Friday, August 24, 2012

Medical Records at the Tap of a Finger: Mobile is Transforming Patient Care

I recently went for an annual (medical) check-up and walked into the doctor’s office expecting a receptionist to hand me a form to complete. Instead, she handed me an iPad.

As I looked around the busy waiting room, I noticed other patients also clutching iPads. While the lengthy process of writing out one’s medical history is an exercise in tedium no matter what, that day, it was quite novel. Well, almost.

But this medical practice didn’t stop with its tech-savviness in the waiting room. The doctors also carried iPads to use during patient consultations. And in each consultation room, a large flat screen monitor hung on the wall displaying patient records, X-rays, MRI results and important medical data all beamed from the tablet to the screen via Bluetooth™.

It was certainly the most high-tech doctor’s office I’ve been in, a snapshot of what many medical practices will look like in the future and the first thing that came to mind when reading an article in TIME Magazine, Better Care Delivered by iPad, M.D. Part of TIME’s wireless issue, the story focused on the growing influence of mobile technology in the medical field and virtually every aspect of our lives. It’s not just doctors’ offices that are going mobile: hospital-based doctors are rapidly adopting iPads as a way to carry patient records with them and get back the bedside face time lost while looking up electronic records at desktop or remote stations.

So that’s the reason you get about 241,000 hits if you Google the words iPad Lab Coat. That’s right, medical clothing companies are now producing white lab coats with pockets big enough for tablets.
According to the article, every internal-medicine resident at the University of Chicago hospital and at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore is issued an iPad. At the former, patients of iPad doctors get tests and treatments faster and get a better understanding of their conditions.  

Even more impressively, the medical schools at Yale and Stanford have adopted fully paperless, iPad-based curriculums. Of course, these institutions are among the most prestigious hospitals and medical schools in the country, so it stands to reason they would be leading the way.

The influence of mobile on the medical profession is only going to grow: already 62% of physicians who own tablets and 85% of those who own smartphones use them for professional purposes, even if not linked to an electronic-records network.

Our overburdened and dysfunctional healthcare system desperately needs the streamlining mobile can give it. Let’s hope a leap into the future takes us back to a past where patients and doctors had the time to forge real relationships leading to better health outcomes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crowdfunding is Great, But There Are Some Kinks to Iron Out

Several weeks ago I wrote a post celebrating the crowdfunding phenomenon and its positive implications for the innovators out there who are dreaming up tomorrow’s app-development programs, portable solar power stations, 360-degree panoramic film lenses and even wearable Internet connectivity devices.

While I’m definitely very enthused about this democratized form of startup funding, the following VentureBeat article – and its chronicles of Kickstarter projects gone astray – got me thinking about how the very traits that make crowdfunding an equalizer can also lead to fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants mishaps. Case in point: the problematic jellyfish aquarium that somehow ended up dashing the very creatures it wished to display against the rocks. Combining the hard-to-keep jellies with a haphazard plan for delivering a finished product to funders, I’m afraid these entrepreneurs bit off more than they could chew. No amount of crowdfunding can make up for a lack of business acumen or plain old simple common sense.

To further my point, a recent Wall Street Journal article The Good, The Bad and The Crowdfunded  highlights some of the massive successes and failures from the crowdfunding king, Kickstarter.

Regardless of these highs and lows, is definitely a trend to watch, with the potential to open up all sorts of opportunities both for entrepreneurs and investors.  Just look at all the TED discussions on the topic or at this venture, Fundrise, which aims to simplify putting money into real estate. The Washington, DC food-and-fashion market concept of Maketto, which is being financed through Fundrise, seems like the kind of niche business that could really catch on in a bigger way if crowdfunding finds its place in our economy.

Something tells me it will, kinks or not.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Plague of Plagiarism

The following article by Vanessa Horwell, Chief Visibility Officer of ThinkInk, originally appeared on Marketing Daily.

I promised myself I wasn’t going to gloat. One professional’s sorrows are no cause for celebration, especially when discussing an esteemed journalist like CNN and Time magazine star Fareed Zakaria, center of last week’s plagiarism cause célèbre. In fact, many of my MediaPost columns go to great lengths calming the public relations versus journalism debate, draining the back-and-forth venom. You know -- that whole Lincoln-inspired, “we’re not enemies but friends” mantra.

