Healthcare treks onward toward the 21st century

Despite the recent ICD-10 fiasco (stalled again!), the healthcare industry is headed for big change. Kicking and screaming perhaps, but moving forward anyway.

The biggest drivers in healthcare progress right now, as I see it, are technological advances that empower patients–the so-called healthcare consumers! These include things like powerful new social media tools (such as the barrage of new health-related smartphone apps that is flooding the iOS App Store and Google Play); as well as a host of new devices that you and I can wear to help us gauge and maintain our own health.

Recently, I purchased a Jawbone UP24 health tracking wrist band. It tells me (via an associate iPhone app) how much physical activity I’m getting (in step per day), how many calories I’m taking in and how much sleep I’m getting.

Jawbone UP24

Also, through other compatible apps, my UP24 can help me track my walking/running program, my weight, my blood pressure, and so on.

The UP24, and its cousins from companies such as Fitbit and Garmin, are enabling a whole new movement. The essence of this movement (buzz word “Quantified Self”) is empowerment through self-observation, self-measurement and connecting with others through social media–Facebook, Twitter and a host of others that are also springing up on a weekly basis. For instance, the UP24 has its own community of UPsters, connected to each other via the UP app!

So, what does this have to do with healthcare? I am diabetic. I have another app that I use to record my blood sugars. The device I used to measure my blood sugars talks to this app. If my blood sugars are out of whack, I have a record I can share with my healthcare provider (doc) to show him or her what’s going on. In some cases, you may have a device that monitors your heart rhythms, and the that device’s signal connects to system that provider can see in real time what is happening with your heart (or your breathing, or your sleep patterns).

This isn’t science fiction, folks. It’s all happening right now. And in the near future, you can anticipate that this self-quantification and connectivity will change the face of healthcare forever.

Telehealth and telemedicine are terms that are now common in the vocabulary of the doctors and nurses that are caring for you and your family now. mHealth (mobile health) and eHealth (electronic health) are no longer the stuff of Star Trek. Recently, a company called Scanadu introduced, not too different in function from the one that Bones, the Star Trek doc) used frequently to diagnose the crew member on the Starship Enterprise. Of the course, the Scanadu Scout is much more elegant than the “old Tricorder” and it does much more.

Every day new devices like the Jawbone UP24 and the Scanadu Scout are appearing on the market. Innovation and empowerment–two trends healthcare must prepare for.



When good #hashtags turn bad

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been experimenting with Twitter hashtags. For those new to Twitter, or unfamiliar with hashtags, the idea is that the Big Ideas on Twitter (including brands, ideologies and pretty much anything!) can be grouped or categorized by using the “#” sign and the name of the category. For instance, tweets about about healthcare can be tagged “#healthcare”. Folks on Twitter who are searching for healthcare related tweets can then search the hashtag–#healthcare–and presumably find a great deal of information about healthcare. Over time, communities of Twitter users can become organized around a hashtag. From the #healthcare example, folks that work in healthcare or have a passionate interest, could follow the #healthcare hashtag, and engage with others that share the interest.

The problem with hashtags is that over time they become polluted, or perhaps diluted. The hashtag “#healthcare”, for instance, is now used not only by people with a true and legitimate interest in healthcare, but also by those with a political agenda to, for instance, undo healthcare reform. Or slam the President or the government. Topics and ideologies that have little to do with healthcare.

Hashtags can also be used by spammers. If I search the hashtag #healthcare now, I will also gather in my search, the Twitter feeds of companies and individuals that are peddling pills and creams for wide variety of ills. Again, the gist of these tweets has really very little to do with healthcare, and more to do with making a buck.

Recently, as the use of hashtags has become more popular and more prevalent, several “hashtag aggregators” have appeared. These are websites that attempt to categorize and/or curate the myriad hashtags that are being used. Some sites, such as Simplur, specialize in certain types of hashtags. Simplur’s specialty is happens to be healthcare hashtags.

My observation, about sites like Simplur, is that such sites (and their owners) may have an agenda as well. Like certain hashtag users, as in my #healthcare hashtag example, the owners of these hashtag aggregator/curator sites, may be simply capitalizing on the current popularity of hashtags, to either push their own business or political agendas. This further dilutes or weakens what originally may have been a very powerful idea–that a hashtag can be used itself to organized or categorize vast amounts of knowledge.

What will happen to hashtags? I think that over time the hashtag will evolve into something more useful than what it currently has become–a device to draw in interested users, but not necessarily for the “highest and best” purposes. I think that hashtags, even in their current state, can be useful, but only if you are using them knowledgeably. That is, with the knowledge that hashtag environment is rapidly becoming complex to the point that a hashtag does not necessarily help you know more about a given subject, or join with others who have an interest in the subject.

