Nothing of Interest

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, September 22, 2011)

I knew this day would come.  Week after week, it’s been so easy to share technology insights with Augusta.  But today as I sit down to crank out some Augusta Tek, I have to confess…I got nothing.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not because there isn’t anything going on in the tech world.  Just last week, Microsoft released the Windows 8 beta.  By now all you consumer technophiles have seen the Metro-style interface and the loving embrace it gives to HTML5.  Very cool.  The serious IT pros are drooling over Windows 8 Server.  If you are into the server stuff, you seriously need to start reading up.  Enhancements include a supercharged Powershell interface, a much improved Hyper-V and full RemoteFX support.  It’s looking like an operating system build for the cloud with all the bells and whistles included.

But really, who’s going to be interested in reading about that?  It might be right for some nerdy tech blog, but not for the Metro Spirit.

The typical Spirit reader would probably be much more interested in the Xbox Live integration with Windows 8.  This would be an awesome topic to discuss.  But until we know if you’re able to play Xbox 360 games on it, who really cares?

I suppose that the hacked photos of Scarlet Johansson and Justin Timberlake create a moderate amount of interest.  Apparently, Anonymous has decided to cut the Bay Area Rapid Transit a break and start targeting Hollywood celebrities.  Good for them.  I’m glad that have something to keep them busy.  Don’t you love these West Coast folks?  First of all, I have never understood the need to take a nude photo of yourself.  I mean, really, all the tech you need for this is just looking down.  But if you’re going to take a nude photo, doesn’t it follow that you would want someone to see it?  I’m just not buying that a Hollywood type would take these pictures solely for private, non-commercial use.  The whole hacking things adds a little publicity, I guess, but sometimes I’d rather them just post everything to MySpace and get over it.

In case you missed it, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has been on a streak lately.  In the past month, the discovery of three new planets was announced.  Contrary to the popular opinion, these planets are not in a galaxy far, far away.  One planet that NASA refers to as Tatooine orbits a binary system and is located a mere 61 parsecs away.  (Parsec? Really?) Any self-respecting SyFy fan understands that in galactic terms, this is practically right next door.  Unfortunately, the planet appears to be a Saturn-like gas giant with no solid surface, and it’s far too cold to support life.  But don’t give up all hope.  I have heard from reliable sources that the USAF has located a Stargate at the new NSA facility at Fort Gordon.  While not 100% confirmed, I understand that the public will have the opportunity to gate over to an outer moon of the Tatooine system and enjoy a double sunset just like Luke Skywalker in Episode IV.

Don’t blame me…I warned you up front how this article might turn out.

BTW, Lynnsey, nice win over Coastal Carolina.  Up for double or nothing?  Go Jackets!

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet…tweet me @gregory_a_baker.  L8R.

University’s Epic Journey

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 9/15/2011)

To say that the healthcare industry is undergoing significant change is probably an understatement. In the past few years, sweeping changes in federal regulations have prompted changes in virtually every area of healthcare. Of particular interest to IT professionals, the 2009 ARRA-HITECH act provides $19.2 billion to increase the adoption rate of Electronic Health Records (EHR). These incentive payments are available to eligible providers and hospitals that demonstrate “Meaningful Use” of EHR systems. Payment schedules depend on the number of Medicare or Medicaid patients treated, but Eligible Providers could receive up to $63,750 per provider over a 6-year period. Hospitals payments depend on a number of factors, but begin with a $2 million base payment. Needless to say, many Augusta-area healthcare organizations are taking a look at their information systems and developing plans to become meaningful users.

The University Health Care System is one such organization. Late last year, University Health Care announced a $35 million project to replace their current medical information software with an EHR package developed by Epic Systems. Dr. Shannon Stinson, Vice President and Chief Medical Informatics Officer for University Health Care, is leading the implementation effort. The 5-year project began ramping up earlier this year. Physician practices are expected to transition to the new system late 2011/early 2012. Hospital operations will transition during the summer of 2012.

While satisfying the Meaningful Use criteria was a strong consideration, another goal of the project is to create a safer, more efficient and integrated health care experience for University patients. “Epic is built off a single platform. Everything is integrated, and that was very important for us,” stated Dr. Stinson. “Looking at Meaningful Use, you want to put your investment in the system that provides the easiest platform for your providers to use while also allowing them to seamlessly deliver quality patient care. We have a significant investment in our current system, but when we did the analysis with all things considered, for us, Epic came out on top.”

