Monday, August 27, 2012

Mobile App Medicine: It's here. Are patients and providers ready?

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Is medicine via smart phone alive and well?
Earlier this month, Healthcare IT News' Michelle McKnickle posted an article regarding five new mobile medical apps that improve doctor patient communication. Her case is pretty solid in that these apps do improve the flow of information and streamline a lot of what goes into a normal patient visit to the physician's office.

Medical and many other related apps have the potential to revolutionize the way healthcare providers and patients interact, with one small caveat: Only if doctors are willing to embrace the technology and use it.  

While the technology is here and constantly evolving (which in itself could be part of the adoption problem), there are several factors that could stall implementation into the healthcare consumer marketplace; the first and foremost of which is physicians themselves.

Doctors, especially some of the more established professionals are often not only technology averse, but actively untrusting of it. If it's not on a chart or recorded on a microcassette, it is not real, tangible information. These are the same professionals who are already cynical toward the Internet due to the fact that it allows people to self-diagnose and come into an exam with what they've already decided they have, and demand a prescription for the medicine they want (or one that has been best advertised).

I am not saying these professionals are wrong for holding these attitudes. A patient comes in convinced that they have thyroid cancer and it turns out, they need to drastically change their diet to feel better. The patient is meanwhile thinking of ways to expose the doctor for fraud because obviously, they know better. After all, it is their body.

What's my point?

Communication is the key. Also, that one to two hours waiting for an appointment that was supposed to start two and a half hours prior, could be a thing of the past if all of that paperwork could be handled ahead of time in the days leading to an appointment or with a 'bump' of  smart phone.

On the surface and in practice, mobile technology is a perfect fit for healthcare.

There is however, a distinct problem with regulation and implementation of this technology. The government is slow to move on regulation, and, the legal aspects of such implementation are often overwhelming for HCO's and private practices. These are doctors we're talking about, not lawyers. Shouldn't a doctor be thinking more about how to make you better or keep you well than worrying about malpractice and privacy breaches?  What's best for the patient in a 'common sense' sense is not always what is right legally.

Here's are some other points to ponder.

Doctors only get paid when you have a billable appointment with them.  In our instant access culture, with smart phones in our pockets, and Google effectively negating the entire futuristic feel and wonder of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, will doctors really be open to this technology? 

If they can share results with patients, potentially do follow ups through a quick instant survey instead of billable in-person visits, and share records and results instantly; will they be willing to give up the associated revenue simply to make their patients happier?  Will they even believe that it will make their patients happier? With so much of a patient's attitude toward a doctor having to do with bedside manner, does this type of technology strip away any of that patient doctor relationship?

Mobile apps provide the healthcare industry with a multitude of benefits. However, implementation will likely have to be a patient-pushed initiative, in a situation where there is no real call to action. Nobody is dying because this doesn’t exist and not even a thousand small puppies can be shown in an onslaught of commercials to pull our heart strings enough to mobilize and demand progress.

As a healthcare IT staffing professional, I have to remain on top of industry news and trends. I don’t see adoption of medical apps as part of mainstream medicine until the 'younger' generation, who has and is growing up with this technology, makes it part of their daily life at work in the ER and everyday practice.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Lesson from the Woodward Dream Cruise: Employers Need to Restore Training Programs

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

I was almost late for my flight driving past what I later learned to be the nation's first highway. I had no idea the Woodward Dream Cruise, an event that attracts 1.5 million visitors and fills local streets with over 40,000 classic cars and hot rods, was taking place only miles from our Troy, MI headquarters. As I passed these beautifully restored vehicles from an era gone by, the scene became the inspiration for this week's blog.

The Woodward Dream Cruise
An article by Paul Davidson was recently forwarded to me by a colleague that further supports my posts about the need for employers to get involved when it comes to training. The article is best summed up by a quote from Peter Cappelli, a management professor at Wharton School and author of, Why Good People Can't Get Jobs. Cappelli says that employers "want people to hit the ground running. They don't want to train people."

So true a statement, it hurts. It hurts educated, hands-on job seekers that were once team leaders or project managers. It especially hurts those who are nearly there but are rejected because they don't have the 'perfect, predefined skill set'; an employer luxury that grew into an epidemic mindset during the Great Recession and remains for many.

Like I've said time and time again; the days of finding the perfect candidate are over. And likely, until attitudes change, we'll remain mired in a sluggish economy.

