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Apple Opens OS X Yosemite Beta to the Public, Sign Up Now

Apple Opens OS X Yosemite Beta to the Public, Sign Up Now | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

OS X Yosemite, the upcoming version of Apple's operating system, won't launch until the fall, but if you're interested in trying out its new features now, you can sign up for Apple's public beta today. The beta was previously limited to developers and dev accounts, but now it's open to the first million users who opt in.

All the New Stuff in OS X 10.10 "Yosemite"

Apple took the wraps off of OS X at the WorldWide Developer's Conference today, dubbed…Read more

We've broken down the reasons why you might (or might not) want to install the Yosemite or iOS 8 betas on your gear right now, and our verdict on Yosemite was to wait until the public beta. Well, the public beta is here, and if you do opt in, make sure you do it the right way—as in, don't install over your primary partition and don't install on your day-to-day workhorse. Even Apple is quick to say the operating system isn't finished yet and they still have plenty of quirks to work out—but they're happy to show off what they do have to the public to get their feedback.

Should I Install the iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite Betas?

Dear Lifehacker, I'm not a developer or anything, but I'm really excited about the new…Read more

You can sign up for the public beta at the link below. It's limited to the first million people who sign up, so if you're thinking about it, hop in now. `

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The New Dragon NaturallySpeaking Can Do Almost Anything Your Mouse Can

The New Dragon NaturallySpeaking Can Do Almost Anything Your Mouse Can | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Today Nuance is releasing version 13 of its Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-dictation software. More than just an automated memo-writer, Nuance hopes to make the software into a voice-control-everything feature for PC users. And it comes damn close to pulling it off.

NaturallySpeaking 13 (naturally) adds some incremental voice recognition improvements. According to the folks at Nuance, Version 13 understands users more accurately than Version 12 with the voice training. Beyond that Version 13 expands on the reach of the voice commands. Previously you could speak some rudimentary browser controls but now, you can format text, click links, scroll through pages, select text or photos, and post to sites like Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress essentially without touching a mouse or keyboard.

Obviously the tech still has its flaws though. When Dragon's Technical Product Manager David Popovitch demoed the new software for me via webcast, I asked him to voice-dictate and send an email to me on the spot. This is a decidedly dirty trick when you've got a last name like Sorokanich, and an email address at Gizmodo. Neither of those words appear in any artificially-intelligent dictionaries I know of.

"Gizmodo" befuddled the software at first:

David's first attempt to spell it manually didn't go much better:

But it took just a few steps, all summoned by voice, to get Gizmodo added to the NaturallySpeaking dictionary. A few moments later, David sent this email to my inbox, without ever putting a finger to his keyboard or mouse:

Dragon 13 is the first to allow voice dictation through the built-in microphones on many laptops, though during our demo David used a small external desktop mic. Like previous versions, the mic is triggered with the voice commands "wake up" or "go to sleep," or by clicking or hitting a keyboard combination, so you don't end up inadvertently transcribing your phone calls.

Dragon 13 also includes a feature where, if you give it permission to do so, the software will crawl through your "sent email" folder to learn contacts' names and addresses and the specific words and phrases you use most frequently. The software can also look at files and folders stored both locally and on Google Drive for similar custom-tailoring purposes—again, only after you've given it permission to do so.

Dragon 13 seems very quick and responsive, whether it's transcribing text delivered at a normal conversational pace, clicking links on a page, composing or sending emails, or posting updates to Facebook or WordPress. Highlighting, rearranging, and formatting text all went smoothly, and navigating the web in particular impressed me: in the time it took me to register which link David was asking his computer to click on, it had already opened the next page.

English-language Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium is available starting today for $200 (with special upgrade pricing for current registered NaturallySpeaking users). The light-duty $100 Home version, as well as versions supporting other languages, will be available later this year. The software is PC-only for the time being, and while it's not 100 percent goof-proof, it could very well lead to a lot less wear and tear on your keyboard and mouse.

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How Apple and Google plan to reinvent healthcare

How Apple and Google plan to reinvent healthcare | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Mike Dittenber had always wanted to go skydiving. There was only one problem: “At my heaviest I clocked in around 330 pounds,” says Dittenber, a technical writer from Michigan. “That’s above the weight restriction for a tandem jump.” During a doctor’s visit last spring, he got some more bad news. “I had delayed getting a physical for a while, but eventually I had to. Turned out I was borderline diabetic and right on the cusp of hypertension.” His doctor warned him that if he didn’t get his weight under control quickly he would need to begin taking medication. “It was a wake-up call.”

Dittenber had previously tried Weight Watchers, which worked for a time, but didn’t last for long. This time he decided to take matters into his own hands with MyFitnessPal, a mobile app that helps users track their calorie intake and exercise. The app became a gateway to a universe of digital health products. “I ended up buying a Fitbit, because that pairs with MyFitnessPal,” he says. “Turns out I don’t hate running. I don’t love it, but I can take it.” He added the Runkeeper app to log his distance and purchased a Garmin Forerunner 220 to help him maintain the right pace. Since he began using the tracking his health data in June of 2013, Dittenber has lost 110 pounds.

Using a smartphone as the central hub for tracking, analyzing, and motivating exercise has become a phenomenon. MyFitnessPal, which now claims over 65 million registered users, is one of the most popular digital health apps. But its success is part of a much broader trend. Venture funding for startups in the sector reaching $2.3 billion in the first half of 2014, more than was invested in all of 2013. More importantly, three of the biggest players in tech — Apple, Google, and Samsung — have all throw their weight behind platform plays aiming to aggregate and simplify the universe of devices and apps available to consumers.

“We could be at a real tipping point,” says Harry Wang, an analyst who leads health and mobile research for Park Associates. “Fitness devices and apps have been a fast-growing but still relatively niche market. These new ecosystems, if they gain traction, could finally push the industry into the mainstream.” Success isn’t guaranteed, but Wang says it makes sense for the fragmented digital health industry to rally behind powerful companies. Apple's Healthkit and Google Fit can help reach a broader audience and forge partnerships with the traditional health care industry that would be hard for startups to accomplish alone. “It would be a transformation, with a lot of big winners, and losers as well.”

Mike Dittenber, before and after using MyFitnessPal.

Hardware gets the squeeze

For many years the digital health industry has been driven by wearable devices like the Fitbit, Nike’s Fuelband, and Jawbone’s Up. But if the titans of the smartphone industry succeed in creating a dominant platform for health and fitness data, this business could be in trouble. "A lot of the basic functions we have seen in fitness wearables — tracking your steps, taking your heart rate — those functions will become basic features on a smartphone or smartwatch," says Wang.

Nike has bowed out of the fitness hardware game

Nike, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, has reportedly decided to stop producing hardware and focus on the software side of its fitness ecosystem. Lark, a startup that produced a fitness bracelet, decided to kill its hardware and focus on an app that integrates directly in Samsung’s new S Health platform. "We’ve realized that, in essence, the new smartphone with low-power sensors is the ultimate wearable," said Lark CEO Julie Hu.

"If I was making a fitness device that relied on little more than an accelerometer, I would be terrified right now," says Leonard MacEachern, a professor of electronic engineering who is creating his own fitness wearable, the Leo, which uses electromyography to analyze the activity of muscle fibers. Unless you have tech that goes beyond what Apple or Google can offer in a smartphone, says MacEachern, "you’ll be eaten alive."

"The state of the industry in 2012 and 2013 was these one-off wearable devices with data in silos," says Julie Ask, an analyst with Forrester who tracks the digital health industry. "That is changing rapidly." Just like Apple and Google, fitness-gadget manufacturers are trying to create their own ecosystems: both Jawbone and Fitbit have APIs to share data with dozens of different apps. Ask sees this as smart strategy, but believes dedicated fitness wearables will remain a niche product. "Platform plays at the level of the smartphone operating system are just simpler and more seamless."

Apps like MyFitnessPal are producing huge amounts of data every day. Click through the chart below to see the top 20 items its users list for each meal.

Software’s turn to shine

While some big hardware players may get squeezed by the rise of mainstream smartphone platforms for digital health, app developers stand to make huge gains. "Devices like Fitbit and Jawbone have been essential to driving the industry forward, but they never got above 2 or 3 percent penetration with the general population," says Malay Gandhi, a managing partner at the venture capital firm Rock Health. "With smartphones as the central device powering this ecosystem, software companies will suddenly have access to tens of millions of new customers."

Gandhi believes this change will broaden the demographics in the digital health market. "Right now most of the people using this stuff are early adopter types, techies who are into the quantified lifestyle, or younger people who want to optimize their athletic performance." With just your smartphone as the baseline, he sees a chance to get older and less tech savvy people involved. "Your average consumer isn’t going to learn about pairing a wristband or managing a dozen different apps. But he or she might use the software that comes standard on their iPhone."

For fitness apps, fostering community will be key

If the default platform for your fitness and health data becomes the smartphone that most everyone carries in their pocket, which apps will emerge as the big winners? "I think by and large what we find is that the services which perform best are the ones that create an engaged community," says Forrester’s Julie Ask. On Strava, for instance, users participate in a sort of King of the Hill game, trying to achieve the best times over a certain distance or on a certain route. "People get really obsessed with the competition. People have nearly died! But it also creates a really active group of users that keep each other coming back to the app again and again," says Ask.

For the app developers, Apple and Google hold the promise of a world where dozens of fitness apps talk to one another, offering a much more complete data set on their customers. "We’re trying to help you change your lifestyle and improve your health," says Mike Lee, the founder and CEO of MyFitnessPal. "The more data there is for us, the better picture we can get of people’s health, the more we can really improve on their nutrition." As it looks to fine-tune its personalized recommendations, the biggest change for MyFitnessPal would be not just having access to consumers recents runs or sleep data, but the entirety of their medical records as well.

An Apple a day

Back in 2008, Google launched Google Health, a project to help users unify and easily access the medical data stored about them in different places by different providers. Unfortunately the project didn’t catch on and Google shut Health down in January of 2013. Its new project, Google Fit, doesn’t try to integrate with the world of physicians and hospitals. "I think Larry and Sergey are wary of trying to crack this heavily regulated industry again," says Rock Health’s Gandhi. "Google’s play this time is focused on exercise and nutrition, it’s less ambitious."

