Blog

June 26th, 2015

HealthcareEMRGeneral_June15_AGovernment officials are determined to see that every healthcare institution has electronic medical record (EMR) systems, but many physicians are still reluctant to implement them. While EMR possess many useful features to help streamline healthcare processes, some people find the whole system overly complex and feel that they could take good care of patients even without it. But when implemented properly, EMR serves as a great tool to preserve critical medical information and increase workflow efficiency. With that said, there are a number of challenges that you need to overcome if you want to reap the full benefits of EMR.

Challenge #1: EMR is breaking your budget

It’s no secret that the cost of purchasing and installing EMR is huge. This includes hardware, software, implementation assistance, training, support, and ongoing network fees. In fact, the cost of EMR is the number one reason why many healthcare institutions haven’t yet made the switch. But the benefits of EMR are numerous, and greatly outweigh the cost of implementation. If you find EMR costs to be beyond your budget, you should make a thorough assessment of your needs, and consult with vendors to develop economical EMR solutions.

Challenge #2: EMR doesn’t fit with workflow

Some medical institutions may find that, even after careful planning and implementation, EMR just doesn’t provide the functionality they need. Imagine a scenario where you have invested a substantial amount of money in the technology, but are unable to use it to its fullest potential. Yet you can avoid this problem by putting more time into the planning process. Instead of making rushed decisions, ask potential vendors to provide an in-depth demonstration of the features and functions of EMR. It’s also wise to have your physicians and staff test-drive it, and provide some feedback, prior to the purchase.

Challenge #3: Training employees is difficult

Scheduling EMR training sessions for your employees can be a challenging feat, given the amount of work they already have to contend with on a day-to-day basis. The whole program might even be overwhelming to them, so much so that they shut their minds to the training completely. The solution is to designate key employees who are prepared to dedicate their time and effort to get to know all about EMR, and who can serve as ambassadors for the technology and as a resource for physicians and other staff members.

Challenge #4: Physicians resist using EMR

Some physicians simply refuse to accept new technology, either because they don’t believe in its capabilities, they’re convinced that their way of doing things can produce better results, or perhaps because they’re intimidated by it. Once again, you need to identify a superuser who can encourage others to adopt EMR and feel more comfortable about it. A peer-to-peer approach will work best in this situation.

Challenge #5: EMR doesn’t meet Meaningful Use requirements

It’s hard to keep up with regulations, and in particular the requirements to comply with Meaningful Use. Sometimes even vendors fall behind, which means you risk facing penalties for not meeting obligations. The best way to address this is to assign someone to communicate with vendors regarding Meaningful Use requirements and deadlines, so you don’t miss a step.

If you’re looking to implement EMR in your healthcare business, get in touch with us today and we can support you from planning right through to implementation.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 19th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jun9_BBusiness intelligence (BI) involves the use of a variety of software and applications to analyze a company’s raw data, and present it in a way that’s easy to understand and enables effective business decisions to be taken. But in reality, many businesses fail to have an effective BI strategy in place, causing them to lose large sums of money. Here are five common BI mistakes you need to know, so you can take deliberate measures to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not defining business problems

One of the biggest mistakes in BI implementation is jumping to conclusions too soon without first identifying what your business wants to accomplish. When it comes to integrating BI into business operations, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Looking for a single BI tool to solve all analytics problems is one of the main reasons many BI projects fail.

You need to clearly define the business problem you’re trying to solve, and understand the specific tools required to solve those problems. Only then will you be able to select and purchase the BI tool that best suits your needs.

Mistake #2: Not getting buy-in from end users

Even the best BI tools are ineffective if they’re not properly utilized. Forcing your employees to use newly purchased BI technology without informing them or hearing their thoughts beforehand is a big mistake.

Instead of telling employees they have to use something, first focus on highlighting the benefits of the new BI system. Help employees understand why they’ll want to use it, and convince them by showing them what they stand to gain from the new BI technology.

Mistake #3: Rushing implementation

A rushed deployment of new technology is often times not a successful one. When it comes to deploying BI solutions, patience is key. If you hurry into BI implementation too quickly, your end users may not have enough time to develop the skills required to use the software effectively.

