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The Pulse

Aiming build a platform that will allow healthcare executives to harness the power of Big Data, IBM has introduced expanded capabilities for its Watson Platform for Health Cloud and for its cognitive computing healthcare unit, Watson Health Consulting Services. The new initiatives were unveiled at this week’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

The new offerings to Watson Health Cloud aim to bolster security and include enhancements to the HIPAA-enabled Data Platform as a Service, a new “good practices” edition of the platform (which IMB calls GxP), and new data center locations, according to an IBM press release.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has levied a $3.2 million penalty against Children’s Medical Center of Dallas for violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, including “impermissible disclosure of unsecured electronic health information (ePHI).”

Children’s Dallas, according to an HHS announcement, filed a report with OCR in January 2010 detailing the loss of an unencrypted BlackBerry device that contained ePHI for 3,800 individuals. Additionally, in July 2013, the hospital filed a report with OCR detailing the theft three months earlier of an unencrypted laptop that contained information for 2,462 individuals.

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The Senate confirmed Rep. Tom Price of Georgia as the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services early Friday morning.

Price will oversee the $1.1 billion HHS budget provided for fiscal year 2017. He is expected to carry out the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act during his tenure as HHS secretary, NPR reports, in addition to overseeing Medicare and Medicaid and other initiatives laid out in the department’s 2017 budget.

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The University of Pennsylvania Health System is enlisting Big Data to help cancer patients avoid trips to the emergency room, according to a Penn Medicine blog post. The project will target lung cancer patients, flagging recent lab tests, radiology visits and patient systems to develop a formula that will predict when a patient is likely to visit the ER — giving doctors a chance to intervene before emergency care is needed.

Once doctors can better predict which patients may need urgent treatment, they can either take preventive measures or direct that patient away from the emergency room and into another facility. Already, the formula can predict an estimated one out of three ER visits.

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Jupiter Medical Center in southeastern Florida will bolster its cancer care for patients next month by becoming the first community hospital in the nation to implement Watson for Oncology, IBM’s artificial intelligence platform that provides evidence-based advice to doctors.

Doctors at New York-based Memorial Sloan Kettering trained the Watson platform to sift through studies and information found in more than 300 medical journals and 200 textbooks to personalize care for patients. John D. Couris, president and CEO of Jupiter Medical, calls the decision to adopt Watson part of a “significant investment” to improve the tools at the disposal of his clinicians.

“At Jupiter Medical Center, we are committed to pioneering new approaches to medicine and healthcare,” Couris says in a press release.

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Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley are turning to Big Data to more effectively monitor infectious diseases. According to a university press release, the National Institutes of Health has awarded a $3.6 million, five-year grant to a Berkeley School of Public Health research team to develop new approaches for simulating and optimizing surveillance networks that detect infectious diseases.

The grant funds a project that will apply Big Data to major challenges in monitoring infectious diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, including tracking progress of disease elimination campaigns, detecting coinfections and maximizing rare-disease detection.

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