Apple, by contrast, is ready to try its hand at the notoriously difficult challenge of collaborating with doctors and health care providers, and it has enlisted a powerful ally. At WWDC Apple announced its partnership with Epic, which now manages over 51 percent of the patient records in the United States. With a single deal Apple could begin absorbing health data on more than half of US patients. Their doctors, in turn, could begin to see what’s happening with their patients in between visits. "Many physicians would welcome the ability to click on a tab in Epic and be presented with a nice graph showing a patient’s blood pressure trends since their prior visit." writes Iltifat Husain, editor of iMedicalApps. "Currently, this data is haphazardly recorded by patients, and likewise, haphazardly interpreted by physicians to make key titrations in medication dosing."

The downside for doctors would be opening themselves up to potentially enormous amounts of data they would have to sift through and access for accuracy. "Validity and volume are the big challenges for physicians," says Gandhi. "They will wonder, ‘Do I really want to have all this information in my charts? Can I trust it? Will I get sued if it’s wrong, or if I miss something?" When it comes to winning the health care industry's trust, big names like Apple, Google, and Samsung have a leg up over startups, although it’s still an uphill battle.

Despite these potential pitfalls, Gandhi says he believes most doctors and hospitals will begin to utilize the wealth of data being collected by apps and mobile devices, in large part because the recent health care reforms incentivize it. "Medical providers stand to gain, financially, if their patients get sick less and visit less often. Key to accomplishing that is understanding what is going on with the patient in between visits."

Google Fit is the search giant's attempt to create a fitness ecosystem on its Android operating system

Into thin air

Earlier this month, Mike Dittenber traveled up to Traverse City, Michigan, where he boarded a small airplane and prepared for his first skydive. As it rose up above the clouds, he could feel his heart pumping. "When we jumped, we were above the cloud cover, so we kind of fell through that, and then emerged over the bay below." His partner opened the chute and they floated down to safety. "It was awesome."

Dittenber says in the year he’s been using MyFitnessPal several friends and family members have joined, hoping to follow his lead. "We swap recipes and send each other positive messages. The social aspect of the app is really useful for keeping yourself on track." He is excited for a world in which every smartphone user is able to easily tap into data about their health and fitness and share that information with their doctor. "When you can really know what you’re putting into your body, how much you’re exercising, not just taking a rough guess, it gives you a sense of control."

For investors in digital health, like Rock Health’s Gandhi, Dittenber’s experience is a signal that massive changes, and potential fortunes, are on the horizon. "Until we had a phone in everybody’s pocket with GPS, we didn’t know we needed Uber, or how big a business that could be," he says. "Once most people are walking around with a device that tracks their heart rate and daily exercise, as we begin to ingest all that data, chances are we’re going to come up with some incredible new opportunities that nobody has even imagined yet."

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Airbus's Electric Airplane Prototype Is Eerily Silent in Flight

Airbus's Electric Airplane Prototype Is Eerily Silent in Flight | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Airbus just showed its battery-powered E-Fan 2.0 electric airplane to the public for the first time, at England's Farnborough International Airshow. Standing still, it looks like a normal if slightly odd-shaped tiny plane. In the air, though, it seems decidedly abnormal. Where's the noise?

The E-Fan 2.0 is the second generation of Airbus's experimental electric airplanes. Like its first-gen forebear, version 2.0 only carries two passengers. The 1,100 lb lightweight has two ducted-fan motors putting out a combined 60kW of power, with 120 lithium-polymer battery cells providing an hour of fly time (and 15 minutes of reserve, just in case). During takeoff, the plane's powered landing gear wheels accelerate it to 37 MPH before the fan engines kick in, to save energy and reduce noise.

Pocket-Lint caught video of the E-Fan 2.0 flying around the airshow, and not surprisingly, it's just about as silent as you can get. It's like watching a non-powered glider—one that can take off from a standstill.

The tiny two-passenger flyer is envisioned as a pilot-training airplane, and Airbus hopes to bring it to market in 2017. The company is also exploring hybrid airplanes, where fuel-burning engines would serve to charge the batteries that would power the electric motors, as Airbus's Dr. Jean Botti explains:

Building electric planes to carry airline passengers is a tall order, but with Europe demanding a 75 percent reduction in aircraft emissions by 2050, Airbus and others have major reasons to push this tech forward. Someday, we could be flying high in the silent skies.

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Samsung employees reportedly handed back $2.9 million to apologize for poor performance

Samsung employees reportedly handed back $2.9 million to apologize for poor performance | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Samsung's profits are dipping from their exceptional heights on the back of several extremely popular smartphones, and many of the company's employees are feeling the pressure. According to Reuters, close to 200 managers from Samsung's mobile division have returned a quarter of a recent bonus that they received in an effort to show that they accept responsibility for the company's waning performance and would work harder moving forward. Gestures like returning a bonus are reportedly not uncommon for those working corporate jobs in South Korea, particularly among public companies. The value of the returned bonuses is estimated at over 3 billion won ($2.92 million).

For its first quarter of 2014, Samsung reported a profit of 8.49 trillion won ($8.23 billion). Though it's a substantial figure, it's a dip from the 8.78 trillion won that it saw a year earlier, and that dip is expected to repeat itself for Samsung's quarter two. Last year, Q2 saw Samsung take in 9.53 trillion won (around $8.5 billion), and even that fell short of Wall Street's expectations for the formidable smartphone maker; for this year's second quarter, Samsung predicts that it'll see only 8.49 trillion won. That's all to say that smartphone growth is continuing to slow, as we've been seeing, and it sounds as though Samsung's managers have taken note.

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Why governments are scrambling to pass smartphone killswitch laws

Why governments are scrambling to pass smartphone killswitch laws | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

In less than a decade, smartphones have become an incredibly important part of peoples' lives. In the US alone, 166 million people now own them, according to a recent report by ComScore. And those devices aren't just used for making calls. More often they're used for texting, web browsing, going through email, and downloading apps, with Americans spending — on average — more than an hour a day with their eyes glued to tiny glowing screens.

All those things make them an increasingly worrisome target for theft. It's not just the hardware that's being stolen, it's potentially a chunk of your digital life too. That's why lawmakers in the US are trying (and in some cases succeeding) to pass bills requiring anti-theft features that protect consumer data while leaving thieves with a considerably less valuable piece of hardware.

The goal is to make stolen phones less valuable

The latest is a California bill that would require smartphone makers to include remote-wipe and -locking features, and it's getting closer to being signed into law. After initially being rejected by the California Senate, it has since passed and moved on to a floor vote in the state Assembly. After that, it heads to the governor, where it could be signed into law.

The bill, SB 962, was created by state Senator Mark Leno along with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who's been a staunch advocate of anti-theft measures for phones. Ahead of the bill, Gascón urged cellphone makers — including Apple and Samsung — to make stolen smartphones more of a headache for thieves, going so far as to hire security experts to try and bypass the built-in security measures to illustrate that smartphone makers weren't doing enough.

The reasoning is simple: smartphones make a very attractive target for thieves. They're small, expensive, and up until manufacturers began to put anti-theft measures in place, were still very useful with a simple factory reset. Last year, 3.1 million Americans had their phones stolen, according to an often-cited study from Consumer Reports, a figure that's more troubling given a far lesser 1.6 million thefts from the year before. And while smartphone theft brings up images of thieves robbing people at gunpoint, a survey conducted by IDG on behalf of mobile security Lookout in March suggests otherwise. Only 11 percent of phones were stolen from people directly, while 44 percent of thefts were linked to people simply leaving their phone somewhere public and having it scooped up by someone else.

Many smartphones already have anti-theft features

By now, most major smartphone makers have hardened their products, and provide tools to track, wipe, and disable devices through the use of web-based tools and apps. Those services are becoming more sophisticated too. Apple initially offered its Find My iPhone service as a perk of its paid MobileMe service, but then later made it free and available to all iPads, iPods, and Macs. Apple also created a feature in last year's iOS 7 called iCloud activation lock, which will make a device completely inoperable unless you enter in the right Apple ID username and password.

Google and Microsoft have followed Apple's lead, offering free tools to help locate and disable devices remotely. And now both companies plan to add tools like Apple's that leave the hardware useless to those who don't have the master password. Those features aren't coming until the next major releases, however, the two companies said in June. In the interim, Samsung — which relies on Google's Android — has added a reactivation lock feature into its phones, though not on all its devices, and not on all the carriers.

In Apple's case, the iCloud activation lock feature has already made waves — some good and some bad. Almost immediately it managed to cause headaches for resellers and recyclers who buy, fix, resell, and dispose of used electronics. Since the feature launched to consumers last September, it's left some electronics trade-in businesses with phones and tablets that still have the lock enabled. These products are not stolen, several companies told The Verge in June. More frequently, the locked devices come from big-box retailers and carriers that outsource their trade-in services, and that aren't doing a thorough enough job screening what they get before it goes to the next party.

Early data suggests kill switches are working

On the flip side, the feature appears already to have a marked effect on what it was built for, which is reducing crime. In June, attorney generals in New York and San Francisco said that year-over-year thefts of Apple devices "plummeted" during the first five months of 2014. For San Francisco that amounted to a 38 percent decline in iPhone-related robberies, while New York tallied up a 19 and 29 percent year-over-year decline on robberies and grand larcenies that involved Apple products. During an identical time period, the same study reported an increase in robberies involving Samsung devices, which did not have the aforementioned built-in protections until April. "We can make the violent epidemic of smartphone theft a thing of the past, and these numbers prove that," Gascón said when those numbers were released.

Pickpocket warning sign in Venice, Italy. (Matt Chan / Flickr)

Even with that positive early data, critics worry that a legal mandate requiring the technology could have unintended consequences. In the California bill's case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation warns that the bill could hinder better technologies that haven't been invented yet, and could be rife for abuse from law enforcement agencies.

"There's a simple reason why we opposed this particular bill — and why we almost always oppose bills with technological mandates. Technology is fast; the law is slow," the group said in a blog post last month. "While there is an important place for policy in a world where the internet and devices are readily available to both consumers and government actors, institutionalizing specific technical solutions — such as making every cellphone manufacturer feature a ‘kill switch' program — is risky."

"Technology is fast; the law is slow."

More bluntly, a consortium of wireless companies and major hardware manufacturers are balking at the need for legal requirements in the first place, arguing that they've already added, or are in the process of adding, such features and want self-regulation instead.