During my visit to Troy, where automotive engineering staffing is the primary focus, I was engaged in a discussion about the lack of employer supported training available to IT professionals with a member of the local management team. I argued that employers are contributing, if not causing, the 'free agent' worker mentality about which they complain in IT staffing. They do not want to invest in their employees. The epidemic is not confined to any one industry. The same is true of employers in his industry.

A few automotive OEMs have dedicated academies and mechatronics programs to train their engineering and skilled workforces on the latest industry technology and trends. In reality, these programs are few and far between. Is it purely coincidence that one of these companies, VW, is gaining market share?

In India, China, Malaysia, and other up and coming technical hubs, schooling and industry are focused, from early learning through college, on providing current and relevant skills to students and workers to meet today's worldwide technical resources and engineering needs. Unfortunately for employers in these countries, they often lose their top homegrown talent to the Western world. Not for lack of training, but due to the lengths companies are willing to go (and pay) in order to secure desperately needed talent.

Is it coincidence that, while our unemployment rate hovers around 8.3 percent, many employers here are lobbying for more visas to access this talent?

Is it any coincidence that India has experienced some of the highest GPD growth (nearly 8.0 percent a year over the past 10 years - and yes, the similarity in percentage values appears to be coincidence)?

We have some of the top engineering, technical and skilled talent here domestically. We've just forgotten that they need training. Not a complete overhaul of their education, just a tune-up or skill set modification. Did I mention the fact that many of these candidates also have years of leadership and strategic thinking experience?

Yes, training costs money. Unemployed / underemployed workers often don't have enough for an oil change let alone a certification or training course.

Where does that leave us?

Until employers return to the attitudes that gained them loyal workforces, dedicated to the company and learning everything they could to help it grow and succeed; until they return to a time where training is what helped build all of the beautiful machines I've just passed for 38 miles; we'll remain locked in a stalemate.

Why scrap a potentially beautiful car when it is structurally sound and missing a part or two? The folks participating in the Dream Cruise didn't. With some time, effort and investment they restored their vehicles to their former glory and, often times, make them perform even better. And they continue to nurture these vehicles after the restoration work is done.

Employers would be wise to follow their example.        

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sick of social media? Think twice before you go offline.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Can going offline make you look suspicious to employers?
In the past, we've talked about the separation of professional and personal lives; putting different faces out front when it comes to social media. We've also discussed old school and new school views on social media for business.  A recent article looks at the other side of the equation.

Forbes' Kashmir Hill brings a new twist to the world of social media. She argues that lack of a Facebook presence can make you look suspicious; in life, at work and to perspective employers.

She discusses recent media stories that suggest a minuscule online persona may be a trait mass murderers share and might be a reason for suspicion. She then tells us why the lack of a Facebook page might make you want to think twice about becoming someone's lover. She also brought up a point that immediately came to my mind as I started reading: What does it mean to employers when someone is not using social media?

I feel especially compelled to expand on this subject as electronic communication has become such a large part of how the resourcing industry does business today. Much of what used to be handled by snail mail, hard copy files, and faxes has now become as immediate and timely as social media itself. Reaching out to candidates found on LinkedIn and other social media can be done in seconds instead of days.  

As careful as you need to be now that your online persona is examined and scrutinized in many professional situations, you need to be just as careful to have something out there about yourself. Given that social media has become so popular, the lack a presence not only makes you potentially invisible to employers, but you could lose out on a position because of being so far out of the norm.

I am not suggesting that removing yourself from social media is wrong but, like it or not and despite the potential discrimination and privacy issues, it has become an important tool for many employers during the hiring process.

For example, let's take a look at LinkedIn. Simply having an account doesn't make you visible. The number of connections and the groups of which you are a member can impact your visibility to potential employers and likelihood of being considered for a position.  If you are a salesperson or recruiter who has 50 connections and isn't active in any groups, at a minimum it tells a potential  employer that you aren’t keeping up with the times and new tools of the trade, and at worst, you may be really bad at making connections.

These days it's more important than ever not only to be careful WHAT you put online, but to make sure that you do, in fact, put SOMETHING online. To take it a step further; it's not enough to simply have a presence, but to keep your presence active and updated.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Does Mean the End of Google? Five reasons why it's possible.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Can Microsoft's entry into enhanced mail take down a giant?
Call me crazy. Call me Ishmael. Call me Joshtradamus. Call me something else (but not to my face).

