Blog

November 3rd, 2014

HealthcareIT_Nov03_AMedical Group Management Association (MGMA) 2014 annual conference attendees were fortunate to get some tips for improving patient satisfaction from Joan Hablutzel, senior industry analyst with the MGMA—because doing so is essential to the success of a medical practice in an increasingly competitive health-care marketplace. Here are 10 of them.

  1. Say hello and smile when patients arrive to acknowledge their presence.
  2. Answer the phone in three rings with a consistent greeting to show the practice views the patent as an individual.
  3. Show empathy in your communication with the patent by observing his or her mannerism sand responding in kind.
  4. Explain what is going to happen, whether it’s a process or a procedure.
  5. Don’t interrupt when a patient is talking.
  6. Look for signs that a patient is dissatisfied or concerned—and when you hear concerns, don’t ever leave it at “I don’t know.” Find someone who does.
  7. Always respect patient confidentiality.
  8. Live up to your promises. Set time estimates and update patients if they change, apologizing when necessary.
  9. Say goodbye and wish the patient well upon departure to affirm respect.
These steps may be simple, says Hablutzel, but implementing them can truly transform the way staff members interact with patients, boosting their perception of your practice and driving growth. Contact us today to see how our systems can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 3rd, 2014

HealthGeneral_Nov03_AA Westchester County, New York, practice has surged from 16 physicians in 1996 to 250 physicians today thanks to care transformation driven by analytics.

Westmed Medical Group, which operates five large ambulatory care sites staffed by both primary care and specialist physicians, currently has more than 250,000 patients and $285 million in annual revenue.

Under the group’s “industrial” care model, process and procedure data is analyzed to determine what clinical tasks can be shifted from physicians to nurses, what workflows can be streamlined to enhance patient care, and what tests can be reduced, for example. Westmed CEO Simeon Schwartz says “That allows us to get our arms around the care process. If a neurologist is doing twice the number of MRIs for headaches than anyone else, we now understand why that's happening and we've put in a headache approval form.”

Strengths and weaknesses in clinical staff performance are shown in user-friendly dashboards so care providers can see what they are doing. This is key to the group’s success, says Schwartz. “The fundamental nature of our management strategy is that we do not tell doctors what to do—we show them what they are doing,” he says, noting that physicians are highly data-driven and tend to do the right thing.

The results of Westmed’s efforts have been monumental. Staffing is 3.91 employees per physician vs. 5.5 for the average multispecialty group. And, Westmed operates at 12.8 percent below the American Medical Group Association (AMGA) median for practice overhead even though it’s located in one of the most expensive areas of the country.

Do these numbers feel unattainable in your practice? The truth is, with a properly implemented and maintained system and analytics platform, they are actually quite attainable. If you are looking to learn more about how you can improve your practice, contact us today to learn about the systems we offer and how they can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 31st, 2014

Security_Oct27_AOne of the biggest business technology trends of the past half decade or more is the increasing amount of business that is conducted online. These days, many businesses have integrated online solutions into daily operations and have reaped the benefits. The downside to this is the on-going threat to online security. With an ever-increasing number of online attacks, it is important that you take steps to ensure that you remain secure. Here are five tips on how to maintain security while working on, or browsing, the net.

1. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible

Two-factor authentication, or two-step authentication as it is also known, is the idea of using two pieces of information to log into accounts: Your usual password and a code that is usually sent to a mobile device or generated by a code generator.

By utilizing this safety feature, you can further increase the security of your accounts, largely because the chances of someone getting their hands on both the generated code and your password are slim.

Some sites don't use a code and instead ask a question that needs to be answered every time you log in. If this is the case, make the question something that is difficult for a hacker to guess. For example, use your address from 10 years ago instead of your current address.

2. Audit who has access to what data

Between all of your online accounts and social media profiles you will likely be surprised at just how much information about you can be found online. There are a multitude of scare stories online, where someone has had their accounts hacked and identity stolen, largely because they had left pertinent information online without even thinking about it.

