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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Environmental Health Note/Networked Health Workers

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a Department of Health and Human Services experiment that’s testing doctors’ PDAs as a way to alert them to possible bio-terrorist attacks.


CURWOOD: Coming up, the politics and public health perils of water in Iraq. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.

[MUSIC: Health Note Theme]

TOOMEY: In hospitals across the country, PDA's have taken their place next to the stethoscope. More than 700,000 frontline clinicians, including 40 percent of all doctors, use their personal digital assistants to hook into a health information network known as ePocrates. The system offers a drug database and health news bulletins. Now, the Department of Health and Human Services hopes to use this network to alert doctors about possible bio-terrorist attacks.

And towards that end, the agency recently announced the start of a three-month trial. The first test was the announcement itself, sent out to all ePocrates subscribers. The next message will contain information about some of the most threatening biological agents, including anthrax, smallpox, and plague.

Health officials say they recognized the need for better communication during the anthrax scare of 2001. At that time they had trouble spreading the word about effective treatments other than the well-publicized Cipro. If there ever is a bio-terrorism attack, officials admit they probably won't beat the press in terms of getting the initial word out, but they say a PDA-based alert system can quickly communicate technical information such as diagnosis guidelines and drug dosage recommendations.

That's this week's Health Note. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Glen Velez “Bodhran” The Pulse of Life - Ellipsis Arts (1992)]



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