"We've rolled out stolen-phones databases, consumer-education campaigns, anti-theft apps and features and most recently a ‘Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment,' which provides a uniform national technology solution at no cost to the consumer," says Jamie Hastings, the vice president of external and state affairs with the CTIA, a group made up of wireless carriers and manufacturers including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others. "State-by-state technology mandates stifle innovation to the ultimate detriment to the consumer," she added.

That "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment" Hastings is referring to is effectively the same thing you'll find in the California law. That includes remote wipe, remote lock, and a lock against reactivation. There's also a clause requiring manufacturers to provide a way for consumers to get everything on a recovered phone working again, including their data. These things are all set to be a self-regulated standard for every device manufactured by smartphone makers after July 2015, which is when the California bill would begin if signed into law.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signing the state's anti-theft bill into law. (Office of Governor Mark Dayton)

So why would state laws be useful then? One example is Minnesota, which so far is the first and only state to pass an anti-theft phone bill. Unlike California, it's not asking for a way to remotely disable or wipe a phone, just that the phone needs to come "equipped with preloaded anti-theft functionality," or at least be able to download it later — all for free. Minnesota's governor signed the bill into law this past May, and under its requirements, it's not just about anti-theft measures on the device, but also deals with devices that are resold. The law criminalizes buying and selling phones between people without documentation, so the state can track where phones are going. It also prohibits used cellphone dealers from paying in cash or selling to people under the age of 18. These are things designed to hinder potential thieves by putting more of the business of selling phones on the record when it goes into effect next July.

A federal law is in the works too

Along with those efforts, there's a separate federal bill designed to accomplish some of the same things outlined in the state laws for remote wiping and disabling phones, but at a national level. The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, which was introduced by a group of Democratic senators in February, aims to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require any phones sold in the US to offer remote wipe, remote disable, and restrict reactivation without a proper passcode. So far it has only been introduced, and still needs to make its way through the House and Senate before ultimately making its way to the president to be signed into law.

The federal bill could ultimately spell a simpler solution than the state laws by unifying the requirements manufacturers need to comply with in order to sell there. But these bills — short of what Minnesota is doing to control how phones are sold — all aim to get companies to do something that many are already doing, or have plans to offer soon. The only difference is that there could be fines, and those phones wouldn't make it to store shelves. And if you believe the EFF, slapping a mandate on companies to go with any one particular solution is shortsighted at best, and potentially disastrous for newer, better ways to deal with the problem that could be invented in the future.

"With an eye to the current landscape of security tools, if a ‘manufacturer or operating system provider' chooses a particular solution, innovation in this space may be discouraged," EFF attorneys said in a letter opposing the California bill in June. "Mandating any technological fix could ‘lock in' a less effective solution, preventing stronger third-party anti-theft applications from competing and innovating."

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Lenovo says it's still committed to small-screen Windows tablets in the U.S.

Lenovo says it's still committed to small-screen Windows tablets in the U.S. | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Lenovo has issued a clarification on its tablet strategy: Refuting an earlier report to the contrary, the world’s largest PC maker will continue to sell Windows tablets with displays smaller than 10 inches in the U.S.

That’s good news for the greater Microsoft story line, but these devices will still face immense pressure from small-display Android-based tablets, which cost much less.

On Thursday, Lenovo said that it has halted U.S. sales for two Windows 8.1 tablets with 8-inch screens—the $400 ThinkPad 8 and the $300 Miix 2

The Lenovo ThinkPad 8.

“In North America, we’re seeing stronger interest in the larger screen sizes for Windows tablets,” Raymond Gorman, a Lenovo spokesman, said in an email. “In other markets, particularly Brazil, China, and Japan, the demand for ThinkPad 8 has been much stronger, so we are adjusting our ThinkPad 8 inventories to meet increasing demand in those markets.”

As for the 8-inch Miix 2, it went off sale without explanation. Lenovo’s U.S. strategy for the ThinkPad 10 and 10.1-inch version of Miix 2 remained unchanged.

Fast forward two days later. In a post on, the company announced it’s committed to different screen sizes and new 8-inch tablets will be available for the holidays. Said the statement: “Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media. In short, we will continue to sell both 8 and 10 inch Windows tablets in both the U.S. and non-U.S markets.”

Translation: Our 8-inch Windows tablet exit is merely temporary. This isn’t a permanent withdrawal, and we’re keeping all options on the table.

That’s certainly wise spin-control, but Lenovo—and all tablet manufacturers—will still have to solve the basic puzzle of making small-display Windows tablets attractive to consumers when cheap, serviceable, 7-inch Android tablets can be had for less than $200.

The 8-inch Lenovo Miix 2.

We gave the ThinkPad 8 a 4-star rating, and raved about its processor speed and 1900x1200 display. But it also retailed at $400. The 8-inch Miix 2 also received 4-star accolades; it’s light and fast, and boasts good battery life. But it was also expensive at $300.

That’s a scary price when the awesome second-generation Nexus 7 costs just $280.

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MIT's new robot glove can give you extra fingers

MIT's new robot glove can give you extra fingers | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Have you ever wondered if five fingers is really enough? The folks at MIT have. Researchers in the institute's department of mechanical engineering have created a robotic glove that adds two additional digits to the standard human claw, positioning two long fingers on either side of the hand. It's ridiculously easy to use, too. "You do not need to command the robot, but simply move your fingers naturally." Ford Professor of Engineering Harry Asada says. "Then the robotic fingers react and assist your fingers." The glove's movements are based on biomechanical synergy, the idea that each finger reacts to the movements of its peers - if you try to grasp a bottle, the glove's extra fingers will try to help.

The team crafted its synergy algorithm by outfitting a prototype with multiple positioning sensors and grasping assorted objects -- manually moving the glove's two extra "fingers" to help grab or support the object. This data was used to determined a set of specific movement patterns that the final product could use to identify what the user is attempting to do, allowing it to assume a position that naturally augments the wearer's normal hand movements. For now, the glove has to rely on this basic algorithm, but the team hopes to upgrade it to account for the amount of force applied. Future versions of the robotic fingers may also learn actively, adapting to a specific users' gesture style.

The prototype glove is pretty bulky, but MIT researchers are confident that it can be distilled down to a smaller, foldable size. "We could make this into a watch or a bracelet where the fingers pop up, and when he job is done, they come back into the watch," Asada explained. "Wearable robots are a way to bring the robot closer to our daily life."

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Lenovo says it's still committed to small-screen Windows tablets in the U.S.

Lenovo says it's still committed to small-screen Windows tablets in the U.S. | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Lenovo has issued a clarification on its tablet strategy: Refuting an earlier report to the contrary, the world’s largest PC maker will continue to sell Windows tablets with displays smaller than 10 inches in the U.S.

That’s good news for the greater Microsoft story line, but these devices will still face immense pressure from small-display Android-based tablets, which cost much less.

On Thursday, Lenovo said that it has halted U.S. sales for two Windows 8.1 tablets with 8-inch screens—the $400 ThinkPad 8 and the $300 Miix 2

The Lenovo ThinkPad 8.

“In North America, we’re seeing stronger interest in the larger screen sizes for Windows tablets,” Raymond Gorman, a Lenovo spokesman, said in an email. “In other markets, particularly Brazil, China, and Japan, the demand for ThinkPad 8 has been much stronger, so we are adjusting our ThinkPad 8 inventories to meet increasing demand in those markets.”

As for the 8-inch Miix 2, it went off sale without explanation. Lenovo’s U.S. strategy for the ThinkPad 10 and 10.1-inch version of Miix 2 remained unchanged.

Fast forward two days later. In a post on, the company announced it’s committed to different screen sizes and new 8-inch tablets will be available for the holidays. Said the statement: “Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media. In short, we will continue to sell both 8 and 10 inch Windows tablets in both the U.S. and non-U.S markets.”

Translation: Our 8-inch Windows tablet exit is merely temporary. This isn’t a permanent withdrawal, and we’re keeping all options on the table.

That’s certainly wise spin-control, but Lenovo—and all tablet manufacturers—will still have to solve the basic puzzle of making small-display Windows tablets attractive to consumers when cheap, serviceable, 7-inch Android tablets can be had for less than $200.

The 8-inch Lenovo Miix 2.

We gave the ThinkPad 8 a 4-star rating, and raved about its processor speed and 1900x1200 display. But it also retailed at $400. The 8-inch Miix 2 also received 4-star accolades; it’s light and fast, and boasts good battery life. But it was also expensive at $300.

That’s a scary price when the awesome second-generation Nexus 7 costs just $280.

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Why smartphone screens are getting bigger: Specs reveal a surprising story

Why smartphone screens are getting bigger: Specs reveal a surprising story | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Behind the Spec Sheet seeks to draw new insights based on hardware data. Produced by FindtheBest, a company that aggregates specs and features in a centralized database, this weekly guest column will share data-driven discoveries and surprises, and attempt to expose common misconceptions.

Glance at any major smartphone line, and you’ll find a similar pattern: Screen sizes are getting bigger, year after year, model after model.

Let's start with an audit of the world's most famous Android smartphone line—just look at those Samsung phones inch upward in the first chart below. Not to be outdone, HTC has kept pace with Samsung's escalating screen sizes, and Nokia has followed industry trends for its Lumia line as well.

Even Apple—which once described its 4-inch iPhone's screen as a “dazzling display of common sense”—appears poised to follow its rivals. The chart below illustrates a lukewarm interest in larger displays, but rumors are leaning toward the introduction of a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 later this year.

Larger phones: Yep, this is happening

It’s also possible that just the flagship phones are getting bigger. To determine the breadth of the trend, I calculated the correlation between release date and screen size for over a thousand phones. The chart below shows several hundred of the most popular.

As you can see, the trend goes far beyond iPhones and Galaxies. There’s a strong correlation between release date and smartphone screen size.

Before 2011, nearly every phone on the market measured between 2.5 and 4 inches. Since 2013, sub-4-inch phones have nearly disappeared. This graph paints a vivid picture:

So what's going on here? Why are phones turning into tablets? There's certainly more than one possible story behind this trend. I've distilled the data into five different scenarios, ordered from least to most likely.

Scenario #1: We’re witnessing a marketing gimmick, played out over five years

No matter how many flashy software features smartphone developers bake into a new products, nothing grabs attention like new hardware design, particularly if there’s a bigger display in the mix.