It is a good idea to audit what information you have online. This includes looking at the contact and personal information you have on social media profiles, account information, etc. Ideally, if it is not necessary information, then it shouldn't be shared. As for social media profiles, make sure only the absolute basic personal information is online and limit who can see this information.

3. Watch what is posted on social media

Because of the nature of social media, we often feel the need to share our whole lives online. This can often lead to oversharing, and even sometimes oversharing of personal information. There are stories online of thieves monitoring social media for businesses posting about how they are going to be closed for a holiday, with all staff gone. Once a thief finds this information, they then break into the business without worrying about people being there.

If you are going to share information online, be sure to limit the potentially sensitive information that you post, especially if the content is shared with the public.

4. Change your passwords regularly

It seems like almost every week news breaks of a password or account information breach. What this translates to is the fact that your accounts are always facing a potential risk. Therefore, you should make it a habit to change your passwords on a regular basis.

Most experts recommend at least once every three months, but if there is a breach where your account information may have been leaked then naturally change your passwords straightaway.

To ensure maximum security, you should use a different password for each account, and keep these as separate as possible.

5. Work with an IT partner who can offer enhanced Internet security

Ensuring that your business is secure online can be an on-going battle that you will likely not win easily. One of the best steps to take is to work with an IT partner like us. We offer a variety of Internet security solutions that can help stop malware intrusions before they infect your systems, block access to potentially harmful sites, and even scan Internet-based email solutions. In other words, we can help improve your overall online security.

If you are looking to learn more about how we can help your business be secure online, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 30th, 2014

Hardware_Oct27_AFollow any tech blog for a couple of months and it quickly becomes apparent that there are new devices, systems, and hardware introduced on a near daily basis. Because of this, it can be tempting to feel pressure to rush out and upgrade your hardware on a regular basis. As a small business this can be prohibitively expensive. The problem is, how do you really know when it's time to upgrade your systems? Here are five tips that could help.

1. Replacement parts are difficult to find

Computers, servers, and even mobile devices are made up of a number of different parts of hardware that rely on other parts in order to operate properly. If one breaks down, there is a good chance that the whole system will stop working.

Luckily, for many newer pieces of hardware and systems, replacements are easy to come by. But, if something breaks and you are having trouble finding replacement parts then it might be a good idea to consider upgrading. The reason for this is because parts that are more difficult to find are usually going to cost more when you can actually find them. While this may be ok for one system, if you have more than one system using the same components there is a good chance that these will also need to be replaced, leading to increased costs.

2. Repair costs outweigh replacement costs

Some hardware components can only be repaired by experts with highly specialized skills. What this means is that should this hardware break, you will likely be facing a fairly high repair bill. What we recommend is to always get a quote on how much it will cost to repair your broken hardware first.

When you have this quote, look at the price of replacement components. If it's more affordable to replace, then this is usually a better option. Of course, you are going to want to ensure that any replacement parts are actually compatible with your system, so before you go purchasing be sure to ask check with your IT partner.

3. You are running 'legacy' systems

Legacy systems are computers and technology deemed to be old by experts. For example, computers running Windows XP, or computers purchased before the release of Windows 7 would be considered legacy systems.

While these may be working like a charm now, they will eventually break. When this happens, you will see higher repair costs when compared with new technology. Beyond replacement costs is the fact that many manufacturers and software developers have stopped supporting older systems. This means that should an error occur, you will not necessarily be able to get support from the company who made the hardware. This can lead to repair delays and lost productivity.

Now, not every "old" system will need to be replaced right away. What we recommend is talking to an IT partner like us. We can help you determine if your older systems do actually need to be replaced, and suggest affordable alternatives.

4. Hardware is impeding productivity

If you or your employees are struggling to complete work because of constant computer crashes, or slow systems, productivity will be lower than it could be. Should you notice this in your office, it is a good idea to look into upgrading your systems in order to enable employees to do their jobs properly.

