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Telemedicine trend gets a boost in Congress

BY Jim Frederick

Widespread reliance on telemedicine to electronically deliver health and pharmacy services to hard-to-reach patients in remote locations is getting closer to reality. And in a fast-evolving health care system struggling to improve access to health services at a lower overall cost, that’s a good thing.

The potential breakthrough for remote-site dispensing and health counseling came in the U.S. House of Representatives. California Democrat Mike Thompson is sponsoring legislation that would eliminate barriers to telemedicine services for all federal health programs.

The so-called Telehealth Promotion Act would effectively allow Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs and federal employee health plans to provide medical benefits to an estimated 75 million beneficiaries where needed, far from any actual pharmacy or clinic. Through those systems, pharmacists and other health providers could dispense prescriptions and real-time counseling or diagnostics to patients in real time, via remote-site kiosks equipped with two-way video communications and other technologies.

Thompson’s bill would also use financial incentives to encourage hospitals to use telemedicine to lower patients’ readmission rates, and allow accountable care organizations to use telemedicine as a substitute for in-person care.

American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous, called the bill “a major step forward in congressional support for telemedicine,” and is urging supporters to work for its passage.

Pharmacy operators like Thrifty White – which serves hundreds of thousands of customers in far-flung locations across a huge swath of the country’s upper Midwest region – have offered remote-site prescription dispensing and telemedicine services for years. It’s allowed those pharmacy providers to reach patients far from a brick-and-mortar store with pharmacy services, using either a kiosk or a pharmacy technician linked in real time via a live monitor to a pharmacist at a “hub” location.

Advances in mobile health applications for computers, remote-site kiosks and smart phones have accelerated the trend, extending the ability of pharmacies and other health providers to reach patients where they live and work.

It remains to be seen how big a role telemedicine will play in the health care system’s campaign to bring services within easier reach of patients in small towns, rural communities and other areas without easy access to a pharmacy, nurse of primary care physician. But the need for such solutions seems clear and compelling, especially in light of the consolidation of retail pharmacy locations, the disappearance of many family-owned small-town drug stores, and the growing national shortage of primary-care doctors.

What’s your prediction for telemedicine? Click on the link to share your thoughts.

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Panasonic ramps up aesthetics in kitchen appliances

BY Jason Owen

LAS VEGAS — Panasonic, a worldwide leader in consumer electronics technology, announced the Panasonic Breakfast Collection from the floor of the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show. The company will offer three small kitchen appliances: a toaster, coffee maker and kettle, each featuring bold aesthetics.

"With our new breakfast collection, Panasonic aimed to create functional small kitchen appliances that offered sleek, modern looks for today’s kitchens," said Nicholas Monaco, product manager of small appliances for Panasonic Consumer Marketing Co. of North America. "Instead of storing a toaster or coffee maker when they aren’t in use, the Panasonic products were designed to stand out and become a part of a consumer’s kitchen."

The Panasonic NT-ZP1 Toaster is designed with transparent glass and stainless steel. The toaster displays seven browning levels, reheat and defrost indicators directly onto the glass front in blue LED, while convenient controls allow for easy selection of menu items. The Panasonic Toaster is equipped with ultra-wide bread slots to fit even thicker styles of bread or bagels and offers a built-in warming rack, ideal for keeping buns and croissants warm prior to eating. Seven browning levels allow users to perfectly toast bread to their desired taste, and a reheat and defrost function makes it quick and easy to toast frozen foods or leftovers.

The Panasonic NC-ZF1 Coffee Maker fuses well-engineered design with modern functionality. Featuring a strong cubic shape and a stainless steel and glass finish, the coffee maker complements any kitchen style. For single users or families who enjoy different strengths of coffee, the aroma selector allows for the easy adjustment of water flow into the pot, making coffee stronger or milder. This function allows multiple users to purchase the same coffee grinds but get a different pot taste based on their needs. An eight-cup capacity double walled stainless steel carafe will help keep coffee warm and fresh, and an automatic shut-off function provides a safety guard for users who may forget to turn off the pot. The Panasonic Coffee Maker also features an easy-to-see water level gauge on the exterior, transparent blue LED to indicate power and a convenient paperless filter.