Take an incremental approach to implementing BI solutions. Make a list identifying business problems and, rather than expecting to solve every business problem all at once, try to prioritize specific outcomes you want to achieve. When you have solved the first issue, move on to the next one and so on until you have incrementally solved all the problems on the list.

Mistake #4: Insufficient training

New BI systems are complex structures that require a lot of training in order for users to make the most of them. If users lack the skills necessary to operate the software, then bottlenecks can occur. The product may be left dormant for long periods of time as users wait for experienced IT staff to resolve teething problems.

Spend wisely on providing ongoing training, so that users really understand how to use the system. Consider hosting weekly lunch sessions where a different aspect of the BI system is discussed. You could also provide online training videos that enable users to learn more about the new system at their own pace.

Mistake #5: Not making use of information and reports

BI tools are designed to analyze raw data and turn it into valuable information that can be used in business decision making. But some organizations fail to exploit the information fully - it is not shared, not analyzed, and not acted on. BI software can generate reports on various data points, identify risks, and predict trends. It’s important to leverage the information gathered and to apply it to your business’s objectives and goals.

Business intelligence software is a highly useful tool that, when used properly, can drive your business forward. Avoid these mistakes in order to make the most of your BI solutions. If you’re looking to implement BI tools to your company, contact our experienced consultants today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 18th, 2015

Office365_Jun4_BHow many emails do you receive a day? And how many are of actual value to you or your business? In an internet-driven business environment, plenty of us feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of email we receive, and the amount of productive work time it takes us to deal with it all. Even if an email is not a spam message, but something related to your job, it won’t always be something that you need to deal with right there and then, in the process distracting you from the task in hand. Despite all the email management hacks out there, the messages keep on coming - but Outlook’s Clutter feature could be about to change that.

Originally announced at Microsoft’s Exchange Conference at the start of 2014, the Clutter add-on for Outlook began rolling out last November to Office 365 business customers who had signed up for the first release. During the initial trial period for Clutter, the function was disabled by default - now that’s been changed, and as of June 15 the tool was due to be turned on by default for all Office 365 users.

At the heart of Clutter is a desire to prioritize email, and move less important messages from your inbox so that you can review and deal with them at your convenience. With only your highest priority emails waiting for you in your main inbox, the idea is that you enjoy fewer distractions and so enhance productivity in your real job - which, for most of us, isn’t email at all. Clutter is an intelligent tool, meaning it picks up hints on which emails are important to you based both on the type of the message and how you are addressed in it. It also uses the Office Graph social feature to track your prior actions both within the Outlook Web App and on Outlook clients for desktop and mobile devices.

Messages identified as lower priority are whisked away to a specific Clutter folder for you to review when you have the chance. Alternatively, you can simply choose to ignore the messages, treating the Clutter folder as another kind of junk filter, and the messages will remain conveniently out of view. In order to ensure that it doesn’t inadvertently start mis-identifying messages as low priority, Microsoft is keen to stress that Clutter won’t do anything until it is confident it has a thorough understanding of your behaviors and your email preferences - for most people this will happen within a matter of days, depending on the volume of email you receive.

You’ll receive daily and weekly notifications so you’re aware which messages Clutter is moving, and don’t miss something important - significantly, these notifications are no longer sent as emails, since replacing an inbox-cluttering message with another one would seem to somewhat detract from Clutter’s purpose. If a message is wrongly picked up as low priority and moved to your Clutter folder, you can move it back to your inbox to be dealt with sooner, and Clutter will learn from the mistake in order to improve its handling of your messages in the future. In the same way, you can choose to proactively teach Clutter about your preferences by marking specific low-priority messages as Clutter.

According to Microsoft, Clutter already shifts more than a million low-priority messages daily, and saves its users almost an hour and a half in productivity each month - figures which are expected to rise as the tool is adopted more widely. If you’ve already enabled Clutter manually, or have enabled it but later switched it off, nothing will change; if you haven’t yet taken any action at all, it will be automatically turned on for you if it hasn’t been already. If you want to disable it, you can do so from the Options page of either Outlook on the Web or the Outlook 2016 Preview, or can simply click the turn it off link at the bottom of notifications.