5. Your systems don't meet minimum requirements

If you are going to install new software or systems that require other hardware components, be sure to look at the minimum requirements. Almost every piece of software indicates which requirements must be met in order for the software to work.

If your systems don't meet these minimum requirements, then the software won't work. Should they meet them, but just barely, the software will work but there is a good chance that it won't work as well as it could do. Should you not meet the requirements, you will need to upgrade your hardware.

Looking to upgrade, or for some advice on how you can keep your systems working? Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
October 28th, 2014

Web_Oct27_AFor many businesses the cloud has become a driving factor that supports numerous technical systems. These systems have been proven to reduce costs, increase productivity, and ensure security of vital data. However, there are still a large number of cloud related terms that can confuse. To help, here is an overview of 10 commonly used cloud terms.

1. Cloud app

A cloud app, or cloud application, is any application that is supported by a cloud service, or is accessed over the Internet. The key difference from other apps is that the vast majority of cloud apps are not installed on a device, rather they are accessed via a Web browser.

Some mobile apps are cloud-based, whereby an app is installed on the device and allows you to access data that is stored in the cloud.

2. Cloud burst

Cloud burst is a term used to reference a specific setup that many companies employ. Essentially, this is the idea of implementing a private cloud solution that provides for most usage requirements. When demand exceeds capacity, the company can integrate a public solution to cover the excess demand thereby "bursting" into another cloud.

A good example of this is when a company uses a private cloud solution to store data. When the threshold for maximum data storage is reached, they can implement a public cloud solution to increase overall storage. All essential information stays in a private cloud, while non-essential information is moved to the public cloud.

3. Cloud

The cloud is any service or solution that is delivered to a user via their Internet or network connection. To many, this term has come to be associated with the Internet.

4. Cloud management

Cloud management is often used to refer to a set of software or administrative panels that are specifically designed to allow business managers, owners, and IT teams to monitor and manage their cloud-based solutions. This often includes data, applications, and cloud services.

These tools are of strategic importance because they help to ensure that your cloud resources are functioning optimally and that users are able to interact with them properly. They also allow you to audit who has access to what and even add new accounts when needed.

5. Cloud provisioning

Cloud provisioning is the actual deployment of a cloud strategy. This often includes the selection of solutions and then which data and solutions will reside on either public or private clouds. Services are then deployed and data is migrated, usually with the help of an IT partner.

During the provisioning process, IT partners will also take the time to develop processes regarding how you will interface with the cloud solutions you will be implementing and set who has access to solutions.

6. Cloud storming

Cloud storming is the act of connecting multiple cloud services into a useable platform for your business. Some companies also use this term to refer to the idea of brainstorming about the cloud and how to use, or implement, it in daily operations.

A good example of cloud storming is where a company implements a cloud-based CRM solution from one provider, a cloud-based productivity suite, and cloud-based email at roughly the same time in order to better support operations while reducing operating costs.

8. Public cloud

Public cloud services and solutions are just that: public. They are available for any person or company to purchase or subscribe to and implement. With these services, all data or apps are hosted outside of the company and accessed over the usual Internet connections.

Public cloud services are usually the most common type of cloud implemented by companies who are first moving over to the cloud.

8. Private cloud

A private cloud is any cloud solution that is hosted by a company's own resources. This could be on servers kept on-site, or rented servers that are then configured so that the solution is only available to the company, not the public.

While mainly large companies will employ private clouds, smaller companies looking for a niche cloud solution are starting to implement these as well.

9. Hybrid cloud

A hybrid cloud is a solution implemented by companies that has elements of both public and private cloud solutions. Essential data or business processes are hosted or delivered by a company's own cloud service, while less essential services are delivered by public clouds.

Many larger companies employ this model of cloud computing for data storage as it allows them greater control over where their data is being stored, while ensuring that essential or highly regulated data can be stored in a secure manner; managed by the company.

