Improving health worldwide … one solution at a time

Aug. 26, 2013

Scanning the news, I realized that health information technology is changing the world every day, in a variety of fascinating ways – often in the development of solutions requiring some serious outside-the-box thinking.

First up: Technology that hampers mosquitoes’ host-seeking behavior, identified at the University of California, Riverside, in 2011, has led to the development of the world’s first product that blocks mosquitoes’ ability to efficiently detect carbon dioxide, their primary method of tracking human blood meals.

At its surface, it sounds like just another interesting invention. But think about it; this has the potential to virtually eradicate, or certainly at least greatly diminish, malaria, West Nile virus, Dengue fever and other mosquito-borne illnesses, which have long been a serious global health problem, especially in Third World countries.

The initial research identified volatile odor molecules that can impair, if not completely disrupt, mosquitoes’ carbon dioxide-detection abilities.

The intellectual property was licensed to Olfactor Laboratories Inc., a company that grew around the technology, expanded the research, filed additional patents and developed related technologies that eventually led to the product.

Called the Kite Mosquito Patch, the device delivers mosquito-repelling compounds in a simple, affordable and scalable sticker that can be used by individuals in regions impacted by mosquito-borne diseases.

Kind of puts the old flyswatter-and-mosquito-net combo to shame, doesn’t it?

In other news, health IT is working toward solving problems closer to home.

As a matter of fact, there are very few families in America who haven’t been touched, in one way or another, by Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not often we hear of any good news related to this horrible illness, which robs people of their dignity, their ability to care for themselves and their memories before finally stealing their lives. But this is promising: The Alzheimer’s Association and the Brin Wojcicki Foundation recently announced that massive amounts of new data have been generated by the first “Big Data” project for Alzheimer’s disease. The data will be made freely available to researchers worldwide to quickly advance Alzheimer’s science.

Here’s hoping health IT will soon help facilitate a cure.

And then there’s the case of Michigan oncologist Dr. Farid Fata, who allegedly bilked Medicare out of $35 million by giving chemotherapy to patients who didn’t have cancer. The checks and balances built into digitizing health records should help reduce these incidents from happening.

Meanwhile, if Fata is found guilty, I say lock him up and throw away the key!

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