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Shower Tents

On a chilly, gray morning in April, 1,000 people in a downtown office building were overcome by nitrogen mustard gas. Two hundred of them were en route to the Monument Street ambulance ramp, as more than a dozen physicians, nurses and technicians, all donned in bright yellow protective suits, stood by.

OK, OK, just kidding. It was a drill, a staged scenario designed to test one of the hospital's three new decontamination shelters. But it was a key learning experience, a way to make sure that people won't have to be trained how to respond during a crisis itself.

In just minutes, the geometric structure popped into shape and the water supply was hooked up to interior showerheads and spray guns. Soon, the pretend victims began to arrive. Eight were disinfected in just 15 minutes. Because of the chill in the air, none were actually doused with shower spray. But the water pressure was tested, and after an initial, disappointing trickle, a strong, warm spray filled the tent's interior with a fine mist.

Carson's Cameo

Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the writing-directing brothers who brought you the over-the-top comedy hits "There's Something About Mary" and "Dumb and Dumber," are bringing out yet another film, this starring Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon as, brace yourself, Siamese twins joined at the hip. The conjoined duo travels to Hollywood where they are cast on a TV show and ultimately decide to be separated. The surgeon is played by none other than our own Ben Carson. Ironically, although Carson has never separated adults, he is tentatively scheduled to do just that this summer in Singapore. "Stuck on You" is scheduled for release in December.

Long Haul

One month after HIPAA regulations took effect on April 14, the number of online test-takers was tallied: More than 20,000 people in the Johns Hopkins Health System and University took the basic training (general patient privacy) online, and 17,500 also logged on to other courses, including about 5,550 who took the online research training and some 5,200 who took "Tracking and Accounting of Disclosures for Health Information." "HIPAA light" and paper test-takers had not yet been counted.

A few kinks still need to be ironed out: A centralized data system needs to be developed to track notices of privacy practices and acknowledgments as patients move to different areas. Physician e-mails need to be made secure. The tracking of disclosure forms still is causing some confusion, but the long haul of HIPAA appears to be winding down. "We held our breath," said Joanne Pollak, general counsel, at a recent Town Meeting, "but I think we are going to make it through."

Correction: In last month's Briefcase, the Web address of The Navigator, the online transportation guide, was incorrectly listed. The correct URL is:



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