10. Cloud portability

This is the level at which data maintained or stored in one cloud service can be moved to another. It is also used by experts when moving whole systems, such as apps, from one provider to another. If the overall portability is low, then it will be difficult for the user to move either apps or data from that provider.

Another similar term used by experts is 'Vendor lock-in', which is used to describe a dependency on a certain cloud provider and the general difficulty of moving away from this provider due to lack of other solutions or mechanisms that enable transfer. For many companies, it is a good idea to look for a provider that won't lock you into their cloud, or at the very least offers some portability options.

If you want to know more about how the cloud can benefit your business then connect with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web
October 22nd, 2014

Windows_Oct20_AAt the end of September, Microsoft held their now annual Windows event, where they announced the next big version of Windows - Windows 10. While it seems a little odd that they are skipping 9 completely, from what we can see, 10 is shaping up to be the best version of Windows to date. Here is a brief overview of what you can expect from the latest version of Windows.

Why Windows 10?

When first announced, many eyebrows were raised regarding Windows 9 being skipped. In the tech world, missing out a number with a sequence is not the norm, yet Microsoft stated that they believe that the next version of Windows will be such a drastic improvement over Windows 8 that calling it Windows 9 would not do it justice. From what we can see of the new system, there really are some drastic improvements, including:

One operating system (OS), many systems

When Windows 8 was released, a slightly modified version of the OS was also released for mobile devices. While this was good news, especially for mobile users, the systems were still largely separate, with different apps, app stores, and more.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has noted that the OS has been designed to run across all systems. This means that different devices will likely have slightly different interaction experiences but the underlying system will be the same. For example, there will be one way to write programs for all devices, one app store, and updates will be applied to all versions of the same app, on all devices, at the same time.

A new, yet familiar, Start menu

Windows 8 was a drastic departure from the familiar Windows desktop layout. For the most part, it was despised by business users, who instead have largely bypassed this layout for the traditional Desktop mode. Windows 8.1 allowed users to boot directly into the Desktop, but one large feature has been lacking: a Start menu.

Windows 10 welcomes it back! As with older versions of Windows, the Start menu will be at the bottom-left of the screen, and pressing it will bring up the familiar menu of programs and options. Only now, the old Tile-based layout has also been merged into this section. Think of the traditional Start menu bar, but with a mini-tile based section to the right that will be customizable.

Everything opens in a window

If you've ever downloaded an app from the Windows App store, you likely have noticed that they automatically run in fullscreen mode. With Windows 10, any Windows Store apps will open in window-format, similar to any desktop app.

When apps open you will see the familiar taskbar, along with the maximize, minimize and close buttons. This will make it much easier to work in multiple programs at the same time.

Multiple Desktops

Microsoft Virtual Desktops is a feature that will allow users to create different desktops for different purposes and switch between them quickly and easily. While you will only need to install Windows 10 once, you can have a different desktop setup for say home, personal, and business use all under one user.

Each desktop can display different icons and layouts, but all desktops will have access to the programs installed for that user. Essentially, this will make it easier for business users who also use their devices for personal use or those who need to switch roles at work.

An enhanced File Explorer

File Explorer has been a part of Windows for a while now, and its main function is that it helps you to find your files and folders. In Windows 10, this feature will be upgraded to now search for not only your files and folders, but also to scan the Internet as well. You will also be able to quickly see recent and most popular files and folders, meaning you'll be more likely to be able to find what you are looking for in less time.

When will it be available?

Microsoft has already released what they call a Technical Preview of Windows 10. Anyone can sign up to download Windows 10 and install it on their computers. We would advise against this however, as this version is incomplete and there will be bugs and compatibility issues.

The company has noted that this current version is really for tech experts to install on secondary computers and test, so business users will have to wait! At the time of this article there has been no actual release date set for Windows 10, but you can probably expect it sometime in early 2015. Microsoft has also been quiet about the price, but rumors are circulating that it will either be free or affordable for users to upgrade to if they already have an older version of Windows installed.