So if this article isn’t a gloat, let us label it a galvanizing call -- a call for both sides of the industry to aspire to the “better angels of our [collective] nature” and put an end to plagiarizing and falsification once and for all.

Considering the almost absurd glut of easily accessible digital information produced on the order of some 2.5 quintillion bytes a day (according to IBM), one would think finding information or becoming inspired with new ways to mold, argue and utilize that data would be similarly limitless.

And maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe the reason Zakaria is but one example of a long chain of related miscreants is that plagiarism today is as easy as hitting copy and paste. What’s more, in the crowded blogosphere and the 12 terabytes-a-day spewing Twitterverse, opinions -- professional or otherwise -- are about as rampant as Colorado wildfires were back in July. It’s so easy to get "keyboard happy."

This latest bout of plagiarism serves an important PR lesson -- and a reminder. Too often the "Us" versus "Them" internal communications industry debate is predicated on the false notion that journalists consistently maintain the moral high road or file their copy in a purely agenda-less vacuum. Not true. Journalists can be (and are) every bit as flawed -- tempted by the easy way out of lifting a sentence here, and "borrowing" an idea from there.

That doesn’t mean PR execs are factual saints -- far from it. After working my way up in the industry over the past 20 years, I’ve seen my fair share of beauties. But let us all put our collective journalist caps on for a moment and think about what exactly Zakaria did. The truth is Fareed’s failings aren’t as black-and-white as the copy-and-paste reference above either. Do you really think a Harvard-educated man could be so brazen? And stupid? Not likely.

Plagiarism isn’t always so cut and dried. Let’s remember that it isn’t as if Zakaria lifted verbatim the red-flag paragraph in question of his August, Time magazine column, The Case For Gun Control. There was at least an attempt at finesse -- of covering his tracks, so to speak -- and perhaps a subconscious nod toward rationalization. “How much tweaking and rewording must be done so that what springs forth from my keystrokes will be truly mine and not regurgitated drivel?” he may have well asked himself over and over. And if it were such an easy offense to avoid, it is very likely the topic would not occupy so much lecture time in grad school and undergraduate journalism classes.

Underscoring my point, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism lists the course “Legal and Ethical Issues” as number two in its roster of five core modules. The description:

“Through a rigorous examination of court cases and ethical controversies, students will learn to anticipate, recognize, and properly address ethical and legal concerns in journalism.”

Whether a class like this goes by formal title or if it comes in a weekly editorial and reporter meeting, you can be sure in newsrooms across America, in papers large and small, similar “rigorous examinations” are being discussed, debated and acted upon. So while Zakaria’s actions weren’t necessarily black-and-white, there clearly was a definitive right or wrong about the issue -- an admission that he was fast to recognize in his blunt apology.

And maybe that rapid-fire apology stemmed from his expectation -- one that is proving true -- that after the tumult settled, after the “fall-from-grace” explosion of 20/20 media hindsight, in the end the professional response would be a proverbial slap on the wrist. After announcing suspensions, both Time and CNN did just that when they quickly reinstated Zakaria.

But month-long suspensions and disciplinary review don’t cut it. If addressing legal and ethical issues are as central to the communications industry we all give lip service to, then the penalties for trampling on those lessons should be equally severe.

Have Time and CNN set a precedent for other journalists? Quite likely. Will plagiarism be going away anytime soon? Not likely. And as for Zakaria, his mea culpa has been accepted by media and the masses and life will go on.

Some have argued that this is much ado about nothing, that writers and journalists are inspired by so many sources it becomes difficult to distinguish where our own ideas and original content intersect and blur with others. As a writer, I can understand this argument.

But inspiration and plagiarism are two different animals. In our age, and in our industries, where we are tasked with creating original, compelling and clever content at breakneck speed, we absolutely know this distinction -- we just don’t care to admit it.

The following article by Vanessa Horwell, Chief Visibility Officer of ThinkInk, originally appeared on Marketing Daily.