RealNews

New bioterrorism alert system features instant messaging

Federal health officials said Friday they will soon start testing a system that would allow instant messaging of bioterror alerts to nearly half the nation’s doctors via handheld computers. The three-month pilot project is designed to help figure out the best way for the government to communicate with front-line health providers in the event of a bioterrorism attack. During the 2001 anthrax attacks, the Department of Health and Human Services primarily used teleconferences and the Internet to communicate with physicians and other providers – a system many doctors complained was too slow and cumbersome. “This important new project will allow us to harness the power of technology to communicate with many of the doctors, nurses and other clinicians who will be called on to diagnose and treat patients quickly in the event of a bioterrorist attack,” said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. “This will literally allow them to have critical information at their fingertips when they need it most.” Various brands of digital assistants able to store medical records and connect wirelessly to e-mail and Internet services have become increasingly popular with health providers in the past decade. Full Story

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