The Epic system provides physicians a number of improvements to patient treatment. In examples described by Dr. Stinson, the current hospital-based system does not integrate outside lab results or any information obtained by a patient’s primary doctor as a structured part of the current electronic health record. In addition, for physicians practicing outside the hospital walls, imaging is not available as an integrated part of the record. “Once Epic is live, it will allow any provider on Epic to easily view any information entered by another provider on University’s Epic platform including a patient’s past medical history, medications, procedures, labs, and imaging results directly in a single, integrated patient chart. Physicians will also be able to order tests from the hospital lab or other outside labs directly from the system. Results will be delivered electronically directly into the patient’s chart.” said Dr. Stinson. Physicians will no longer have to search through multiple sources and different forms of documentation in order to read and interpret a patient’s medical information.

Epic’s centralized patient database will allow the hospital to provide safer and timelier care in emergency situations. “Often, when patients arrive in the emergency room, we have no way of obtaining their chart in a timely manner. If the patient is alone and unconscious or unable to provide a history, we have no way of knowing what their medical history is, whether they have any allergies, or if they’re taking any medications,” said Dr. Stinson. With Epic, the medical records for all patients treated by University physicians will be available. Moreover, emergency room visits and hospital stays are documented directly in the patient’s health record and communicated back to the patient’s primary care physician for follow-up. This capability greatly improves the existing communications process between the primary care physician, the emergency room, and University Hospital.

Patients will directly benefit from the transition to Epic through its online patient portal. The patient portal enables a patient to access their medical history over the internet. Specific content is managed by the physician practices, but patients should be able to view such items as patient demographics, allergies, current medications and summary of care documents. Patients may also, at their physician’s discretion, be able to use the portal to request prescription refills, schedule appointments and complete intake paperwork prior to doctor visits. Notification of health record updates will also be possible. “When lab results are posted, the patient will receive an email saying that new information is available on the portal. They can login and review the results of the lab immediately, and not have to wait for a call from the doctor’s office.”

Data security and continuous operations are critical components of the implementation plan. As Dr. Stinson relates, “We will be locating our disaster recovery systems at an offsite location in order to maintain geographic diversity between our primary site and our disaster recovery site.” In this configuration, the system will continue to be fully operational, even if there were significant damage to the hospital data center. The implementation team considered a read-only disaster recovery alternative, but in the end decided on a read-write strategy. As Dr. Stinson states, “In an emergency, if I don’t have the ability to enter data into the system, it’s going to slow me down. In a disaster situation, that will add to the chaos. Having the stability of using Epic during a disaster situation in a similar fashion as we would for day-to-day operations will have a tremendous calming effect on those providing patient care in these often stressful situations.”

Of course, Epic contains a number of other surprises. “Epic has a bunch of capabilities that make you think, ‘That’s amazing! Who thought of that?’” says Dr. Stinson. For example, Health Information Exchange (HIE) is built into the system. Health records for other Epic sites or other certified systems can be retrieved and uploaded into the local system. Dashboards provide real-time snapshots of clinical performance measures. Measures of productivity, charges, patient volume and many others are possible and can be aggregated by physician, group or specialty.

So, Dr. Stinson, what is the one thing our readers should take away from our discussion of Epic? “Epic is going to be a phenomenal platform for our physicians and clinicians to provide excellent, high quality, safe, and effective patient care. Epic is a robust system that provides a tremendous amount of capability to our physicians. Each physician practices a little bit differently, and the system provides the flexibility to adapt to different styles. We believe that University Health Care patients will be more satisfied with the delivery of health care when their physicians begin using Epic, and they will love the ability to participate in their health care experience by accessing their health information at any time and from anywhere.”

Any physicians interested in implementing Epic in their practice should contact Dr. Stinson at 706-774-7716 or email at sstinson@uh.org.

A big Metro Spirit thanks to Dr. Stinson and University Health Care for sharing Epic with us. Until next time, I’ll see you on the Internet…tweet me @gregory_a_baker. L8R.

 

Dear Jenny…

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 9/8/2011)

(Jenny’s Original Article: http://jennyiswright.com/2011/09/07/why-people-are-crappier-these-days/)

I’ve got a bone to pick with Jenny Wright.  Last week, she advocated taking away Fast Food, the Internet, Videogames and Cell Phones (I’ll presume she means Smartphones.)  What’s up, Jenny?  Do you have something against technology?  Or are you just The Woman out to destroy my life?

