Our cover subject this week includes a report on a survey taken by Mathematica Policy Research on the desirability of having health care records available on line. No way, said the majority of those surveyed (see page 43). Well, as the old saying goes, we guess the survey takers missed us at U.S. 1.

As far as several U.S. 1 staffers are concerned, on-line portable health care records can’t happen fast enough.

More than eight years ago, the lead to a cover story on digital medical imaging was inspired by a medical problem faced by our editor. After tearing his rotator cuff in a fall, he underwent an MRI on Quakerbridge Road and then was scheduled for surgery at Mercer Medical Center by an orthopedic surgeon based in Newtown, PA. He soon had to obtain the MRI images from Quakerbridge Road, transport them to Mercer Medical in Trenton, and then visit the doctor in Newtown. What’s the big deal? Well, the editor had a car with a stick shift and he had only one usable arm.

The promise back in 1999 came from a Exit 8A-based company called Sirius (not to be confused with the satellite radio company now on Lenox Drive), and a Picture Archiving and Communication System that would enable doctors and nurses to use a network that would link images and data from any medical equipment made by any manufacturer. “It could be a Kodak, a GE, or a Pfizer,” the company CEO said at the time. “Our software manages the image no matter how old it is or who manufactured it..”

That was 1999. In 2002 our deliverer reported that Sirius had vanished from Exit 8A. Subsequent efforts to reach the company were unsuccessful. A Google search this week yielded nothing fruitful.

The good news now is that the big radiology centers use digital machines, yielding images that can be E-mailed and viewed on the Internet. Not only are the digital images more convenient, but thanks to researchers at companies like Sarnoff and Siemens, they yield more potent information. But the small X-ray machines in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms continue to use bulky film, a problem.

Now another entrepreneur, John Phelan of Zweena, offers an innovative way to digitize medical records, and one of our editors has written a similar lead, invoking a recent and painful effort to gather records and transport them to the people who need them. Everyone agrees that personal health records (online PHRs) would be ideal, but no one has come up with a PHR that consumers will embrace. When will this holy grail be found?

Correction

If it’s hard to gather health records, it must be easy to come up with the train schedule that ran in last week’s edition of U.S. 1. That’s what an anonymous caller assumed in a message left in our office a few hours before we sent this issue to the printer. The caller pointed out that our issue last week ran the schedule from April. The most recent one now is from June.

Printing the new one in this issue turns out to be easier said than done. We will try to get it right next time — in the meantime, double check those times.

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