And the Panasonic NC-ZK1 Kettle offers users a quick and easy way to boil water, without waiting minutes for their traditional tea kettle to heat up on the stove. With a 1.4-L water capacity, the Panasonic Kettle is designed with high-quality stainless steel on both the interior and exterior that can help keep water warm longer. A pop-open top makes filling water a cinch and an ergonomic handle and spout makes it easy to pour water without spilling. The Panasonic Kettle is also equipped with a washable scale filter to prevent scale particles from entering a user’s drinking water. Family-friendly features include a cool-touch exterior and automatic shut-off.

All three products in the Panasonic Breakfast Collection will be available this May in two color options, violet or smoke. Pricing and availability will be announced prior to shipment.


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Panasonic adds new headphones to 2013 lineup

BY Jason Owen

LAS VEGAS — Panasonic announced new models to their 2013 lineup at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show. With these new items, Panasonic hopes to broaden their appeal and functionality with a wide array of styles to choose from.

"With the Panasonic 2013 lineup of headphones we aimed to create unique styles and form factors that have mass appeal while providing music lovers and true audio enthusiasts the ultimate in sound quality and design," said Tom Hantson, Product Category Manager, Panasonic Consumer Marketing Company of North America.

The Panasonic Iconics series features two new headphone styles. The Panasonic RP-HXD5C are centered around a minimalistic look. The black with red trim features a chrome finish on the ear-cup while the white headphones give the look of a glass finish on the ear-cup. Each is accentuated with a touch of color to mimic the look of illumination- red for the black headphones and green for the white headphones. Besides a sleek, modern look the RP-HXD5C contains a large 40mm driver unit and 8Hz-26kHz frequency response for superior sound quality. The soft headpad allows for hours of comfortable wear. Additionally, the RP-HXD5C headphones are equipped with a built-in remote and microphone made for iPhone/iPod so users can answer calls and control volume from their smart devices directly from their headphone cord.

Also in the Iconics series are the RP-HXD3W which combine a chrome-like ear-cup design with a matte, silicone surface frame which not only adds a unique aesthetic appeal but also provides soft comfort on a user’s head and ear and prevents slippage. With a frequency response of 10Hz-25kHz and 30mm driver unit the headphones are ideal for high-quality sound reproduction. The RP-HXD3W headphones are equipped with a microphone and talk on/off switch and includes an extra adaptor for Nokia and other selected phone models. Users can choose from a variety of stylish colors including red, purple, gray, taupe and black.

Building off a successful line of noise cancelling headphones already available, the Panasonic RP-HC56 earbud-style headphones reduce outside noise by 92% (22dB) at 200Hz including a passive noise isolation by utilizing an insulating effect. The headphones compact pen-type design clips to clothing and houses a noise cancelling on-off toggle, volume control and room for one AAA alkaline battery which provides up to 40 hours of operation time. A cord holder attachment provides tangle-free cord storage and the Panasonic RP-HC56 comes with an Air Plug and convenient carrying pouch.

The Panasonic RP-HJE190 headphones in-ear headphones produce deep bass sound quality due to Neodymium magnet and an extended long sound support port. An ErgoFit design provides ultimate comfort and fit for hours of wear. The Panasonic RP-HJE190 will be available in six colors including white, black, blue, green, purple and red.

Finally, Panasonic introduces the RP-HV41 headphones which offer users a simple design in a variety of colorful options. The eardrop, earbud- style headphones offer a comfort-fit design made with Elastomer materials and offers a unique rubber clip which quickly attaches to one’s clothing for tangle-free use. Neodymium rare-earth magnet provides rich and powerful sound. Users can express their personalities with a variety of color combinations including: Black/Grey, White/Grey, Blue/Green, Fuchsia/Pink, Purple/Teal, Pink/Orange, Green/Yellow and Orange/Blue.

Pricing 2013 lineup of Panasonic headphones will be announced approximately one month prior to ship date. For more information visit Panasonic.com.

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