Clutter gives you a highly personalized email filter that knows which messages are of interest. If you want to learn more about using Office 365 in your business, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 8th, 2015

HealthcareIT_Jun8_AThe past few years have seen rapid technological advancements in the medical industry, and healthcare institutions are focusing more than ever on implementing devices that deliver cheaper, faster, and more efficient patient care. Thought leaders in the healthcare industry are pushing out new ideas and technologies that are capable of increasing patient safety and survival rates - here are the latest innovations in medical practice.

Electronic aspirin

For people who suffer from daily or chronic headaches, or excruciating facial pain, taking ordinary aspirins may no longer do the trick. Now scientists have invented a new technology that is attached to Sphenopalatine Ganglion (SPG) in order to alleviate migraines and other similar pains. The electronic aspirin is a patient-powered tool for blocking SPG signals at the first sign of a headache.

The system involves the permanent implant of a small nerve-stimulating device in the upper gum on the side of the head. The tip of the implant connects to the SPG, and when a patient feels the first signs of an imminent headache, they simply place a remote controller on their cheek, next to the implant. This triggers an electronic charge to stimulate nerve cells and block the pain-causing neurotransmitters. In tests, the end results showed clinical improvement in 68 percent of patients, who stated that they felt less pain.

Insulin patches

Diabetes self-care is a pain - literally. As well as conducting your own glucose blood tests, you also need to take daily insulin shots, which increases the risk of infection. Insulin patches are designed to deliver insulin painlessly through the skin similar to how transdermal patches like nicotine patches and muscle pain relief patches work.

An insulin patch is placed on the skin, and agents in the patch help insulin to pass through the skin and into the blood vessels. It can also be used to read blood analytes through the skin without actually drawing blood. The technology utilizes an electronic device that removes top-layer skin cells to place the patient’s blood chemistry within the signal range of the patch’s biosensor. The data is transmitted data wirelessly to a remote sensor, which emits an audible alarm if glucose levels are too high.

Cancer scanner

A surgical biopsy is an effective way to identify and diagnose skin cancer. But more often than not doctors find it hard to make the right call, and patients are left with unnecessary biopsy scars and end up paying for the high cost of surgery. The cancer scanner is a handheld tool used for tissue analysis and is not used to confirm a clinical diagnosis of cancer, but rather for when a dermatologist needs additional information to make the decision to perform a biopsy.

These healthcare innovations can reduce the overall cost of medical care, and help medical experts and patients to respond to health issues quickly, as well as to take preventative measures. If you’re looking to implement technology to your healthcare business, contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 8th, 2015

SocialMedia_Jun8_BWhen it comes to using social media advertising to reach out to targeted audiences, Facebook is by far one of the most efficient platforms out there. The numbers speak clearly - advertising on Facebook has grown over 680% since 2010. More and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon, moving their budgets away from traditional advertising methods and increasing their social spending. If Facebook advertising isn’t in your marketing arsenal, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful tools available. Here’s all you need to know about setting up a Facebook ad campaign.

1. Create a Facebook Business Page

First things first: before you can advertise on Facebook, you must have a Facebook Business Page. Log in to your Facebook account and, on the news feed page, click on Create a Page from the left column. Choose the category of your Page that best describes the nature of your business. Then fill out all your business information, including your website, hours of operation, phone number, address, and email. Finally, add creative profile and cover images to attract potential visitors.

2. Define your Facebook ads goals

Facebook offers a variety of advertisement options to choose from, depending on your business’s needs. That’s why it’s important to create goals for your ads, to make sure you’re spending your money wisely while achieving your business goals. Start by asking yourself why you’re utilizing Facebook ads in the first place; defining advertising goals and strategies will help you choose the right type of Facebook ad.

3. Choose an objective for your campaign

Now that you have a Facebook ad goal in mind, it’s time to translate those goals into objectives for your campaign. For instance, if you want to drive more visitors to your business website, your Facebook ad objective is to Send people to your website, but if you want to increase your number of social media followers you would choose the objective Promote your Page. From your Page, click on Create ads and choose an objective to get started.