The iPhone 5 debuted with LTE support and a new A6 chip, but the updated screen size won every headline. Customers loved the 2013 HTC One’s 4.7-inch screen, but the company couldn’t resist adding another 0.3 inches to the M8. Then there’s Samsung, which followed through on its "Next Big Thing" marketing campaign by steadily increasing screen size on the Galaxy S line, from 4.8 inches (S III) to 4.99 inches (S4) to 5.1 inches (S5).

It’s a tidy little theory, but in the end it’s only a theory. There are too many moving parts to conclude that rising screen sizes are all one big marketing strategy, even if bigger screens seem to be selling more phones. The case against Samsung looks strongest, but it’s still too anecdotal.

Scenario #2: Apple got screen size wrong

When Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, the industry scrambled to replicate almost every aspect of Apple’s design—from the app-icon interface and visual voicemail to the keyboard-less hardware and 3.5-inch screen size. For those first few years, it seemed that Apple could do no wrong.

Michael Homnick

Phone screens may have grown to address consumer demand for more display real estate.

It wasn’t until around 2010—with the release of the first Galaxy S and Droid X—that the market had some legitimate iPhone alternatives. Manufacturers seeking to innovate beyond Apple hit on a new insight: iPhone's polish aside, people were desperate for more screen real estate. The rest, then, is history.

There’s probably a kernel of truth to this, but the theory is too neat. Both Google and Apple have copied regularly from one another.

Scenario #3: The changes are largely based on a handful of influential phones

A more nuanced version of Scenario #2 suggests the smartphone’s increasing screen size resulted from a handful of iconic phones, each of which increased screen size and each of which created a mini-revolution.

The Nokia Lumia 1520 made headlines for its size (and its amazing camera).

This makes some sense: There might be more than 1,000 phones in the market, but only about half a dozen per year dominate headlines and sales. With each successful change (examples: the iPhone 4’s sharper display; the better cameras on early DROIDs), other marquee phones have quickly followed. The same is probably true of screen size.

Would something over 4 inches work? The DROID X proved a "big" (for its time) phone could be successful. But what about over 5 inches? The successful, 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II unleashed a whole series of similarly giant phones.


For the most popular phones in the industry, the “trendsetter theory” probably explains a few shifts in the market. But it doesn’t fully explain the dramatic, macro-shift we see across the entire industry.

Scenario #4: Manufacturers have always wanted to make bigger phones—technology simply hasn’t allowed it until recently

In 2007, both pixels and battery life came at a hefty premium. Trying to power a 5-inch display with a reasonably high pixel count just wasn’t a possibility. Today, battery and display technology allow manufacturers to make crisp, 6-inch-plus screens that run for well over a day.

Just look at how pixel densities and battery capacities have scaled in Samsung's Galaxy S line across five generations:

It’s the simplest explanation, and perhaps the best one so far. It helps explain why manufacturers wouldn’t touch designs bigger than 4 inches before, but now they churn out 5-inch-plus models routinely.

It does not, however, explain why manufacturers have all but abandoned sub-4-inch phones since 2013...

Scenario #5: The smartphone is turning into our primary computer

Even in 2007, it wasn’t yet clear that the smartphone would become the staple product that it is today—the sort of device that could one day replace most personal computers. Seven years ago, the smartphone was still a combination of three less significant products: a music player, a mobile web browser, and cell phone. Today, the smartphone connects people around the world like nothing before it. Citizens of third-world countries are unlikely to own cars and computers, but they are rapidly buying smartphones.

Michael Homnick

For many people, the smartphone is becoming their primary computer.

So how does this relate to screen size? As smartphones become our primary devices, doing the jobs once held by computers and even televisions, we need a product that can change, like a chameleon, to serve all of these functions.

Before 2010, the extra real estate was unnecessary. After all, we were using phones mostly for making calls, listening to music, or doing a bit of light web-browsing on bad mobile interfaces, making mental notes to do our real work when we got back to our computers.

Michael Homnick

Phablets may not fit into your pocket, but they fit a lot of functionality into what's still a pretty compact device.

Today, the web—from site interfaces to television to native apps—is often designed primarily for the mobile format. The smartphone is no longer just a phone, but a hybrid of devices—and increasingly, the most common way to interact with the world. A bigger screen allows a mobile device to play all of these roles at once.

We’ve ridiculed the so-called phablet (a phone that’s nearly the size of a small tablet), but perhaps we've been headed in that direction all along. Maybe bigger is better.

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Effective IT purchasing L [Health Management Technology]

Effective IT purchasing L [Health Management Technology] | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |
Effective IT purchasing L [Health Management Technology]

(Health Management Technology Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) What top-of-line issues comprise, challenge effective hardware, software purchasing? When the trade publication Computers In Healthcare debuted in 1980, hospitals and other healthcare facilities already were hip deep in information technology - albeit with closet-sized, clunky mainframes from pioneering companies largely out of the business today.

With the advent of diagnosis-related groups (DRGs), managed care and two healthcare reformations roughly two decades apart, that publication, now known as Health Management Technology, has chronicled business and clinical operations by desktop personal computers, laptops, notebooks, hand-held personal digital assistants and now smartphones and tablet PCs.

During the meteoric rise and global acceptance and adoption of IT in that more than three-decade span of development, healthcare organizations, by and large, had to perform the same, if not similar, due diligence in evaluating, selecting and purchasing IT products.

In fact, in healthcare these days IT is just about as ubiquitous as, say, air.

To keep pace with performance improvement initiatives, provider IT professionals must know what's needed, make fast but detailed decisions and avoid mistakes.

But is there a reliable formula for purchasing IT success? The variables can resemble some of the parameters Supply Chain faces when purchasing products for the entire organization. They include such components and considerations as product price, ongoing maintenance and service, updates and upgrades, interfacing and integration with existing or new systems, overall ease of use and nimbleness to operations and, finally, relevance to the organization's mission, vision, finances and operations.

Yet each facility may stress all of these variables in a different order. As a result, HMT posed to nearly a dozen healthcare IT executives fundamental questions about the basics of purchasing IT effectively.

What do you believe should be the top consideration for effective IT purchasing? Alan Stein, M.D., Ph.D., Vice President, Health care Technology, HP Auto nomy Stein: [What you list] are all important considerations, but their priority may vary by organizations depending on particular circumstances. For example, some providers may be migrating [electronic medical record] systems and are attuned to consolidation of multiple systems. Others that are embarking on a data warehouse strategy will have very data-centric priorities. Others may be sensitive to the availability of professional services that can tailor and maintain their deployments.

Regardless of the relative differences, substantial thought must go into how well the solution addresses organizational needs over time, and how well can it overcome the various barriers to adoption that any new technology must face. Another important consideration will be industry-specific components that can significantly reduce the amount of professional services required to achieve the business objectives.

Bird mitch, CEO, Patientco Blitch: Overall ease of use and nimbleness is certainly a top consideration for effective IT purchasing. Consider this: Budget season is over. The hospital board has asked you, once again, to do more with less. The department needs to produce 20 percent more with 15 percent less resources to do so. Does this sound familiar? With this type of consideration at the top of everyone's minds, it's important to have a non-disruptive solution to help with the workflow. Cloud-based technology platforms oftentimes offer these types of advantages - for example, they can be easily turned on or oft by the simple way the technology stack is built. Healthcare executives should keep overall ease of use at the front of mind so that their teams will be grateful, the board will be satisfied and you can sleep better at night.

Andy Saibrian, Senior Manager, Health care Vertical Marketing. Samsung Enterprise Business Division Saffarian: There are a multitude of considerations to effective IT deployments, from integration into existing systems to identifying the right partner(s) to ensure ongoing maintenance and support. We encourage providers to look carefully at total cost of ownership (TCO) and alignment with their overarching enterprise architecture strategy and direction in selecting any new products and services. TCO encompasses price, integration and maintenance, while extended enterprise architecture ensures compliance with new health IT policies and initiatives within hospitals and clinics in addition to a growing number of merger and acquisitions of practices and clinics with different systems. Given the variable levels of technology expertise among users, ease of use should also be a top criterion in choosing the right products and software selections, but it is often overlooked.

John Glaser, Ph.D., CEO, Health Services, Siemens Glaser: The top priority should be relevance to mission, vision, finances and operations, because that will then drive the other decisionmaking criteria. An HIT system investment is / ' ' just that - an investment in the organizations infrastructure.

Additionally, working with a vendor that is committed to helping your organization achieve its goals and that will work with you as those goals - driven by market demands, environmental dynamics, regulatory and legislative requirements - evolve.

Barry Chaiken, Chief Medical Information Officer, Infor Chaiken: IT purchasing needs to be based upon relevance to mission, vision, finances and operations. Purchasing IT to keep up with current trends does nothing to address the needs of an organization. In addition, it can lead to a poorly implemented IT solution that fails to meet the needs of the organization. A clear vision of organizational goals produces a clear view of what software is required to meet those goals. This allows high-quality vendors to guide an IT implementation that provides value early and throughout the product life cycle. Although pricing may be important in the short term, software costs are just a fraction of the total cost of a product, and therefore must be evaluated on the value provided. Reworking implementations can be very disruptive to operations, and very expensive.

Kent Rowe, Vice President of Sales, ZirMed Rowe: The overall value and return on investI I Price matters, as do ongoing mainteI I and service costs, but you have to view . those in the context of other savings and benQé efits. Interfacing and integrating with existing/ new systems oiten gets overlooked, especially ^b êfor future-proofing. Is the new product you're Kent Rowe, thinking about purchasing vendor-neutral and o ? °f interoperable? What if, a year from now, a vendor sunsets one of your current core systems? Are the services you're purchasing dependent upon that system? Bob Baumgartner, Director, Product Marketing, Mckesson Technology Solutions Baumgartner: Relevance to mission, vision, finances and operations is key. With the increased pressures of both regulatory and financial constraints being placed on healthcare environments, it becomes critical that they ensure that any and all IT expenditures facilitate their efforts to achieve their mission. Facilities that do not focus on this area will continue the siloed and inefficient disparate network of data within their healthcare environment. And with the ongoing consolidation within the market, IT will be tasked more than ever to ensure the future systems are open to support the greater mission of the facility: Reduced costs with higher quality outcomes.

Charlie Lougheed, President and Chief Strategy Officer, Explorys Lougheed: IT departments need to make sure they not only understand the needs of the business units they serve, but also make sure they understand the market trends and the approach that their peers are taking to solve these challenges. It's also important to observe the signals of the venture capital community, particularly in the rapidly evolving healthcare IT space. There is a lot of investment capital flowing into this market. Understanding where and why that money is flowing can help IT leaders see where others are placing their bets.