Get ahead of the curve and find out what benefits Windows 10 can bring to your business, by dropping us a line first.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 16th, 2014

Productivity_Oct16_AIn order for email to work, systems rely on what are called protocols. These are essentially a set of rules that dictate how data moves from system to system. When it comes to email, there are currently two major protocols: POP and IMAP. While most email systems will support both, it is a good idea to know the difference between the two and which is generally better for you.

Difference between POP and IMAP

POP, or Post Office Protocol, was first developed in early 1984 and is currently in its third version (POP3). POP works by allowing users to retrieve email and download it onto their computer. Because this protocol was developed before constant Internet connections, it is meant to allow users to interact with their email on their computer and then connect to the server to send it.

What this means is that usually, you connect to the server and download all of your messages onto your computer and then disconnect from the server with all messages being deleted from the server. When you connect to the server again, the messages are uploaded from your computer to the server which then sends the messages to the recipients.

IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, is a newer protocol that was designed for faster and constant Internet connections. Essentially, the email messages live on the server and the user downloads copies to their computer. When the copy is sent, it is uploaded to the server which then overwrites the message and sends it to the recipient.

Which protocol should my company be using?

While most email servers will support POP, many experts agree that it is best if companies use newer email protocols. The reasons for this are:
  • POP is largely outdated. As stated above, this protocol was first introduced in the '80s. The current, and most popular, version was introduced in 1989.
  • POP can be less secure. By default, older protocols can transmit password and login data unencrypted, which means anyone with access to your network and tools could gain access to the data.
  • POP can't support multiple devices. Due to the way POP works, only the currently connected client can see email messages. If you are on your mobile device, but logged into your email client at work, you won't get messages on your device.
  • POP lacks important business features. Most of us rely on calendars, address books, and task lists that are integrated into most email clients. With POP, these are most likely third-party solutions that live on local machines. This makes it difficult to access this information from other locations.
There are some really great newer email systems out there, including servers that run IMAP protocols, and even Web-based email solutions that pretty much negate the need for email servers in the office. If you are currently using POP, it may be worthwhile to contact us to see how we can help upgrade your email solution.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
October 9th, 2014

Security_Oct07_AEarlier this year news broke of one of the most widespread and potentially devastating bugs to-date - Heartbleed. While heartbleed was massive and companies are still dealing with the fallout to this day, news has recently broke of an even bigger potential threat: Shellshock. This is a security issue all business owners, managers, and employees should be aware of.

What exactly is Shellshock?

Shellshock is the name applied to a recently uncovered software vulnerability which could be exploited to hack and compromise untold millions of servers and machines around the world. At its heart, the Shellshock vulnerability is based on a program called Bash. This is a Unix-based command program that allows users to type actions that the computer will then execute. It can also read files called scripts that contain detailed instructions.

Bash is run in a text-based window called a shell and is the main command program used by OS X and Unix. If you have a Mac computer and want to see what Bash looks like, simply hit Command (Apple Key) + Spacebar and type in Terminal. In the text-based window that opens in Bash you can enter commands using the Bash language to get your computer to do something e.g., eject a disc, connect to a server, move a file, etc.

The problem with Bash however is that it was recently discovered that by entering a specific line of code '() { :; };)' in a command you could get a system to run any following commands. In other words, when this command is used, Bash will continue to read and execute commands that come after it. This in turn could lead to a hacker being able to gain full, yet unauthorized, access to systems without having to enter a password. If this happens, there is very little you can do about it.

Why is this such a big issue?

To be clear: Shellshock should not directly affect most Windows-based machines, instead it affects machines that use Unix and Unix-based operating systems (including OS X). So why is this so big a deal when the majority of the world uses Windows-based computers? In truth, the majority of end-users will be safe from this exploit. However, the problem lies with bigger machines like Web servers and other devices such as networking devices, and computers that have had a Bash command shell installed.