4. Target your audience

This is the step where most businesses fail at Facebook advertising. You can target your ads based on location, age, gender, language, interests, and behavior. By defining the right audience group, your Facebook ads will be shown to the right people and will give a high conversion rate. After you’ve chosen your target audience, you can decide how much money you want to spend, and choose the time to run your ad.

5. Customize your ad

This process is equally as important as audience targeting. In this step you have the option to choose how your ad will look, by adding up to five images and text that will accompany them. The text is only 90 characters long, so make sure your copy portrays what the content is about, so it will encourage people to click on your ad. Then choose where you want your Facebook ad to show from four options - the news feed, mobile news feed, right column, or audience network.

6. Place your order

The last step is to click on the Place Order button to submit your ad to Facebook for review. You’ll receive an email from Facebook once your ad has been reviewed and approved and is ready to launch.

Facebook advertising requires effective planning, testing, and measuring. You need to experiment in order to find the campaign that works best for your business. If you’re interested in advertising on Facebook or through other social media platforms, drop us a line and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
June 3rd, 2015

ITsource, as part of the Seattle Healthcare Network, recently hosted a half-day seminar on the changing nature of healthcare insurance and how it is affecting medical practice finance. This event was one of several presented by a group of local healthcare vendors for the benefit of local medical practices and hospitals.

The seminar consisted of two primary sessions. The first was a presentation by Rick MacCornack of Northwest Physicians Network (NPN) about population health and the transition toward results-driven medicine. The second session was a panel discussion of five veteran medical managers about the steps they are taking to manage the higher deductibles that patients are seeing these days.

Rick MacCornack, Ph.D, is a trained epidemiologist and is currently the systems integration officer at NPN. His background gives him a unique perspective in using technology to analyze and manage the health of a large patient group. Rick discussed the history of 20th Century American medicine and how we came to this point with the ACA and the need to focus on the end result of healthcare. The final portion of Rick’s talk focused on software tools that are available to pull information and organize from various Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems that can be used to closely manage certain important variables for individual patients that have significant effect on the overall health of a managed group of patients.

The panel discussion focused on the practical steps that clinic managers are implementing so they can control and manage the high level of patient deductibles that have emerged. A few key points came out of the discussion:

  1. Ensure that your patients are aware what their financial responsibility is from the time they make their appointments. Educate your patients.
  2. Pre-authorization is an important step that can save the practice and patients a lot of time and money.
  3. Collect deductibles during check-in.
  4. Some practices are offering financial counseling and payment plans.

Contact Pat Rowe at (253) 835-1210 or e-mail pat.rowe@itsource.com if you have any questions about this material or if you are interested in attending any future seminars.

Topic Article
June 3rd, 2015

164_B_ProdDo you have a staff of young employees who are working remotely around the country? How do you know they’re staying productive and not watching YouTube videos all day? For employees who are undisciplined and new to the remote working world, working from home or a coffee shop can be a breeding ground for unproductivity. How can you help your staff develop the habits they need to remain productive while they’re out of the office? Here are a few ideas that will help any remote worker keep their head on straight and focused on the job.

Don’t change your routine

Would you go to the office without brushing your teeth or combing your hair? Probably not. Believe it or not, it’s not a good idea when you’re working remotely either. Sometimes the simple act of preparing for your workday - jumping in the shower, shaving and so on - can put you in the right frame of mind to work. If you or your staff are finding it difficult to be productive at home, try sticking to a pre-work routine and see if it makes a difference.

Designate a specific workspace

Attempting to work while sitting in your bed or lounging on the couch can be a recipe for a productivity disaster. So instead, try designating a specific space where you work everyday. It can be as simple as a desk set apart from the rest of your living room or bedroom, but just make sure it’s not cluttered with non-work items (like a TV remote or fiction novel), and that it’s properly lit and comfortable.

If you’re working from a coffee shop, airport or other public place, consider using a pair of headphones to help drown out the noise so you can focus. Eliminate as many distractions as possible, and the productivity will come.