Mark Byers, CEO, President and Co-Founder, DSS Inc.

Byers: IT departments must ask themselves the following: * How quickly could our infrastructure capacity requirements increase? Decrease? To what extent? And, what are the most likely scenarios? * How rapidly are key technologies changing and evolving? Where in their life cycles are the products we're considering? What's on the horizon? * What are our current and future service level requirements for uptime and availability? * Beyond readily available, online resources, what potential business capabilities will have the greatest positive impact on revenue generation and operational effectiveness? * Who is the end-user and how do they interact with the customer and other IT systems? Mac McMillan, CEO, CynergisTek McMillan: Approaching this from a "privacy and security" perspective, the questions that are important fall into three basic categories: Those related to development, those related to maintenance and administration, and those related to compliance. Some examples for each: Development * What platform is the product developed on? * Does the product require any third-party external resource to be secure? * Was the product coded following security best practices? * Has the product gone through any third-party testing/certification? Maintenance and administration * Can the product be readily patched or upgraded as necessary? * Does the system require backup? * Can access to the system be controlled? Compliance * Does the system have the necessary functionality to meet compliance requirements? * If appropriate, can the system be audited? * Ihe list here is much longer and may also include questions of the vendor and other aspects of their business if the system in question involves ePHI.

While it sounds basic and fundamental, it starts at the top with the organization's strategy. The IT department, as well as other departments, is there to execute the strategy of the senior leadership.

Jamie Helt, Director of Strategy and Business Development, Dell Healthcare and Life Sciences Helt: * Does it impact in a positive way the mission of our organization to improve the continuum of care? * If we procure this technology, what other item may not make the budget cut, and what is the impact to our organization? * Have we assessed the internal skill sets to handle the implementation and rollout, the ongoing support to be handled internally/ externally,the cost associated with support (internal/external) and the future of this offering via upgrades, refresh, etc.? Glaser: No healthcare organization physical structure would be built without a design and blueprint that reflects what care services will be delivered and how the building must function to meet the needs of caregivers and patients alike. The same holds true for building an HIT infrastructure. It begins with the most essential question of what the organization's strategy is and how an HIT system will support this. Fundamentally, the organization must define what it wants to accomplish with an HIT system, such as support and improve existing processes or create new, more efficient processes underpinned by HIT. Then it must define what functional capabilities are required. The key is understanding the functions that the HIT system must support and what the primary users need in a system from the vantage point of understanding the workflow and processes in the various departments. How the accounting office functions is very different from how the maternity department works. And that is very different from the workflow in the oncology department.

Stein: Provider IT departments must take a critical look at new IT products and services to understand: * Where does this technology fit into my organizationspecific technology stack? How will it work with our existing and emerging data sources and formats? * Who are the intended users? How will they transition from their current process to using this product? What level of training is required to achieve the productivity goal within the target time window? * Does this technology fill a current need? How can I demonstrate ROI over time? Is it also forward looking enough to address future needs in the same space? Will we require additional components? Are they available? * Does the technology vendor have the breadth and depth to meet our business and technology needs, even as they evolve? How does the vendor address my data life cycle? * Does this technology satisfy our industry regulatory compliance requirements? Rowe: What's the cost of doing nothing, of maintaining the status quo? Quantify the opportunity cost as much as possible. Nail down prospective vendors on what they can deliver and what improvements their existing customers have seen.

Second, what's the cost of failure? If a product or service doesn't work out, how much time and resources will you have spent implementing it? How immediately will you be able to tell whether it's working as intended, and what's the impact of it potentially not working for that period of time? Baumgartner: First and foremost, the facility must develop a vision for the role of any and all IT within the organization. Without this vision, their decision-making will be limited to a case-by-case solution and not as likely to support the overall mission of the entity. With that in place, it is possible to answer the following essential questions: * How will this new product or service support our vision? * Will this new product improve our operational performance or provide additional detail for the use of quality outcome tracking? * Is this new product simply a departmental solution or is it a solution that meets not only the unique departmental needs, but also support the greater requirement to disseminate the information appropriately across the enterprise? * Is the new product based on standards with an open interface for integration or is it simply proprietary and require extensive one-off interfaces that will be expensive to maintain? * What is the long-term viability of the company? Will they be around for five to 10 years or are they offering such a low price that they will not be around for support and upgrades? * Does the vision of the company support our vision? Chaiken: Organizations that do not communicate a clear strategic objective with related goals are unlikely to achieve IT products and services that deliver value. Once goals are clear, IT departments must thoroughly understand the impact of various IT products and services on the ability of employees using those products and services to meet the organizational goals. In addition, IT departments must understand what each department they serve needs to accomplish and guide them on how IT can help. IT departments that see those throughout the organization as clients will most likely succeed, while others that see themselves as IT purchase and delivery organizations only will not.

Blitch: IT departments should ask themselves three essential questions to determine the optimal IT products and services needed: * How does the product/service integrate with our current platforms? * Is the product/service focused on results that are measurable? * Does the product/service support the vision of our facility? Firstly, integration is a word that tends to scare us all. If you've invested a lot of time and money into an existing platform and your new product doesn't "play nicely" with the existing infrastructure, then it falls on the IT department's shoulders to bridge that gap. Proactively consider this in advance to avoid later complications.

Secondly, what cannot be measured cannot be improved. Though many solutions say they are results oriented, it's up to the vendors to hold themselves accountable as well. Ask third parties these hard questions during the selection process; those who know the answers and can give solid examples will likely be the ones with whom you'll have the most success.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that everyone is driving toward the same outcomes, both clinically and financially. It's important to ensure that the technology vendors you choose each understand and support your short-term and long-term goals. Great vendors are more like partners who not only provide great products that make you better, but also provide great service, support and feedback to help you continually improve.

Saffarian: It is essential that providers begin by developing a shortand long-term EMR strategy, as this must eventually drive compatibility and interoperability with and among various devices and applications inside and outside the walls for care providers, plan providers and patients. Once this is established, conducting a needs assessment for individual users or groups of users is a valuable exercise. Highly portable tablets equipped with a stylus can unlock greater efficiencies for physicians and nurses on the move, for example, while zero-client desktop solutions provide the comfort and ergonomics to enable more stationary employees to be productive. Importantly, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) enables both of these employees to access the same information systems with a similar user interface and experience. HMT What are some of the essential questions that must be answered by IT departments to determine the optimal IT products and services they need? (c) 2014 NP Communications, LLC

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IT blamed in Athens EHR debacle | Healthcare IT News

IT blamed in Athens EHR debacle | Healthcare IT News | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Who's to blame when EHR implementations go south? There's often enough fault to go around. But when the fallout is bad enough, sometimes self-interested parties are all too ready to point fingers.

[See also: CEO resigns amid troubled EHR rollout]

In late May, we covered the story of a $31 million Cerner rollout at Athens Regional Health System in Georgia that didn't go as planned.

Thanks to what was described by clinicians as a rushed process, doctors nurses and staff were up in arms about a series of medication mistakes, scheduling snafus and other communication glitches.

[See also: IT and informatics play well together]

"The last three weeks have been very challenging for our physicians, nurses and staff," wrote Athens Regional Foundation Vice President Tammy Gilland, Athens Regional Foundation vice president, in a letter to donors explaining the situation. "Parts of the system are working well while others are not."

The complaints lodged by clinicians were soon followed by the resignation of President and CEO James Thaw and, less than a week later, Senior Vice President and CIO Gretchen Tegethoff.

This past weekend, on June 15, the Athens Banner Herald reported that Athens Regional's chief medical officer – as well as executives from Cerner – were pointing fingers at the health system's IT team, complaining that they made strategic decisions that should have been the bailiwick of clinicians.

"Could there have been more information shared at the administrative level? I suppose you could make that argument," Senior Vice President and CMO James L. Moore told the paper. "The implementation was through the CIO, and so that's where the information was held."

The Banner Herald's Kelsey Cochran also quotes a Cerner vice president, Michael Robin, who noted that while some end-users were involved in the rollout, it seemed primarily to be led by Athens Regional's IT team, which he said was "atypical" of Cerner sites.

Another Cerner VP, Ben Hilmes, told the paper that successful EHR implementations are "clinically driven, not IT-driven." At Athens Regional, he added, "it came out of balance toward the IT side of things."

Moore has since taken the lead on the project. Cerner has pledged to do "whatever we need to do" to help the process get back on track, Hilmes told Cochran.

Whether or not this is a matter of three different parties – IT, clinicians, vendors – circling the wagons around their own and casting blame on others, one thing is certainly true: On big projects like these, the technology side and the clinical side need to be committed and communicative partners from the get-go

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Will Apple's Swift Make mHealth App Development Easier than Ever? | MDDI Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry News Products and Suppliers

Will Apple's Swift Make mHealth App Development Easier than Ever? | MDDI Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry News Products and Suppliers | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Swift, Apple's new programming lanugage, wants to make coding mobile apps easier for everyone-including digital health developers.


Swift is designed to lower the barrier to ent anyone looking to creates apps for iOS or Mac OS X [image copyright Apple Inc.]

It's “Objective-C without the baggage of C” according to Apple's senior VP of software engineering Craig Federighi. Apple promises its new programming language, Swift, will make developing apps for OS X and iOS of all kinds, from games to health and fitness, easier and faster than ever. But will Swift live up to its name?

