If anyone needed any more proof that video games have become a serious business, they need look no further than the products of BreakAway, which makes games for recreation as well as training tools for public safety, military-and now healthcare personnel.
One product, Code Orange, includes mass-casualty event scenarios used for training doctors and other medical staff. Now, an even more advanced version called Pulse!! is being developed with the help of a $4.3 million grant from the U.S. Navy.
"Pulse!! will take Code Orange down to the individual patient level," says designer Howard Kinyon at BreakAway's new facilities at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.
Kinyon says that Pulse!! will create a lifelike, virtual environment to train doctors and nurses, who will then be graded on the success of their care for digital patients. He says Hunt Valley, Md.-based BreakAway, unlike other makers of medical simulation tools, does not use mannequins to help with training.
"It's on-screen and it's all digital," he says.
Although Kinyon says he has no medical experience, the company uses "subject-matter experts to get a very accurate simulation with as much detail and verisimilitude as you can get."
BreakAway promises that users of Pulse!! will simultaneously experience peer and patient interaction and emotional observation in an unscripted virtual environment.
Along with healthcare and combat training tools, BreakAway has a product called Incident Commander for public-safety training, Kinyon says. The company also makes Peloponnesian War, which is used at the National Defense University in Washington to teach strategic concepts without the "distraction of current weapons, technology or politics."
Too much information
Karen Tenney contends her bra was none of her boss' business.
The former nursing home worker in upstate New York has filed a $9 million federal lawsuit against Essex County and its Horace Nye Home, claiming she has suffered mental anguish and emotional distress ever since the day her employer forced her to prove she was wearing a bra.
According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Albany, N.Y., the incident occurred in April 2004, after a co-worker complained that Tenney, a dietary aide at 100-bed Horace Nye, wasn't wearing a bra, as required by county policy. A female supervisor sent to investigate the allegation placed her hand on Tenney's back to feel for a bra clasp. When no clasp was found, Tenney pulled up her sweater to reveal a pull-on sports bra.
"Plaintiff was subjected to a nonconsensual search performed ... in full view of the other employees. ... She was humiliated and furious," wrote Tenney, 48, who is representing herself in the case.
Tenney claims the impromptu bra check and subsequent gossip and hostility by management made her blood pressure spike to "dangerously high" levels, caused her to be hospitalized for stress-induced hives, forced her onto the prescription anti-anxiety medication Buspar and compelled her to quit her job, resulting in lost wages and benefits as well as "the loss of enjoyment of life."
According to her lawsuit, the incident amounted to not only gender discrimination and sexual harassment but also a violation of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, because she suffers from fibromyalgia-related shoulder spasms that make wearing a standard brassiere painful.
The defendants have filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit, saying Tenney has no legal grounds for alleging harassment or discrimination.
Jailed, covered, unprotected
Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher is trying to raise awareness of the plight of the only people in the U.S. who have universal healthcare: prisoners.
Satcher, now the interim president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, conservatively estimates that $3 billion a year could be saved on prison health spending if preventive measures were taken.
Satcher commented on the savings during a news conference that promoted this month's American Journal of Public Health, which includes 15 articles on prison health.
"You can argue this morning that the prison health system is much superior to what people have outside. ... People who have never had a doctor before, in prison will have one," Satcher says. "The dilemma here of course is that that same prison environment does not provide prevention, so people in prison are much more susceptible to infectious diseases."
He adds that HIV is eight times more prevalent in prison than in the rest of the population. "We're not (distributing) condoms to prevent them from getting infected with HIV or hepatitis," he says.
Once they leave prison, former inmates aren't likely to have health insurance, which further strains the healthcare system, he adds.
Satcher also commends judges who support treatment of the mentally ill as opposed to incarceration. Those judges' thinking is: "I'm going to give them the option of going into a treatment program that is much less expensive than prison," he says.