Stay connected to your team

Thankfully, cloud computing has made it unbelievably easy for your remote workers to stay connected to the office wherever they are. If your business is setup with Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365 or another cloud product, make it a requirement that your employees access it daily and remain available. When your staff is connected to your business this way, it will strengthen their relationship with other employees and the organization as a whole. Generally speaking, more connected employees are more productive ones.

Log off

When you work remotely, the line between work and personal life blurs more than ever. To avoid burnout, it’s important you discipline yourself to log off after you’ve put in a full day’s work. Whether you choose to work from 9 to 5 or 4pm to midnight, define work hours and stick to them. This will help you completely disconnect at the end of the day, which will ensure that you’re properly rested and prepared for the next.

Want more tips on productive habits for remote working? Are you ready to empower your staff with cloud computing to help them along? Let’s talk. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 2nd, 2015

Virtualization_May28_BBusinesses today rely on their applications and critical documents more than ever before to stay efficient and competitive. With that in mind, virtual machines are often the go-to platform to ensure precisely that; but things may change with the increasing popularity of containers. What exactly are containers, though? Are they better than virtual machines? Here we take a look at which will best fit your business.

Containers, just like virtual machines, are used for storing files, critical data and applications in an organized manner following specific access rules. So how do they differ from virtual machines, and what are the pros and cons of containers? We’ll take a look below.

Containers can pack a lot more applications into a single cloud or data center than a virtual machine can. And because containers only require little memory from an operating system and its supporting programs and libraries, you can put two to three times as many as applications on a single server with a container than you can with a virtual machine. In addition, containers allow you to create a portable, consistent operating environment for development, testing and deployment.

Still, there's a lot more to containers than how many apps you can put in a box, and not everything about them is sweet. One of the problems with containers that is often overlooked is security. Simply put, containers do not contain. What this means is that if a user or application has superuser privileges within the container, the underlying operating system could be cracked. And while you can secure containers by mounting a /sys filesystem as read-only among other options, it takes a lot of time and effort to do so.

Another container security issue stems from the release of many containerized applications. This is a problem because if you happen to install the first container that comes to hand, you’re likely to have brought a Trojan Horse into your server. You need to inform your staff and employees that they simply can’t download apps from the Internet into a container like they do games for their smartphone. Not only that, but breaking deployments into more functional discrete parts using a container is possible, but means more parts for you to manage. The whole point of a container is to run a single application, so the more functionality you stick into a container, the more likely it is you should actually be using a virtual machine in the first place.

So how do you decide between containers and virtual machines? Ask yourself whether you need to run the highest possible number of instances of a particular application on the fewest possible servers, because if so then containers are the best option for you. But if you want the flexibility of running multiple applications on your servers and you have a variety of operating systems, virtual machines are your safest bet.

Looking to learn more about how virtualization can help your business prosper? Contact us today - we’re sure we can tailor a solution that meets your unique needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 2nd, 2015

BusinessValue_June2_BThe Internet has transformed the way businesses approach clients. More and more people are using the Internet to search for what they want, and if your company’s website is ranked high in popular search engines then you can easily attract more visitors - which means more potential clients. But the question is, how can you get to that top spot in the search engines when there are a large number of competitors out there? The answer is simple - by integrating search engine optimization (SEO) into your website. Want to learn how? Here’s an overview of SEO and how to boost your online presence.

SEO defined

The practice of SEO has been around just about as long as search engines themselves. SEO is basically a methodology of techniques and tactics used to increase the number of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in search engine results. There are a lot of crackpot theories about SEO out there, and you’ll have to sift through them to find the techniques that really work for your business.

There’s a saying in the world of SEO that if you’re not first, you’re last. When it comes to SEO there’s no short cut, and the idea of getting your business website ranked on the first page of Google search results in one day is ludicrous. To make things clearer, we’ve compiled a list of the basic SEO practices business owners tend to overlook.

1. Research keywords Keywords are key to your online presence. Add the right keywords to your website and your chances of being found are much higher. First, invest time in keyword research. Find out which keywords your customers are using in search engines, and gather all crucial data for SEO purposes, whether it’s search volume, trends, or competition. Make a list of keywords related to your niche. Don’t be tempted to only go after phrases with the highest search volume - they will be very hard to rank for and might be too broad.