“We don't see a strategic downside from Swift, although as a youthful language, it maintains the risk of global adoption,” says Dr. Chuck Thornbury, CEO and founder of meVisit, an iPhone- and Android-based app that remotely connects patients to their doctors. “Swift is relatively new and maturity is something that has to be considered; it is especially true for those features like mix-and-match and interoperability with old (legacy) code.”
The first thing you have to understand is why this is such a big deal from a developer's perspective. Mac and iPhone-based apps are typically created using an older, legacy programming language called Objective-C that first appeared back in 1983 and has carried over through Apple products since the early days. Being an older language however, Objective-C is arguably not best suited for most modern computing applications. After all, it was created in a time when all the computing power of a smartphone would take up an entire desk.
“Swift has many excellent features that have been learned from other programming languages. It offers a more similar syntax than other leading languages–especially, those that are script-like, dynamic languages,” Thornbury says. “The mix-and-match between Objective-C and Swift may be expected to attract developers to begin engineering in Swift quickly, as they wouldn't be expected to have concerns regarding the legacy code in Objective-C."
Ned Fox, a software engineer with AliveCor, makers of the mobile ECG and accompanying app of the same name, agrees with this assessment. Fox believes that it will be most advantageous for developers to use Objective-C in conjunction with Swift. “In terms of syntax, [Swift has] some pretty big differences that people are using....I'll probably stick with [Objective-C] for a while and use features of Swift,” Fox says. “I don't think it's quite as short a line from Objective-C to Swift.” However he adds that there are new features in Swift that could speed up app development significantly. One such feature is Playground, which allows programmers to test individual snippets of code without having to test the entire app at once.
Swift vs. Android
However there are conflicting reports on the efficacy of Swift. According to an article from InfoWorld [] Swift performed markedly slower in benchmarks compared to other programming languages, Objective-C included. However Swift has only been released in beta so it is unclear how valuable such benchmarks are at this point, particularly since Swift and Objective-C will have to co-exist for the time being.
“We do not believe that Objective-C will diminish from the landscape in the immediate future, as there remain many committed developers that many not see an immediate value in amending their preferred engineering language unless it is absolutely necessary,” Thornbury says. “For new projects, developers may have a passion for using a new language (Swift). Based on the feedback that we've received, engineers may be expected to gradually migrate from Objective-C to Swift as we revisit the old code...The learning curve should be shorter for those with no prior experience in iOS development.”
The idea of an easier programming language for Apple platforms has to have raised eyebrows with Android developers. It doesn't take a mastermind to see how clearly advantageous it would be for Apple to lock developers into an exclusive programming language for its platforms. A recent article in Fast Company [] argues that Swift's low barrier to entry and simpler syntax could easily win developers over to Apple's side and keep the ones already there from drifting over into Android-infested waters.
However Android is not likely to easily give up its market share and developers who want to reach the broadest audience would still be best served to develop for both platforms. “Swift appears to be most promising; however, the majority market that Android and other platforms command may act as a firm headwind, against which, it would have to pilot,” Thornbury says. “
“The iPhone has always been a little bit easier to code for,” Fox says. “But Android has been gaining market share in an important population that I don't believe third-party developers will want to ignore. If Google doesn't come out with something similar to Swift I think someone else will.” The AliveCor ECG is compatible with iPhone and Android phones, though the Android version was released much later.
Taking the Next Steps
Fox's theory bares some fruit given how widely competitive the digital health app space has gotten this year. Later this month, Google is expected to announce Google Fit [], its own digital health platform similar to Apple's HealthKit []. For hardware companies like AliveCor platforms like these can be key ingredients to allow companies to move into the market quickly. “HealthKit is a really great step,” Fox says. “It makes it really easy to collect health data and take data out. If a company is focusing on hardware they can focus on hardware and you can import all of this data.”
Apple has already released a free instructional eBook [] that gives programmers a tour of Swift and its functionality. While the company has certainly taken a step in the right direction in encouraging future app development it will be the developers themselves that ultimately decide where the market goes. Ultimately, coders want the largest audience possible and will use any tool at their disposal to get it. “Large markets, by their very nature, offer incentives for app developers to provide content. Platform-independent development tools might be expected to attract continued innovation and motivate developers,” Thornbury says.
Apple demonstrates Swift at the 2014 Apple WWDC.

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Report: Apple's new iPhone 6 could have biggest initial production

Report: Apple's new iPhone 6 could have biggest initial production | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Apple is ordering a combined 70 to 80 million units of two big-screen versions of its next iPhone, its largest initial production to date, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The company is anticipating large demand for the so-called iPhone 6 as it will be available with screens measuring 4.7 and 5.5 inches diagonally, the report said, citing unnamed sources.

The 70 to 80 million units by Dec. 30 would be much more than the 50 to 60 million units last year for the iPhone 5S and 5C, which have 4-inch screens. The iPhone 4S has a 3.5-inch display.

Apple has asked component makers to get ready to turn out up to 120 million new iPhones by the end of the year to take into account a possible higher failure rate for displays, the report said.

Manufacturing the 5.5-inch screen could be tricky because of the complexity of integrating touch sensors into the LCD, it said, adding that using sapphire crystal instead of glass for the display would add to the difficulty.

The new screen size has been the subject of much speculation as displays have taken up more phone real estate in recent years.

Until 2011, 4 inches was the largest screen for most phones on the market, but it has become the minimum since 2013.

Apple rival Samsung posted an ad on YouTube on Monday that depicts an iPhone user with “screen envy” while ogling the Galaxy S5, which has a 5.1-inch screen.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

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Leaked ‘Windows 9’ screenshots offer a closer look at the new Start Menu

Leaked ‘Windows 9’ screenshots offer a closer look at the new Start Menu | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Microsoft provided an early look at its new Start Menu for a future version of Windows earlier this year, but freshly leaked screenshots are offering an even closer look at the company’s progress towards its major desktop revamp. Two screenshots have emerged on myce that show the new Start Menu in a recent build of codename "Threshold." Microsoft is currently working on a number of products as part of its Threshold efforts, including a version of Windows that will likely be named Windows 9 when it ships next year. Microsoft is currently labelling this development version of Windows as "Windows 8.1 Pro," but this is placeholder branding until the latter stages of testing and the final name is ready and confirmed.

Click for larger image

The new Start Menu hasn’t changed much since Microsoft demonstrated it at Build in April, but the screenshots show a variety of "Metro-style" apps that are pinned to the menu, alongside traditional applications. The Verge understands the screenshots are genuine, and that in some current development versions of "Windows 9" the Start Menu expands to maximize the screen and act like the Start Screen found in Windows 8. The second screenshot also shows how Microsoft is planning to make "Metro-style" apps run in the desktop as windowed or fullscreen. This is an essential part of Microsoft’s plans for the next version of Windows, to make it a lot more mouse and keyboard friendly with a significant focus on the desktop.

Microsoft is expected to ship Windows "Threshold" in early 2015, alongside improvements to the Xbox One operating system and a combined version of Windows Phone and Windows RT. The combination of Windows RT and Windows Phone will finally drop the desktop mode, and focus on "Metro-style" apps over traditional x86 desktop applications

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Nvidia Launches Shield Tablet

Nvidia Launches Shield Tablet | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Today, Nvidia is announcing the Shield tablet. While normally such launch announcements don’t require much in the way of exposition, Nvidia is in an odd place. Last year, the Shield portable and Tegra Note 7 were the primary mobile devices shipping with Tegra 4.  In hindsight, the Shield portable was a bit too niche to ever reach mass adoption. It was first and foremost a gaming device, with a display attached to a controller as opposed to a controller attached to a display. The result was that while it was surprisingly good for gaming, it wasn’t the best tablet. It really only worked in landscape mode, the display size was relatively small (5 inches diagonal), and using the touchscreen was an awkward experience.

The Tegra Note 7 was Nvidia’s attempt at competing in the mainstream tablet market. While the dual front facing speakers and stylus were good advantages over the Nexus 7, it wasn’t clearly better than the Nexus 7. The display was lower resolution, lower contrast, and not as well calibrated. The WiFi module only supported 2.4 GHz, and there was only a gigabyte of RAM. While it was possible to emulate a Shield-esque experience with the Note 7, there was no game streaming from PC to tablet due to the lack of 5 GHz WiFi, and the controllers on the market simply weren’t as good as the controller in Shield. In addition, because the Tegra Note 7 wasn’t directly controlled by Nvidia the experience in software update speed could vary.

From the lens of past experience, the Shield tablet makes a lot of sense. The specs are right for a good tablet, but it’s also a proper Shield device. As a tablet, it has all the right pieces. A high resolution display, Tegra K1 (Cortex A15 variant), dual front facing speakers and bass reflex ports, a new stylus, 5 GHz WiFi, and a 5MP front facing camera. I’ve put a table of the specs below for easier reading.

 Nvidia SHIELD TabletSoCTegra K1 (2.2 GHz 4x Cortex A15s)RAM/NAND2 GB DDR3L-1866, 16/32GB NAND + microSDDisplay8” 1920x1200 IPS LCDNetwork2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Nvidia Icera i500 UE Category 3/4 LTE)Dimensions221 x 126 x 9.2mm, 390 gramsCamera5MP rear camera, 1.4 µm pixels, 1/4" CMOS size. 5MP FFCBattery5197 mAh, 3.8V chemistry (19.75 Whr)OSAndroid 4.4.2Connectivity2x2 802.11a/b/g/n + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GLONASS, mini HDMI 1.4aSIM SizeNone or MicroSIM

In the stylus side, DirectStylus 2 is said to reduce the inking latency to half that of the implementation we saw in Tegra Note 7. In practice it seemed that the stylus latency was low and lines tracked closely to the stylus, but I’ll avoid final judgment until the review. Nvidia also claims that there are more levels of pressure sensitivity, but it’s not quite clear how many levels there are. Nvidia has also added handwriting recognition software, which worked relatively well in some casual testing. The Dabbler application also seems to provide a relatively realistic simulation of various physical mediums such as oil painting and watercolor, although it’s mostly targeted towards artists.

In addition to the stylus features, Nvidia is advertising 1080p Netflix support. Normally, due to the DRM restrictions associated with high bitrate streaming, most Android devices only support low resolution streams. Nvidia has done all of the necessary work to satisfy these DRM requirements, so it supports the highest bitrate available to mobile devices. Of course, this feature will be disabled with an unlocked bootloader, but it’s a good feature to have for mobile streaming.

Outside of tablet features, the gaming features seem to be quite compelling. The controllers themselves were comfortable, and were very similar to the Shield portable’s ergonomics. Nvidia is emphasizing that these controllers connect over WiFi direct, and the frequency selected depends upon the network that is used. The result is much lower latency, and Nvidia is also able to run a headset jack and microphone through the controller due to the higher bandwidth that WiFi provides. Up to four controllers can be paired to the Shield tablet for multiplayer games.

Due to the addition of 5 GHz 2x2 WiFi, Nvidia’s GameStream and GRID, which means that it’s possible to stream games from a PC within the same LAN to Shield tablet and play games by streaming from Nvidia servers to the tablet. Nvidia did note that only 720p is supported through WiFi, and an Ethernet connection is necessary to stream at 1080p due to latency reasons.