I have made many a bold prediction in my day and I have to say, many of them have come to fruition or are in the midst of unfolding as we speak. While I am not 100% accurate in my prognostication, I have a pretty good track record.

This next forecast is a ‘doozy’ but is not completely unthinkable.

I feel Microsoft’s recent release of signals the beginning of the end of Google as we know it. That’s right: I am saying the world’s number one brand will fall as a result of Microsoft’s push into the free cloud and email realm. It’s a realm where advertising dollars currently rule.

I have some very strong indicators as to why I think this will happen:

1. The Google cool factor and user base is not proprietary.
People have a choice. A lot of people moved to Gmail because it wasn’t AOL and it didn’t have that stigma of being a beginner’s email service. I even read an article years ago in a staffing magazine that stated anyone applying for a position using AOL as their main account was usually discounted immediately, primarily for not keeping up with technology trends. Google have done a lot to grow their user based and combating it will be a challenge. The integration of social media type features via Google+ may have come a bit too late, and might have been a bit less robust.

2. is intuitive and incorporates social media functionality.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. If you’ve ever held a job where you’ve used a PC on a daily basis, you probably have used Microsoft Outlook in one form or another. So you know how to use it already. Add to that the fact that this is definitely and undeniably NOT Hotmail (although your Hotmail account will not be affected by the new service if you want to keep it).

In fact, it is much more akin to a social media aggregation platform on the cloud with email functionality. It’s an interface where you can track pictures, emails, Twitter posts and Facebook posts all in one thread. (Microsoft tested this in its soft launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone.) Just think of it; you get all your news and conversations on a topic with someone, or a group of people, all in one place. In the IT staffing industry, it opens up a unique way for recruiters to communicate with their candidates. No need to log into four or more different sites to see where you sent them that link a couple of days ago. It’s all in your account. That’s ‘Cool Factor+.’ 
3. Advertising is Google’s primary source of revenue.
Like I said before, is not Hotmail. In fact the advertising that Microsoft will be selling on the platform will be much like that found on Facebook; Off to the side and not in between email messages.

Wait a minute did I just say advertising? Yep! Google’s ‘bread and butter’ is threatened if takes off. Now, Google does generate some revenue from its hundreds of apps, but its lifeblood is advertising. Microsoft’s lifeblood is not. They have gaming, the number one operating system in the world with a new launch that brings all of this together, server, advertising, and more resources to make this whole thing happen.

4. has already taken off.
Only a day after its launch, had one-million users. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a long way to go. Then again, Gmail just only recently surpassed Hotmail’s 360 million users by about 15% and has been around since 2004. If all of the Hotmail users transfer over and the ‘wow factor’ of a new service, that integrates into your OS on your PC and your phone, AND aggregates all of your social media messaging, AND has all the functionality of Gmail, AND pays your bills and walks the dog at three in the morning (OK I get ahead of myself, that must be in rev 2.0); then Google could be in for a world of hurt. 
5. Google doles out email storage in increments, is unlimited.
OK, both services offer 7+ GB of space in the cloud and most of us will never come close to using all that space. Google ups the amount of space available in increments of one-one-millionth of a MB. Microsoft’s  SkyDrive cloud technology offers users unlimited email storage. There is a lot to be said for ‘unlimited.’

Microsoft’s biggest obstacle is that they have to overcome email users’ reluctance to switch from something they already know and use every day, and the fact that they'll have to inform all of their multitude of contacts, across various platforms, they are doing so.

In fact, as I stated earlier, Gmail has grown to over 400 million users. Hotmail still has over 350 million. Hotmail was deemed outdated by the ‘in crowd’ 8 years ago. Some people still have their AOL email as their primary account. Unless Microsoft can find a way that Google hasn’t yet mastered to lure people away from what they know, it could be a long road for them as well.

Then again, I also stated that virtually everyone that has ever touched a PC at work has used Microsoft Outlook. (And they’ve also used Office - PPT, Word, XLS, etc. which comes with the switchover to - free - along with the fact it will be considered secure by users. Also to be considered is the ease of integration.) Love it or hate it, people know this software, even among Mac users. Add the functionality and social media aggregation and I think they may have found themselves a winner.

I could be wrong, but my bet is on the company Bill built.