2. Create quality content Based on the researched keywords, generate high quality content with the focus on your readers. Make sure this content reads naturally for human visitors - don’t overdo it by stuffing keywords into your text in the hope of getting high rankings, as most search engines will penalize your website for using this underhand tactic. Good content has relevant keywords in it, but a great one has the keywords while also providing real value to visitors.

3. Place call-to-action buttons A business website should always have a call-to-action to convert visitors into customers. Make sure you add a call-to-action button to each of your most important pages, whether that means the About Us page, service pages, FAQs, or case studies. Call-to-action buttons may vary. They don’t always have to lead to a contact form; they can be links to other content, incentive offers, free downloads - the list goes on.

4. Create an internal link structure After you have quality content, you must show the search engines that your site has a page hierarchy. The general rule of thumb is, all your articles should link back to the home page, service pages, and even other articles. Linking internally allows for easier navigation for your visitors, and there’s a good chance they will spend more time on your website, which is good for SEO purposes.

5. Install analytics tools Tracking your visitors’ behavior on your website is important. Connect your website to analytics tools like Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to gain valuable insight into your website’s statistics. By closely monitoring performance, you can eliminate keywords that aren’t generating you leads, and tweak content that visitors ignore.

SEO is an ongoing process that requires patience and time. These suggestions are meant to set a stronger foundation for your business to expand. If you’re looking for other ways to increase business value, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 1st, 2015

Security_May27_BData breaches are all too common and, without adequate protection, every business is at risk of external attack. In fact, it’s never been more important to ensure your organization’s policies and procedures are foolproof, and that you have contingency plans in place should something go wrong. Google just made that easier for Drive for Work users, by adding physical Security Keys to its safeguarding toolbox. Here’s what you need to know.

Google already offers security precautions like two-step authentication, which provides additional protection by requiring you to enter not only your password but also a one-time code received by SMS or similar. This is a crucial weapon in the fight against hackers, since weak usernames and passwords are still be the primary reason for accounts being breached. Security Keys now take things one step further, strengthening your Google Drive account’s coat of armor to an even greater extent.

The Security Key is a physical USB device that is plugged into your computer, and which sends an encrypted signature, instead of a password or other code, to verify your identity and permit you access to your Google account. Crucially, Security Keys are inexpensive - starting from around $6 per unit - and require no additional software for deployment, use or management. Administrators have the ability to track when and where each key is used, as well as being able to disable them if lost and issue backup codes to allow staff uninterrupted access even if they do misplace their key.

Simplifying the login process is also a key part of what Google has tried to achieve with Security Keys. To that end, the first time you use your key to access your Google account on a particular computer, you can opt for Google to remember that device. On subsequent occasions you can quickly sign in using only your password, and without requiring either your key or a two-step authentication code. You can still sign in using your key on other machines, and if a hacker tries to access your account without your key they will also be prompted for a two-step verification code (which, unless they have access to your cell phone, they shouldn’t be able to provide).

Security Keys aren’t an entirely perfect solution, though - there are some significant limitations to the technology. For one, you can’t use them on mobile devices, since they require a USB port to work, and they only allow you to access your Google account through the Chrome browser. Windows, Mac OS, ChromeOS and Linux operating systems are all supported, but if you’re working from your phone or on a browser other than Chrome then you’ll need to continue using two-step authentication. Google says you can mix and match different methods of verification, opting to use Security Keys where they are supported and two-step verification otherwise (or if you don’t have your key with you).

What’s more, only Google Drive currently supports Security Keys - it’s not yet possible to use them with Google Apps, for example. But, while the technology is primarily targeted at Google Drive for Work users, it’s possible to link a single key to multiple accounts, meaning you can use it to access both your work and personal Google accounts. Some users have also queried how much of a safeguard the technology really provides in the absence of an additional PIN code or fingerprint authentication being required for activation, suggesting that a stolen Security Key could be used to access a computer that a user has previously asked Google to remember. But Security Keys do appear to offer at least some additional protection, which will be of comfort to businesses handling sensitive data.

Give us a call to find out how to employ Security Keys and other technology solutions to bolster your protection against network intrusion and data breaches.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security