While both GameStream and GRID are largely similar in experience compared to the Shield portable, the Kepler GPU in the Tegra K1 enables a great deal of potential for gaming. Trine 2 will ship with the tablet, and is a direct port from the console game. Nvidia also showed off the improvements in games like Half Life 2 and Portal, which run full OpenGL rather than OpenGL ES as it did on Shield portable. Outside of feature set, Nvidia is claiming that the K1's GPU is far faster than the GPU in either the Exynos 5420 or Apple's A7 SoC.

In addition, Nvidia showed off a full version of War Thunder running on Shield tablet, and claimed that it will be able to play on multiplayer with PCs. This included both the tank and aircraft combat aspects of the game. Nvidia also showed that the Unreal Engine 4 demo from Google IO runs on the Shield tablet.

Finally, the Shield tablet will be the first Android tablet to support streaming to Twitch. By leveraging the built in front facing camera, it’s possible to stream both gameplay and webcam/commentary. In practice, I didn’t see any noticeable issues with this system, and it seemed to work as promised. The 1.4 micron pixel size seemed to make the quality relatively acceptable even indoors.

That was a lot to go over, but I think the key here will be the native gaming experience on Shield tablet. While it’s fully possible for Shield tablet to serve as a dedicated console with GameStream, the real use case will be whether it can provide a solid gaming experience using the SoC for rendering rather than as a video decoder for a PC somewhere else. With games like War Thunder and Trine 2, it seems that there is immense potential for a very compelling product. While Nvidia isn’t starting from nothing this time around, this ecosystem aspect is still a bit risky.

The Shield tablet will go on sale July 29th for the US, August 14th for Europe. The 16GB/WiFi variant will cost 299 USD, the 32GB/LTE variant will be 399 USD. The controller is priced at 59 USD, and the flip cover at 39 USD.

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Google experimenting with major redesign of Chrome OS

Google experimenting with major redesign of Chrome OS | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Google has made attempts in the past to unify the design of its various properties with varying degrees of success. Material Design, which is major part of the upcoming Android L release, may be its most coherent effort to date. The new look is expected to touch every corner of Google's catalog, and Chrome OS will be part of that revamp. A screen shot posted by Chromium evangelist François Beaufort on Google+ shows the very early fruits of Athena, an effort to "bring a new kind of user experience" to Mountain View's desktop OS. The image shows windows with minimal controls and decoration in a stacked card view, similar to the app switcher revealed as part of the next Android update. There's also what appears to be a launcher bar with a search field at the bottom of the screen. While the redesign is clearly in the very early stages, you can see the important elements of Material Design at work. Everything is flat and paper like, but exists in a three-dimensional space, complete with less-than-subtle drop shadows. You can compile a copy of Chromium OS yourself to give Athena a test run, but we'd hold out for a more complete version.

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Search engine exposes hackers' passwords to solicit donations

Search engine exposes hackers' passwords to solicit donations | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Some hackers are learning what it's like when the hunters become the hunted. A new search engine called Indexeus offers an easy way for ne'er-do-wells to look up login credentials from over a hundred hacks, including recent high-profile dumps of Adobe and Yahoo credentials. But there's a catch: most of the data indexed by the service comes from hacks of forums and websites popular with the underground hacker community. In other words, the search engine is marketing itself to the same people that it is exposing.

Also known as protection money

But that's all part of the business plan, reports Krebs on Security. The men behind Indexeus planned to offer protection services — pay the site a "donation" of $1 per record, and you can have your sensitive info removed (or "blacklisted") from the search engine. As a disclaimer on the site originally explained, "The purpose of Indexeus is not to provide private informations about someone [sic], but to protect them by creating awareness. Therefore we are not responsible for any misuse or malicious use of our content and service."

That certainly sounds like extortion. Nevertheless, the site's founder, identified by reporter Brian Krebs as 23-year-old Jason Relinquo of Portugal, has been compelled to change the site's policies to offer a free blacklisting option in order to comply with the EU's "Right to be Forgotten" ruling. It all seems a bit odd considering the data peddled by Indexeus is illegal in the first place, but it sure is an entertaining story. If you're looking to check out Indexeus, it appears high traffic loads have temporarily taken the search engine offline.

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Microsoft password research has fatal flaw

Microsoft password research has fatal flaw | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

I wrote yesterday about a report from Microsoft researchers, which goes against established password security best practices. The new guidance from the Microsoft researchers makes sense to me, because it fits how I handle password management already. However, at least one security expert feels that there is a fatal flaw that makes the new password advice impractical: You.

Almost every aspect of computer security and privacy seems to come back to that one fundamental issue. You—the user—are the weakest link in the security chain. No matter how effective a security process or tool has the potential to be, user error can undermine the whole thing and render the security useless.

In a nutshell, the Microsoft researchers assert that the default advice to use unique, complex passwords for every site and service you use doesn’t work. Users can’t remember that many complex passwords, so instead they opt to ignore the advice entirely and use the same often ridiculously simple password everywhere, increasing their exposure to risk and compromise. What the Microsoft researchers propose is that people group credentials based on their importance or access to sensitive data and feel free to re-use simple passwords for accounts that don’t really matter.

In this case, it’s not necessarily that the research is wrong. It’s just that the research is sadly too complex for the vast majority of users to implement effectively.

“The problem remains that many non-tech savvy people don't know [on] which sites to use their 'standard' password, and which sites to use their super-secure password,” commented one person on my Google+ page.

Tim Erlin, Tripwire’s director of IT security and risk strategy, agrees. “The conclusions and analysis of this research is fundamentally flawed because it relies on an assumption that users are capable of determining which accounts are ‘of value.’ This is clearly demonstrated by the tendency of many users sharing sensitive data on Facebook.”

Erlin explained that a user might reasonably conclude that an email account doesn’t contain “sensitive data,” and therefore doesn’t warrant a more secure password under the password management system proposed by the Microsoft researchers. However, an attacker with access to an email account can execute a password reset for other accounts like banks or financial institutions. Failing to use a strong password for a seemingly innocuous email account leaves you open to severe compromise—just ask Mat Honan.

As I stated at the top, the advice from the Microsoft researchers makes sense to me because it’s how I manage passwords already. It seems like every website requires me to register, and most of them I couldn’t care less about so I use the same, simple password for all of those. For my financial accounts, email, and social networks, though, I use much stronger, unique passwords—thereby limiting the volume of complex passwords I have to keep track of.

Put another way, the same naiveté and cavalier attitude that leads so many users to reject the established password security best practices will result in this new approach failing for them as well. Any solution that expects users to fully understand the risks, assign value to different accounts, and then follow through with thorough execution of the solution is set-up for failure.

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Recon's 'Google Glass' for sports gets a finalized design ahead of September launch

Recon's 'Google Glass' for sports gets a finalized design ahead of September launch | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

No, the Recon Jet still isn't out yet, but its manufacturer has a few bits of news to share. For starters, the sports-minded heads up display's brain box is now angled slightly upward, which supposedly improves the display's viewing angle and camera orientation. This tweak apparently boosts the HUD's ergonomics and makes it fit a bit better, too. The Jet is also now rated to IP65 standard, which means it'll be able to withstand dust and torrential rainstorms. Don't think that it'll work on your next swim, though, because submerging the unit is apparently out of the question. The outfit (thankfully) doesn't mention any changes to its September 25th release date, either, but it is spending the next month working on testing the Jet. Oh, and there's a protective case in the works too -- all the better to keep your $700 investment safe and sound. How protected to the Jet remains while it's on your face, however, well, that's up to you.

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In 20 Years, Most New Cars Won’t Have Steering Wheels or Pedals | Autopia | WIRED

In 20 Years, Most New Cars Won’t Have Steering Wheels or Pedals | Autopia | WIRED | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

By 2030, most new cars will be made without rearview mirrors, horns, or emergency brakes. By 2035, they won’t have steering wheels or acceleration and brake pedals. They won’t need any of these things because they will be driving themselves.

That’s the takeaway from a new study by the Institute of Electronics and Engineers (IEEE). It’s based on a survey of more than 200 experts who work in the various industries that are slowly pushing us toward a future where humans are so much worse than robots are at driving, it’s not worth letting us even touch a steering wheel.

Automakers have made huge strides toward producing conventional cars that can drive themselves in select situations. A few of those will likely be on the market by the end of the decade or soon after. It’s not actually a big jump from what we have today to that point. Combine current features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, pedestrian recognition, and parking assist, and you’ve got a car that controls itself.

We’re not quite there yet. Legislation needs to be passed to govern these cars. Insurance companies must to figure out how their policies will work when you can’t assign the blame for a crash to a human driver. The hardware—the radars, sensors, and cameras that connect the car and the outside world—still needs improvement. In the interim stage, when cars control themselves but humans can still tag in, the stakes won’t be so high.

Shedding the Steering Wheel

The shift to cars without steering wheels and pedals will be revolutionary. It’s one thing to get a driver to let go of the wheel on long highway drives or a boring commute. It’s quite another to put him in a car that he can never drive, even if he wants to.

The change is inevitable, says Alberto Broggi, a professor of computing engineering at the University of Parma and an IEEE fellow. Cars that don’t need human drivers anymore will shed parts made for human control. “There’s nothing you can do about that.” The change will free auto design from the rules that have constrained it for a century. (Only Google has publicly addressed the idea, with a prototype it plans to start testing on public roads this fall.)


Broggi says the 2035 date predictions are realistic, but “you need to be very sure that the car is able to handle any scenario” before you give it full control. That will require a whole lot of testing and validation.

One question the IEEE survey raises but doesn’t answer: What happens to automakers when people don’t drive their cars anymore? Broggi says they can move away from working on the most powerful or best handling cars, and instead strive to deliver the most capable autonomous vehicle. Instead of advertising horsepower, they’ll yammer on about how many crazy situations their four-wheeled robot can handle safely. Marketing departments will trade in gimmicks like hauling around a space shuttle for ways of showing what a driverless car get itself through. We’ve got a few ideas for challenges: Viking attack. Airplane landing on the highway. Sinkhole in your lane. Show us a Ford or Hyundai that can handle those, and we’re in.

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China's Internet adoption sags to levels not seen since in 8 years

China's Internet adoption sags to levels not seen since in 8 years | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

China’s rush to the Internet is slowing, with the country adding only 14.4 million new Internet users in the first half of 2014, the lowest half-year growth in eight years.