I’m sorry…That probably came out too strong.  Most of the points you make are valid and reasonable.  Technological innovation commonly results everyday conveniences that change the way we live.  To some, it may appear that things are too easy.  To others, it makes perfect sense to text someone two rooms away in order to avoid a human interaction.  A century ago, I’m sure there were folks that thought washing machines made life too easy for the homemaker or that real men plow fields with a mule.  We see how that turned out for them.

I do agree that it seems that our society has lost something in its work ethic.  Technology has made our business work so efficient that we only need to apply real effort a few hours a day to earn a living.  Likewise, technology has simplified so many routine household tasks, recreation and leisure activities are considered requirements.  Somewhere along the way, we’ve accepted the doctrine that the purpose of technology is to help us do less.

In reality, the true power of technology lies in its ability to help us accomplish more.  Let’s take that school project The Kids will have to tackle.  You are absolutely right that the encyclopedias are a thing of the past.  All research starts with the Internet.  But think about how much more information exists and the wider variety of available resources.  The Kids can go deeper and broader that we ever could and gain insight that simply wasn’t possible for us.

Technology isn’t about accomplishing the same results with less effort.  It’s about giving the same effort and achieving more than one could think possible.

It’s true in education.  It’s true in business.  It’s true in life.  Attack fast food if you must, but Jenny, please don’t knock my technology.

And to answer your last question…if you want to know when the next Angry Birds update is available, Google it.  Google can fix everything.  :-)

We Will Not Forget: I remember waking up ten years ago in a hotel room in San Jose, CA and turning on the TV news to begin my morning routine.  American Airlines Flight 11 had just struck the North Tower, and the news organizations were scrambling to establish coverage.  Shortly thereafter, United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower.  My wife worked in downtown Washington D.C at the time.  She was already at work when I called to see if she had heard the news.  A short time after that American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon, and suddenly the day became more than a news story.  I only knew one person that died that day.  Robert Ploger was an engineering manager at Lockheed Martin.  He and his wife were headed to Hawaii for their honeymoon, but they ended up on the flight that struck the Pentagon.  I plan to spend some time this week remembering 9/11 and how America came together when our lives and our freedom was placed in jeopardy.  I hope you do too.

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet…tweet me @gregory_a_baker.  L8R.

 

Anything You Want for $5

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 9/1/2011)

Last week, my daughter and I walked out from my office, and I said to her, “So, sweetie, let’s count all of Daddy’s cars that don’t work.”  One.  Two. Three.  Ok, not three.  I only have two cars that don’t work.  We do have a third car, our newest…an 8-year old Honda Pilot with 120,000 miles.  As you can see, our family’s transportation mission statement goes something like this,

Buy almost new.  Drive it until it dies.  Hope someone will tow it away.

So bottom line…I need a new(er) car.  My primary requirement (other than being able to run) is Bluetooth compatibility.  I enjoy listening to technology podcasts like CNET Buzz Out Loud or books from Audible.com on the way to work.  For Christmas last year, Santa brought me a Bluetooth external speaker.  Awesome gadget, but to get the full experience, the entire car needs to be wired for sound.  (You know what I’m talking about.)  My 1996 Silverado with super deluxe hi-fi cassette doesn’t cut it.  The FJ Cruiser 4X4 is looking pretty good.  More to come…

Augusta Tek would not be complete this week without a mention of Steve Jobs stepping down from Apple CEO due to health reasons.  The best compliment I’ve read regarding Steve Jobs is his ability to completely transform consumer technology.  For those counting, he did it twice.  Apple defined the PC market in the early eighties, and then redefined consumer devices with the iPhone and iPad.  And by the way, he reinvented the music industry along the way, too.  Even though Steve Jobs won’t be Apple CEO, I suspect that his influence won’t wonder too far away.

In related news, did everyone get their HP touchpad last week?  I’ll pay $300 for yours…just kidding.

BTW – For those folks needing a quick image editor with a little bit of power, try Paint.Net.  It’s a freeware program, but very useful in situations where PhotoShop is overkill.  Nice interface, intuitive.  One really nice feature is its ability to handle layers.  Also, my desktop didn’t get infected when I downloaded it.  That’s always a plus.  I hope you find it useful.