Like most other services and devices on the internet (and in life), when it comes to hashtag, the advice is “Caveat emptor” — buyer beware.

I’m interested in your comments. Please feel free to comment here or on my Twitter feed — @gerrywieder

Thanks for reading.

3 things to check on your new Twitter followers

When you are starting out on Twitter there can be an almost overwhelming temptation to follow everyone! Believe me. I know. The usual progression for a Twitter novice is probably something like this:

  • Open new Twitter account
  • Follow all(or mostly all) suggested accounts
  • Tweet your first tweet
  • Send messages (mostly email, word of mouth) to all your friends that you have a new Twitter account—hoping they’ll engage with you on Twitter.

At this point there is a pull—even for those who thoroughly understand Twitter and social media—to start doing more stuff. More stuff being—dressing up your Twitter bio or trying a new or different Twitter avi or retweeting a bunch of other tweeps tweets!

Soon you will have a few followers. The first few may be your friends or your workmates from down the hall. A little later, depending on your other activities on Twitter, you may start attracting follows from people you don’t know!

Now you have a decision to make. And this decision depends on your reasons for being on Twitter in the first place. If you’re a hobbyist like me, you want to follow (a be followed) by other Twitter folk who share your interests.

Hence our 5-point checklist. Before following this new person back (and thereby adding him or her to your timeline):

1.   Check your new follower’s bio

When you’re starting out, you may be tempted to not pay too much attention to your new user’s bio. You just hit the “Follow” button. It’s important now, however (and will be more important later in your Twitter career) that your timeline—the endless stream of tweets and retweets from your followers—is something you’re really interested in reading!

This starts with following whose interests—and bio information—aligns with the sorts of interests and subjects you really want to follow.

2.   Check your new follower’s recent tweets

Are your new follower’s tweets consistent with the interests expressed in his or her bio?

Some Twitterers  write a bio initially. Then over time, their interests change. But their bio does not! If the bio looks cool, but you read the tweets and they are not interesting to you, you might consider not following (or re-following) that particular follower.

Also, see how much original content that particular tweep is contributing. If all you see is a persistent and plentiful stream of retweets, you might want to rethink.

(Also, remember this for your own tweets: People like to see new stuff! They want to see your thoughts and opinions, not just the retweets of others.)

NOTE: If you see a constant stream of random retweets, or inane meaningless tweets, your prospective follow may be bot. These are “automated tweeps” whose mission is simply to gather followers. The object being to resell said gathered followers for a fee to Twitter account holders willing to buy a shortcut to hundreds or thousands in their Follower list.

3.   Check your new follower’s follow/following activity

Some reciprocity, some give-and-take, is a good thing. And it is the currency of social media. If you notice that your new follower has multiple thousands of followers but really is not following all that many folks, you may want to think twice about that follow.

Again, this depends on your reasons for being on Twitter, and your reason for possibly following a given tweep. If you’re fascinated by this person’s postings and really enjoy the read (a sign of carefully thought out subject matter presentation), go ahead a follow this busy tweep.

However, if you expect any give-and-take from this person—don’t! As you can see, the twitter follows (and the conversation) are going to be quite one-sided and you probably don’t want to follow.

NOTE: When you are starting on Twitter, another users busy Twitter feed may not be much of a problem for you. However, as you get busier with Twitter yourself, too many busy tweeps in your timeline may make comprehending and managing your timeline difficult. (Stay tuned for a article on the art of using Twitter Lists).

Are there other things you routinely check on your new prospective Twitter followers?

Three things you can do to bring back the true meaning of Christmas

I’ve been feeling a little–okay, a lot–“bah humbug” this Christmas season. Not that I’m going out and deliberately scrooging anyone else’s Christmas merriment. It’s just that I can’t get into the swing of things myself. Then I had sort of an a-ha moment, spurred by one of my friends on Twitter. Our exchange went like this:

@azmoderate Want “Reality Television” here’s an idea, go out in the real world, meet real ppl, interact with them & work with them. Much more satisfying

@gerrywieder But where will I ever find another Honey Booboo? @azmoderate

@azmoderate @GerryWieder Diabetes ward of a children’s hospital

@azmoderate is really “John”. John’s last comment in this little exchange was the a-ha moment, the proverbial “slap upside the head” for me. And the third thing on my list of things you can do get some meaning back in Christmas.

First thing to get some of the Christmas spirit back: Face reality

John’s initial tweet about turning off the TV (and the computer) and meeting real people, interacting with them and working with them, is the first step. Before you can “get” Christmas, you have to “get off” the endless stream of marketing hype and jargon that passes in the world as “the Christmas message”. Scrooge got his slap upside the head from the ghost of Bob Marley and three spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future. But I really don’t think Scrooge really “got it” until he joined the Cratchett family for Christmas dinner. That’s when reality truly set in.

