April 23, 2010
by Kate Holton and Georgina Prodhan
The Cohort Study on Mobile Communications (COSMOS) differs from previous attempts to examine links between cellphone use and diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders in that it will follow users’ behavior in real time.
Most other large-scale studies have centered around asking people already suffering from cancer or other diseases about their previous mobile-phone use. They have also been shorter, since cellphones have only been widely used for about a decade.
“One of the limitations of research to date is that when you ask people about their mobile phone use say five years ago there’s a lot of error,” said Jack Rowley, director of research and sustainability at industry body the GSM Association.
About 5 billion mobile phones are in use worldwide. To date, groups such as the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health have found no evidence that cellphone use harms health.
“Research to date has necessarily mainly focused on use in the short term, less than 10 years,” principal investigator Professor Paul Elliott of the School of Public Health at London’s Imperial College told a news conference.
“The COSMOS study will be looking at long-term use, 10, 20 or 30 years. And with long-term monitoring there will be time for diseases to develop,” he said.
The COSMOS study forms part of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Program (MTHR), a UK body funded by a variety of government and industry sources and run by independent experts, mostly university academics.
Professor Lawrie Challis from MTHR said: “Many cancers take 10, 15 years for the symptoms to appear. So we’ve got to address the question: Could there be something out there that we need to look at?”
The GSMA’s Rowley estimated that more than $100 million had been spent so far around the world on research into health risks from mobile phone usage.
Global spending on wireless equipment and services provided by companies such as Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei surpassed $1 trillion for the first time in 2009, according to technology research firm iSuppli.
The COSMOS study is recruiting participants aged 18-69 in Britain, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark through mobile carriers. It will use data from volunteers’ phone bills and health records as well as questionnaires.
Rowley, while welcoming the planned study, said organizers might have trouble finding enough volunteers, citing a previous attempt to carry out a similar study on a smaller scale in Germany in 2004, which foundered on privacy concerns.
In Britain, COSMOS is inviting 2.4 million mobile phone users to take part, through the country’s four top carriers: Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile and Orange. It hopes 90,000-100,000 will agree.
By late Thursday afternoon, 232 had signed up.
The study will examine all health developments and look for links to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as well as cancer.
It will also take account of how users carry their phone — for example in a trouser or chest pocket or in a bag — and whether they use hand-free kits.
A spokesman for Britain’s Health Protection Agency, an independent public body, said the study had the potential to give very reliable results.
“The Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College is one of the best research centers in the world for this type of study,” he said.
COSMOS will announce its findings as it progresses.
October 13, 2009
By Jim Edwards
Novartis and Proteus Biomedical are not the only companies hoping to implant microchips into patients so that their pill-popping habits can be monitored. VeriChip of Delray Beach, Fl., has an even bolder idea: an implanted chip that links to an online database containing all your medical records, credit history and your social security ID.
As this presentation to investors makes clear, the chip and its database could form the basis of a new national identity database lined to Social Security and NationalCreditReport.com. The VeriMed Health Link homepage describes the chip:
… a tiny, passive microchip (the nation’s first and only microchip cleared for patient identification by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration) and a secure, private online database that links you to your personal health record. Your Health Link is always with you and cannot be lost or stolen.
That database can be accessed by doctors and nurses:
About the size of a grain of rice, the microchip is inserted just under the skin and contains only a unique, 16-digit identifier. The microchip itself does not contain any other data other than this unique electronic ID, nor does it contain any Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking capabilities. And unlike conventional forms of identification, the Health Link cannot be lost, stolen, misplaced, or counterfeited. It is safe, secure, reversible, and always with you.
September 28, 2009
By Nicholas Ballasy
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D.-R.I.) says people will be able to stop doctors from including records of sexually transmitted diseases and abortions in the new national system of Electronic Health Records that was mandated by the stimulus law enacted in February.
The law says that doctors, hospitals and other health care providers must create an Electronic Health Record (EHR) for every American by 2014 or else face deductions in their Medicare payments. The EHRs are supposed to be integrated into a national health care IT system where health-care providers nationwide as well as the government would have the ability to access them when authorized.
“This is totally going to be up to the individual,” Kennedy told CNSNews.com when specifically asked if these EHRs would include any STDs or abortions in a person’s medical history.
Title XIII of the stimulus law provided for “the development of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure” that would include “the qualified electronic health record” of “each person in the United States by 2014.”
The law specifically says that this “means an electronic record of health-related information on an individual that — (A) includes patient demographic and clinical health information, such as medical history and problems lists; and (B) has the capacity — (i) to provide clinical decision support; (ii) to support physician order entry; (iii) to capture and query information relevant to health care quality; and (iv) to exchange electronic health information with, and integrate such information from other sources.”
These records–including a person’s “medical history and problems list”–must be put into a national system that allows for “the electronic linkage of health care providers, health plans, the government and other interested parties to enable electronic exchange and use of health information among all the components in the health care infrastructure in accordance with applicable law,” says the law.
The law further requires the secretary of health and human services “to improve the use of electronic health records and health care quality by requiring more stringent measures of meaningful use over time,” according to an explanation of the law published by the House Appropriations Committee in February.
Nonetheless, Rep. Kennedy says individuals will be able to opt out of having doctors and health care providers list any STDs or abortions they have had.
By contrast, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Tex.), who is a doctor, said completeness may be required in the electronic health records for both clinical and liability reasons.
“This is totally going to be up to the individual,” Kennedy told CNSNews.com last when asked whether the records would have to include any STD or abortion a person might have had.
“So, obviously, for the full effectiveness of the person, it’s to their benefit to have everything on a record, but it’s going to be totally up to the individual,” said Kennedy. “We’re not going to get people to fully buy into this if they don’t feel comfortable with the record–and the one way to not make them feel comfortable with the record is to force everything on them and say, ‘This is a mandate, you’re going to have to do this or that.’ Because if that happens, then people aren’t going to want to buy in and the system’s not going to work.
“So what’s going to happen is this is going to be someone’s–people’s opportunity to choose, because they are going to know there are safeguards, and I think over time they are going to get more and more comfortable that this is in the best interest of them and their personal health,” said Rep. Kennedy. “But absolutely, we are going to make sure that’s it’s all up to the individual, because we are not going to get widespread adoption if people don’t feel that their privacy is protected. Privacy is the cornerstone of making sure this thing works.”
Ashley Katz, executive director of Patient Privacy Rights, a non-profit health privacy watchdog group, agreed with Kennedy about the importance of protecting the privacy of electronic health records but said that electronic health records as currently used are not generally designed to allow people to exempt parts of their medical history.