I want to apologize to those sitting around me at Wesley UMC this past Sunday.  When Rev. Porterfield asked everyone to stand-up for the reading, I do admit that I pulled out my Android.  Several folks looked in my direction, some curious, others a little more concerned.  For the record, I was reading along using my Bible app.  Really, I was.  (Seriously.)  In retrospect, I see how others might have gotten the wrong impression.  If it makes you feel any better, my Android allows me to carry a Bible everywhere I go.  (Now that doesn’t necessarily make me read it, but that’s a topic for another week.)

Finally, do you need help composing a break-up letter?  Or do you need someone to be your girlfriend on Facebook?  How about someone that will retweet your posts to 62,000+ Followers?  Do you have errands you need to run in Turin, Italy?  Would you believe that all of these tasks can be performed for $5?  All this plus Spanish lessons, customized emotional rants and ravenous bunny marketing can be yours on fiverr.com.  It’s the place where you can buy or sell anything for $5.  Oh, here’s a good one…I will write your Metro Spirit article for $5.  Nice.

Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet…tweet me @gregory_a_baker.  L8R.

A Strike Against Free Speech

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, August 25, 2011)

One tactic commonly employed by the military is to disrupt or block the communications of their opposition.  Military engagements are generally won by the force that maintains superior knowledge of real-time events and adapts quickly to changing battlefield conditions.  Without effective communications, the opposing force cannot respond to attacks in a coordinated manner.  Nor can they share intelligence regarding any weakness that might be the target of a counterattack.  Effective communications is a key component to ensuring military victory.

Likewise, police forces addressing civil unrest also desire to maintain a communications advantage.  Governments possess the resources to equip police with the latest in high tech communications.  In most cases, governments also heavily regulate the broadcast media and civil communication systems.  The people must filter all their communication through government infrastructure where they can be monitored, or resort to primitive methods such as coded documents and human couriers that are much too slow to be effective in our technological society.

That is, until Facebook came along.

In January 2011, the power of social media was demonstrated to the world.  In Egypt, Facebook was the medium of choice, specifically the group “We are all Khaled Said”.  Egyptian citizens living under a dictator discovered the power of our First Amendment.  They received uncensored accounts of police brutality.  They were able share opinions regarding the government.  They were able to plan and conduct protests in relative safety since social media allowed them to share knowledge of state police activities as the demonstrations were occurring.  Don’t doubt it for a second.  Facebook was an integral component to the success of the Egyptian demonstrators.

Let’s not fool ourselves in thinking social networks developed this power overnight.  Most dictators aren’t stupid, and a quick look at the map shows that totalitarian regimes have established partial or complete social media bans over the last 5 years.  Iran banned Twitter during their 2009 general elections.  Social media sites in China are operated by the government.  The recent call for greater social media bans in Tunisia, Bahrain, Syria and Iran are not unexpected.

I also sympathize with the calls for greater controls in Great Britain.  Violence such as the riots in London over the past few weeks cannot be condoned.  Personally, I believe blocking Blackberry Messenger will create more angst and inflame the situation.  But using posts and messages to identify and apprehend rioters is certainly fair game.  When violence starts, the rules change.

But San Francisco?  Aren’t these people supposed to be the freedom-loving hippies that created the model for the modern civil protest?  But today, at the first hint of a peaceful protest of a questionable police action (a fatal shooting of a homeless man), San Francisco leaders viewed United States citizens exercising their First Amendment rights as an opposition military force.  They took pre-emptive action to block mobile device traffic in an effort to disrupt and disband the protest.

I’m sure some readers will point out that this was done for public safety reasons and that the government was legally within its right.  Sadly, I suspect that will be the case.  Actual harm to public safety is no longer a measure.  The slightest chance of potential harm to public safety seems to be sufficient to trump all principals of liberty.

Social networks provide the People a tremendous amount of power due to its ability to amplify and project the voice of individuals and groups.  History shows that those uncomfortable with the People exercising their voice are generally inclined to silence the People.  Is this the preferred action?  As James Madison stated in Federalist #10,

But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency

Restrictions by the government upon the access and use of social networks are akin to restrictions of free speech and liberty.  The People need to keep watch and stay vigilant.

Until next time, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and any other place I’m free to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!