Second thing to the feeling of Christmas back: Surrender

Again, back to Scrooge. He wasn’t able to get a “vision” of all that Christmas can be, until he surrendered to the Spirits. This letting go, giving in to all the season has to offer, you really aren’t going to get Christmas.

Third thing (and maybe most important): Give

John’s tweet about ditching Honey Booboo in favor of the kids on a cancer ward, was what really got to me. You could also give your time to a homeless shelter, a food bank or the local humane society. What is your heart calling you to do?

You won’t hear that voice until you take steps one and two. So what are you waiting for?

Turn off the TV.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Customer service: The good (@Apple) and the ugly (@Sears)

After nearly two weeks of anger and frustration–just the things that good customer service is supposed to be all about, right?–I’m ready to throw in the towel. Okay, Sears. You win. You get the the prize for Ugly Customer Service.

This was a simple order. For a mattress for our son. Made December 7. Bed left the store for the warehouse December 8 for delivery to our boy on December 14. Lots of time to get it right, right?

After two weeks of missed delivery times, missed callbacks from Sears customer service staff, being placed on hold for 20-30 minutes at a time (only to be transferred to another Sears staffer who also puts me on hold)–I give up. Sears: you are going to deliver the bed I ordered online for delivery last weekend, at any time you damn well feel like it. My time and my family’s time don’t matter a whit to you. The $70 dollars I paid for delivery is just another tax on my stupidity from buying from you in the first place.

So, that’s the ugly. Sears provides the worst of the worst customer service of any company I’ve had to deal with in years–online and offline.

Apple, on the other hand, has great customer service. In fact, they have raised it to an art form.

I recently (very recently) bought a new iPad Air. I’m in love with my iPad Air. I had an iPad (first generation) that had just a lot of its shine. Not as many features, wouldn’t run the latest apps and so forth. So I was delighted with my new iPad.

Problem: After a couple weeks my new toy developed a problem. A screen  was coming up saying the device was overheating! I called Apple customer service. (Actually I started the  conversation with an Apple online chat). After about two minutes “chatting” we determined that my new iPad had to be replaced. I was transferred to a second Apple associate who set up the exchange with me, and we were done! Less than 5 minutes online and on the phone.

My replacement iPad arrived in less than 48 hours. (I was told 72 hours!) I packed my defective iPad and took it down to the local FedEx store. Done.

Poetry in motion. What customer service should be.

Why does Sears do such a poor job of customer service and Apple do such a good job? I belong to the school that believes that most problems are systems problems, not people programs. I’m sure that no one at Sears intends to give lousy customer service. Sears gives lousy customer service because their systems are antiquated and because Sears leadership doesn’t think that fixing it all that important.

Apple, on the other hand, has got the systems that their customer service folks can use effectively.

Good systems or bad systems? The customer doesn’t see the systems. They do see whether or not their concerns are answered timely and satisfactorily. A poor customer service rep or a lousy customer service system–the end result is the same–a dissatisfied, or in this case a lost–customer.

What has your customer service experience been during the the busiest shopping time of the year?

Love the new WP “Parker” update!

Parker post imageWhen I opened up WordPress today, I got the familiar prompts that I had updates ready for WP and my plugins. No big deal, right?

Wow, though! When I updated WordPress I was welcomed to a new Dashboard and a totally new look and feel. Everything looks clean and bright. For once, WordPress itself is inspiring.

Don’t get me wrong. The minute I discovered WP, six or seven years ago, I was hooked. What a simply marvelous, marvelously simple platform to create and communicate with. Before I got my first WP hosted account, I was on That’s where I “got my feet wet” and really started enjoying all that the WP platform has to offer. When I launched, I turned into a serial experimenter. And although I haven’t attempted anything really cutting edge yet, I’m getting closer.

Hmmm. Maybe time to start experimenting with video?


The End of American Healthcare? CMS/OMC furlough of the Meaningful Use Initiative

The announcement today that the CMS and ONC are backing down on Meaningful Use may have been inevitable. For political reasons–read: the huge clout of the AMA, AHA and other powerful lobbying bodies–the inexorable push back and eventual demise of Meaningful Use was inevitable. Grease enough palms in DC, and eventually you will get what you want.
What the powers-that-be have demonstrated is that they have the ability to not only bend public policy, but also thwart technological progress to the point where we’re once again standing still–or worse yet, moving backwards.
The U.S. already lags behind many nations of the civilized world, not only in access to health care, but in the ability to document care in any real, “meaningful” way, and to use that documentation to improve care, not only to individual patients but to entire patient populations. What happened today is not merely a “win” by a large politically powerful interest group. It is a huge loss for American health care consumers.
Meaningful Use wasn’t our best hope. It was our only hope.