There were 632 million Internet users in China in June, according to the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

Although China has long reigned as the country with the world’s largest Internet population, the services are still struggling to take off in the rural areas, where about 450 million people never go online, said the CNNIC in its bi-annual report.

Total Internet penetration in China is at 46.9 percent. This is far lower than the U.S, which has a penetration rate of 87 percent, according to Internet World Stats.

Many of these non-Internet users in China have low education levels, and have little need to surf the Web, the research group added. To increase adoption, the CNNIC recommended that the country focus on teaching rural elementary students Internet skills.

The slowing growth in Internet usage in China follows a rapid rise in the Internet population there, from just 94 million over a decade ago. Most of the growth has taken place in the country’s urban areas, where the Internet market has begun to mature.

In June, China had 527 million users who went online with mobile phones, which have now overtaken PCs, including both notebooks and desktops, as the most popular way to reach the Internet, the CNNIC said.

Online messaging, search engines, and news are the country’s top Internet services. But social networking sites are facing a decline in popularity, with their user numbers falling by 7.4 percent to 257 million in the last six months. The sites are struggling to innovate, and meet the demands of users, CNNIC said in its report.

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Implementing an EHR in the behavioral health setting | Healthcare IT News

Implementing an EHR in the behavioral health setting | Healthcare IT News | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Behavioral healthcare (BHC) is one of the most varied healthcare settings, encompassing a wide range of services from outpatient substance abuse treatment to full-time, residential psychiatric care. Within these services, the type of care provided also differs. For instance, a single organization may offer group therapy, one-on-one counseling, crisis stabilization and community outreach. Compounding the diversity is the fact that each area has significant sensitivities in terms of both treatment approach and client privacy.

Historically, behavioral health organizations have shied away from implementing an electronic health record (EHR), feeling that the complexity of the care setting precludes technology use. Plus, EHRs have traditionally focused on capturing information about physical medical conditions, and the content for the BHC field has been limited. The expense of an EHR has presented additional roadblocks, as organizations are sometimes hesitant or unable to expend capital for technology. There are, however, challenges for healthcare organizations – providers, facilities and the greater industry – if EHRs are not implemented, especially as behavioral health information becomes a more critical piece of a patient’s longitudinal patient record.

The reality is that selecting and onboarding an EHR that meets the diverse needs of the behavioral health segment can be complicated, but the challenges are not insurmountable. With the right system and a careful, well-considered implementation strategy, BHC organizations can reap the benefits of a tool that efficiently facilitates comprehensive client care and improved outcomes. As Congress once again debates whether to extend Meaningful Use to behavioral health facilities, the time is right for providers to consider implementing an EHR.

Existing Opportunities

There are many advantages to using an EHR in the BHC setting. For instance, a well-designed system can support better information capture, allowing clinicians to fully document care in a format that empowers client and family interactions, enables robust reporting and data aggregation, as well as enhances clinician-clinician communication. For example, if all substance abuse counselors use the system in a similar way, there will be greater care continuity and a more consistent client experience.

An EHR can also help with interoperability. When organizations use a system capable of exchanging information with outside entities, such as hospitals and primary care physicians, they can build a more objective and detailed picture of the client, supporting more informed decisions that take the client’s entire care context into account and limit situations in which a provider is completely dependent on the client and family for health history. As the trend toward integration between primary care and behavioral health becomes more prevalent, it is critical for providers to implement forward-thinking technologies that allow integration and collaboration to support quality care goals.

Key Characteristics of a BHC-Centered EHR

Not all EHRs are ideal for BHC organizations. When vetting potential options, here are some key characteristics to keep in mind:

  • Offers robust BHC content. EHRs have historically focused on capturing data about physical conditions (i.e., the patient has a laceration on the right side, is having trouble breathing or is running a fever). To be effective in the BHC setting, an EHR must have in-depth behavioral health content, such as targeted protocols for psychological diseases and drug treatment. The tool must also accommodate the different types of care found in BHC facilities. For example, a residential program may require an EHR to capture information from client appointments as well as group therapy sessions, offsite field trips and/or general rounds.
  • Captures free text and more. A chief characteristic of BHC treatment is that clinicians often document information about the client in free text, writing down what they observe and what the client and family shares. A BHC-focused EHR should be able to capture discrete data from the content mentioned above and also be able to seamlessly capture free text, integrating it into the clinical record in a useable way. Systems that capture both discrete information and free text allow clinicians to manipulate and examine the information they enter, and use it to add value to the client’s treatment and achieve better outcomes. They also allow the organization to more easily meet the myriad reporting requirements imposed by funding sources, payers and governmental entities. The efficiencies gained in this manner can allow organizations make better use of limited human and capital resources. Some EHRs include a tool that functions like a pen on paper, so that client perceptions of the care experience don’t change once technology is introduced into the environment—the provider appears to be taking notes like usual and is not turning away from the client to use a computer.
  • Delivers interoperability. Sharing information with outside entities is key to creating a comprehensive health record. Organizations should select technology that enables these exchanges in a private and secure fashion.
  • Allows for configuration. Organizations should choose a tool that is configurable to the unique needs of the care site but still fosters consistency to maintain a high standard of care.

Getting Started

To get the most benefit from an EHR, behavioral health organizations should take a concerted approach to implementation. Clinicians need to be directly involved in the process—both in selecting the tool and configuring the system. This is even more important than in other care settings because of the variety of sensitivities and nuances involved in addressing behavioral health.

It is also important to keep an eye on the big picture. Will the technology be used predominantly for data aggregation or to improve treatment planning and enhance communication between providers? Will it drive better reporting or encourage interoperability? Is some combination of these goals appropriate? Taking time to develop an overarching strategy and then framing the technology to support that strategy is a best practice.

Organizations should also have a full appreciation of their workflows, including the steps and people involved as well as the timing. As with other kinds of technology, an EHR will not fix ineffective or inefficient workflows. Organizations should use it to enable well-designed processes to support optimal care. When revising workflows, look for any unintended consequences that may emerge. For example, if the organization streamlines the method for gathering information about substance abuse at registration, how will that affect other areas of care? This is where pulling the clinical staff together and mapping processes becomes most critical.

Moving Forward

While implementing an EHR in a BHC organization may seem daunting, the advantages far outweigh the challenges. Organizations that commit to thoughtful vendor selection and planned system implementation can successfully navigate the effort and reap the benefits.

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Physicians Support EHRs, but Find Implementation Daunting - iHealthBeat

Physicians Support EHRs, but Find Implementation Daunting - iHealthBeat | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

While most physicians support the switch from paper to electronic health records, many say the timeline to make the transition is happening too fast and are calling for changes, Politico reports.


Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

Under the $30 billion program, physicians who meet certain criteria for health IT implementation can earn up to $44,000 annually in incentive payments.

Details of Concerns

Despite providers' support of the program's goal, many say that EHR systems are difficult to use and that savings and care quality improvements have not yet been widely evident, according to Politico.

HHS Director of Innovation Greg Downing said, "Government payment incentives forced people into early adoption of technology that in most of our views is not optimal for what people want to do with it."

Specifically, providers say that many EHR products:

  • Are not easy to use;
  • Are not integrated with other computer systems;
  • Require lengthy data entries;
  • Have severe design flaws; and
  • Require months of training to operate.
Call for Changes

American Medical Association President-Elect Steven Stack said he supports EHRs, but commercial EHR systems are "[i]nfuriating and cumbersome" and slow physicians down while distracting them from patient care. 

Despite the challenges related to implementing EHRs, recent survey show that nearly all physicians have said they are willing to make the transition.

To ease the transition, AMA is requesting that the Obama administration waive meaningful use requirements for older doctors, as well as rural or small practice physicians. Stack said that EHR implementation costs and training requirements are driving older doctors out of practice.

According to Politico, health IT specialists say the only way to handle EHR implementation problems is to work through them. 

National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo has said she recognizes that growing pains are part of health IT implementation, adding that there are still "questions about whether it's improving health care. That's an important next chapter" (Allen, Politico, 6/15).

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BYOD advice: Start simple, include clinicians, and be nimble | mHealthNews

BYOD advice: Start simple, include clinicians, and be nimble | mHealthNews | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Crafting a BYOD policy for your hospital or health system? Start simply, include users in your planning committee, and expect problems.

That's the advice of IT security experts who have been through the process: Michael Boyd, chief information security officer for Providence Health & Services, a Seattle-based system with 32 hospital and more than 550 other sites; and Clark Kegley, assistant vice president of information services for the Scripps Health, a San Diego-based four-hospital system.

Speaking at the HIMSS Media Privacy and Security Forum this week in San Diego, Boyd said hospital executives charged with crafting a policy for mobile devices need to approach this not as a security concern, but as a new means of bringing technology into the workplace. In other words, work with the clinicians who are using their own devices, instead of against them.

"It's a behavioral thing," he pointed out. "It's all about people."

More than 60 percent of all industries worldwide embrace BYOD, said Mac McMillan, CEO of the information security company CynergisTek and chairman of the HIMSS Privacy and Security Task Force. In healthcare, he said, that number stands at around 85 percent, with 92 percent of that number saying personal mobile devices are in use multiple times every day.

McMillan offered some sobering numbers as well: 41 percent of users in the healthcare space don't use a password to access their device, 52 percent access unsecured networks, and 52 percent say their devices are Bluetooth-enabled and on all the time.

"Basically they are a walking accident looking for a place to happen," he said.

That's why it's important, McMillan said, to get clinicians to buy into a BYOD policy that sets ground rules and penalties. He offered a five-point plan:

  1. Start with a strategy – accept all devices or certain ones?
  2. Establish an appropriate use agreement – no jailbreaking, no turning off security apps installed by the hospital or preventing remote management in case of an emergency. Make sure the users know what they can and can't do.
  3. Containerization – develop a platform that separates the corporate apps from the personal ones, so that users can continue to store personal data on their devices and not interfere with their work responsibilities.
  4. Monitoring – make sure the users know that the health system has the right to protect its interests on the personal device. That may mean remote-wiping the device of corporate information if it's lost or stolen, or monitoring certain functions while in use.
  5. Expect that this isn't a foolproof policy – be flexible, expect mistakes, and be prepared to fix them.

Boyd pointed out that he's already learned that lesson.

"Four years ago nobody was thinking that doctors were going to show up in the operating room wearing video cameras as eyeglasses," he said, but Google Glass has emerged in the hospital four times.

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