While most users have Windows-based computers, the servers that support a vast percentage of the Internet and many business systems run Unix. Combine this with the fact that many other devices like home routers, security cameras, Point of Sale systems, etc. run Unix and this is becomes a big deal.

As we stated above, hackers can gain access to systems using Bash. If for example this system happens to be a Web server where important user information is stored, and the hacker is able to use Bash to gain access and then escalate themselves to administrative status, they could steal everything. In turn this could lead to the information being released on to the Web for other hackers to purchase and subsequently use to launch other attacks - even Windows-based systems. Essentially, there are a nearly unlimited number of things a hacker can do once they have access.

If this is not dealt with, or taken seriously, we could see not only increased data breaches but also larger scale breaches. We could also see an increase in website crashes, unavailability, etc.

So what should we do?

Because Shellshock mainly affects back-end systems, there is little the majority of users can do at this time. That being said, there are many Wi-Fi routers and networks out there that do use Unix. Someone with a bit of know-how can gain access to these and execute attacks when an individual with a system using Bash tries to connect to Wi-Fi. So, it is a good idea to refrain from connecting to unsecured networks.

Also, if you haven't installed a Bash command line on your Windows-based machine your systems will probably be safe from this particular exploit. If you do have servers in your business however, or networking devices, it is worthwhile contacting us right away. The developers of Bash have released a partial fix for this problem and we can help upgrade your systems to ensure the patch has been installed properly.

This exploit, while easy to execute, will be incredibly difficult to protect systems from. That's why working with an IT partner like us can really help. Not only do we keep systems up-to-date and secure, we can also ensure that they will not be affected by issues like this. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 3rd, 2014

HealthcareIT_Oct02_AThe deployment and utilization of electronic medical records (EMRs) is driving a health-care technology revolution as physicians find that their EMRs complement their other systems, enabling the establishment of patient portals, medication tracking, and electronic prescribing among other things.

Physicians are making strides in regard to technology adoption, however, in many cases it’s the result of necessity rather than desire. As the industry moves away from the fee-for-service model, and places more emphasis on quality reporting, physicians have to pay attention to workflows so they can capture data in a timely manner.

What some physicians don’t understand is the benefit of technology to their practices. In addition to giving physicians more time to spend with their patients, it allows them to serve as caretakers of personal health information, and this puts them in a position to be more dominant in accountable care organizations and control relationships with provider partners.

One area in which physicians are behind is ICD-10 conversion. Many who had hoped for the delay, and now that they have it, aren’t moving forward fast enough. Indeed, some industry analysts believe the one-year delay to October 2015 may have actually slowed down the process of conversion.

If you are struggling with the technology in your practice, contact us today. Our wide-variety of services can be tailored to help make technology not only easier to use but also manage. We can also help ensure that your practice is ready for ICD-10 well ahead of the projected deadline.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 3rd, 2014

Genhealth_Oct02_AFor the first time ever, achieving meaningful use depends on patient behavior: Meaningful use Stage 2 requires at least 5 percent of a health-care provider's patients to be engaged in their own care— either through an electronic medical record (EMR) or an online portal.

The push for patient engagement is understandable, if data provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is accurate. According to the foundation, patients who are not engaged in their own health care can cost 21 percent more than patients who are highly engaged.

But, many health-care providers are worried about the patient engagement requirement, and for good reason: To some extent patient engagement is out of the physician’s control. But it doesn’t have to be, with good communication, both in the office and via electronic followup.

The first step is letting your patients know you have an online portal, which they may not be aware of. According to a survey from Technology Advice, a consulting firm, 40 percent of people who saw a primary-care physician within the last year didn’t even know if the physician offered a portal.

Keep in mind, however, that you may want to do more than create and communicate about a patient portal. By creating a vehicle that connects all stakeholders across the health-care continuum—patients and physicians alike—you truly elevate the patient experience.

If you are looking for help meeting these requirements, contact us today to learn how our systems and experts can support your practice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.