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Students give docs a technology lesson

March 25, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

MONT ALTO, PA. - When Karen Fleagle started taking Stan Aungst's Information Science and Technology class at Penn State Mont Alto four years ago, she was very shy.

Fleagle's shyness is long gone. On Friday, she goes to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., to address a group of physicians, lawyers and technology experts.

Fleagle, 22, of Waynesboro, Pa., will explain a computer program she designed that allows doctors to call up patients' medical records on hand-held Palm Pilot computers.

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The idea is to do away with bedside clipboards and paper charts while giving doctors up-to-date information about their patients.

"The doctors want something they can put in the pockets of their white coats while at the bedside, in the operating room or anywhere," Aungst said.

The program has to be secure to meet federal patient privacy regulations spelled out in the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, he said.

The system that Fleagle and her fellow students designed is so sophisticated it provides different security levels. While doctors will have access to all the patient's information, the system will provide only limited information to nurses, medical technicians and others, Fleagle said.

Jonathan Kelly, Mark Campbell and Travis Siegfreid worked with Fleagle on the project.

The team has been working with IBM developing the system since February 2003.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore also expressed interest in Fleagle's work after reading articles about it in professional publications, Aungst said.

Fleagle went to Johns Hopkins in November to explain it to physicians.

"It took three months, until April, to design the prototype to see if it would work," Fleagle said. "We're going to try it full- scale for the first time Friday at Hershey."

Penn State holds proprietary rights to the system created by Fleagle and her fellow students and the consulting work that goes with it, Aungst said. He estimated its value at more than $200,000.

Aungst described Fleagle as an excellent student. She graduates in May with bachelor's degrees in business and in Information Science and Technology.

She started at Penn State Mont Alto after her junior year at Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

"I took half my classes there and half here," she said.

Aungst said the Mont Alto campus is a leader in developing secure mobile wireless systems for hand-held computers.

A tenure track professor at Penn State, Aungst spends his time between the University Park Campus in State College, Pa., and Mont Alto. His background includes three years as a military cryptographer in Vietnam in the late 1960s, a skill that comes in handy when teaching his students how to create secure systems.

"These are the best and brightest students in the state," Aungst said of Fleagle, her teammates and other students in his classes.

"Imagine," he said, "they come from little towns like Waynesboro."

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