing new pharmacy technology.

According to Dr. Davis, most pharmacies use only a small percentage of available technology. Although many factors conspire to inhibit adoption, the vendor-driven marketplace is a major hurdle for many independent pharmacy owners. To combat the issue, he encouraged conference attendees to “talk to your folks for everything.”

Dr. Davis and members of the 2010 NCPA Steering Committee on Innovation and Technology are collaborating to make it easier for pharmacy owners to do just that. Over the past several months, they have been working to create a taxonomy of all existing pharmacy technology: a resource created by independent pharmacists, for independent pharmacists.

Also in progress is an automated technology evaluation tool designed to help pharmacy owners create a personalized adoption roadmap. Users are prompted to create a detailed profile of their pharmacy’s unique metrics, such as prescription volume, years in business, and other descriptive figures. Based on this profile, the tool generates a comprehensive, individualized report evaluating currently installed technologies and identifying opportunities for future investments.

Building on the community aspect, the tool also compares users to a network of their peers, identifies vendors who offer recommended technology, and highlights questions pharmacy owners should ask when vetting potential vendors.

Dr. Davis, a winner of the 2010 Next- Generation Pharmacist Technology Innovator of the Year Award, hopes the information the tool provides will fill a much-needed gap, empowering pharmacy owners to make smart choices that meet their individual needs.

Can Twitter Prevent the Next Pandemic?
Nathan Wolfe, PhD, director of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative (GVFI), has traveled the globe in relentless pursuit of something most people try to avoid—viruses.

A self-proclaimed “virus hunter,” Dr. Wolfe presented to a rapt audience at TEDMED 2010 in October about how technology that makes the world smaller could help prevent future pandemics.

To identify and track potential outbreaks, Dr. Wolfe and colleagues at GVFI follow the original transmission of viruses from animals to humans in certain high-risk populations. Using data gathered from a variety of sources, the scientists have created what they call “the first global early warning system to prevent novel pandemics.”

With that network in place, GVFI is exploring the potential of new types of data that could dramatically enhance global monitoring of infectious disease. Facebook, Twitter, Google searches, drug-purchase patterns, and electronic medical records were among those Dr. Wolfe identified as central to this effort.

According to Dr. Wolfe, a patient’s location and simple status update, such as “sick with the flu” or “coughing up a lung,” could provide insight that has previously been unavailable to researchers who follow the spread of viral diseases. “Big data has an incredible capacity for public health,” he said.

Tiny Batteries Hold Promise for Health Devices
A team of scientists and engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) are working to create a battery the size of a grain of sand. Their ultimate goal is to develop microbatteries that are just as powerful as the lithium ion batteries currently used to power consumer electronics and, more recently, mobile health devices.

Jane Chang, PhD, professor and associate dean of UCLA’s department of chemical and biomolecular engineering, is working on a component of the battery that allows the charge to flow between electrodes. She presented her preliminary results at the AVS 57th International Symposium & Exhibition, held October 17-22, 2010, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“We’re trying to achieve the same power densities, the same energy densities as traditional lithium ion batteries, but we need to make the footprint much smaller,” Dr. Chang said. The research is still in its early stages; however, according to a news release, “these tiny energy storage devices could one day be used to power the electronics and mechanical components of tiny micro- to nano-scale devices.”

Development of the microbatteries is currently funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is operated by the Pentagon. Although the US military stands to benefit from the research, its applications for health care could lead to new breakthroughs in the design and construction of pacemakers, blood glucose monitors, and other portable and implantable health devices. PT