Emergencies

38 posts categorized

June 17, 2016

Text Ban Lifted by Joint Commission

 

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The Joint Commission - the largest healthcare accreditation body in the United States - announced last month that it will start allowing physicians to make patient orders by text message. The move is a huge victory for MHealth advocates. 

The news was happily received by healthcare providers, who see text messaging as the most efficient and reliable method of communication, and mobile technology developers who can access a potentially huge new market. For both groups, this feels like a long-overdue update to regulations that have hobbled natural progress towards emergent technologies that will ultimately benefit patients.

The changes were made in response to a 2011 FAQ document issued by the Joint Commission, which stated that text message orders were prohibited due to security concerns. In a dramatic reversal of that position, it now says text messaging is permissible within certain parameters.

 

What are the Parameters?

Changes to the regulations reflect a shifting culture in which SMS is the communication platform that most people feel comfortable using. But it’s not open season; the new guidelines don’t simply allow clinicians to send text messages to anyone as part of their job. The Joint Commission has provided a number of specific requirements for organizations using SMS:

 

  • Encrypted messaging
  • A secure registration process
  • Delivery and read receipts
  • Date and time stamps
  • A specified contact list of people authorized to receive and record orders
  • Customized policies and procedures

 

The Joint Commission also recommends that healthcare providers closely track and document the capabilities, limitations and uptake of their SMS platform, and develop a risk-management strategy. 

 

Why Now?

Doctors - like everyone else - have come to rely on smartphones as a tool for optimizing their time and improving communication. Unlike everyone else, the information they need to share is sensitive and highly personal; security is paramount. The healthcare industry is subject to strict regulations, and any new legislation takes a long time to draft, pass and enact. The legal process moves - necessarily - as slowly as it ever has, but technology changes at an ever-increasing rate (subject only to Moore’s Law). This developmental dissonance means there is a significant lag between technology becoming available to consumers, and being ready for use by industries dealing with their private data.

Thankfully, mobile communication legislation is beginning to reflect the realities of the modern world - and this can only be a positive thing for the healthcare industry and all who rely on it.

May 10, 2016

Text Messaging Can Help Reduce Hospital Stays

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Paging a doctor or physician has been the primary means of communication in hospitals for many years. If you’ve been to a hospital, or watched your fair share of General Hospital or Grey’s Anatomy, you know how this goes. But there are a lot of breakdowns and loopholes in this process; understanding and closing these gaps was what one study set out to do, by integrating secure text messaging.

 

Secure Text Messaging 

The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania conducted the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Internal General Medicine and authored by several physicians, including Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA, MS.

The study included more than 10,000 patients at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medial Center; both facilities participated in the yearlong study that took place between 2013 and 2014.

In addition to discussing the importance of closing these time-sensitive gaps in coordination, the study concluded that better communication resulted in reduced time at the hospital for most patients; patients whose care teams used the secure text messaging systems left the hospital .77 days earlier, according to the report. 

 

Why Now?

Until recently, email and SMS text messaging platforms were strictly prohibited by hospitals. Most platforms didn’t offer the security features needed to align with current regulatory polices. But as mHealth and mobile communications have developed, many of these issues have been resolved. 

The advancement of mobile technology, smartphones, and wireless communication preempted a lot of issues in the healthcare industry. According to Dr. Patel, it’s about time the medical field caught up with the 21st century. 

“Many forms of communications within the hospital are shifting mediums in part due to the rising adoption of smartphones and new mobile applications,” said Patel. 

 

A Communication Correlation 

Until this study, whether hospitals were using mHealth platforms like SMS or not, most physicians were unaware of any link mobile technology might have with the real time a patient spent in a hospital. Thanks to Patel and the co-authors of the study, that link has been significantly illustrated. 

“Healthcare innovation is more than just using the newest smartphone app,” explained co-author David A. Asch, MD, MBA. “It involves carefully designed implementation and thoughtful evaluation of its impact on clinical care.”

Medical teams can use these secure text-messaging programs to communicate in groups with various healthcare providers simultaneously. They can share data and patient history and gain more immediate access to information. Less waiting for the doctors means less waiting for the patient, freeing up hospital beds that are already in short supply

Using mHealth devices and technology is the most likely solution for many issues currently faced by our healthcare system. It’s likely that future studies will illuminate even more ways in which these devices affect patient care and treatment plans. 

March 31, 2016

Diabetes Treatment Finds Ally in Texting Services

 

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Texting services are increasingly being utilized by the healthcare industry, as they provide a number of helpful applications, such as reminding patients about appointments and sending tips that contribute to health. Text service health applications now include those relating to diabetes, with Arkansas-based nonprofit corporation ARcare using text messaging to improve its treatment services. 

 

A Valuable Educational Tool

ARcare added SMS texting services to its treatment program for diabetes patients, resulting in a cost-effective way to educate patients about the disease. “Interactive SMS” is utilized to provide patients with vital diabetes information. ARcare CIO Greg Wolverton recommends healthcare organizations focused on population health management recognize messaging tools’ role with regard to electronic health records and care coordination across numerous facilities. He also emphasizes the supreme scalability and efficiency texting services present. 

 

Increased Revenue Options

Implementing text services has been shown to help both the patient and the provider, as it offers an increase in operational revenue. For example, texting diabetic patients about their next appointments significantly reduces chances of no-shows, as most people have their phones with them constantly and look at text messages much sooner than emails. The reduction in no-shows and the ability to easily reschedule should a patient not be able to make the appointment are some of the ways text services are helping the healthcare industry financially. 

 

More Helpful Applications

In addition to its use among diabetic patients and their healthcare providers, text messaging is also increasingly used to treat smoking addiction and pregnancy issues. A recent Swedish study suggested text services make it easier to quit smoking, as the implemented text messaging program “doubled the rate” of self-reported smoking abstinence “with occasional lapses.” It also encouraged quitting cigarettes entirely, though not to the same degree. 

In regard to pregnancy issues, texting was found to help maternal and child mortality problems in Rwanda. The African country’s health workers use text services to keep track of pregnancies, report related health issues, and provide emergency alerts. The latter helps pregnant women obtain emergency care when needed. Health workers also text information about their pregnant patients’ histories for database storage purposes, let women know when it’s time to come in for checkups, and provide doctors with information about any complications. 

 

Part of the Mobile Health Movement

Diabetes, smoking, pregnancy, weight loss, HIV….texting services are part of the mHealth, or mobile health, movement for all of these, according to David Finitsis, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology and author of the February 2014 article Text Message Intervention Designs to Promote Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). The article was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Finitisis found text messaging of great assistance to HIV patients, as it improved “adherence to drug regimens” among other benefits. The author remarked that the possibilities connected to text messaging and healthcare are endless, and that smartphones, tablet computers, and social media platforms provide many more avenues for treating the chronically ill. 

Is text service a huge part of the healthcare industry’s future? It certainly seems so. 

 

March 14, 2016

Top New York Hospital Embraces Mobile Technology

 

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People use mobile technology in many aspects of their lives, from ordering to-go meals and finding the closest coffee shops to banking and getting consumer ratings. Now, folks can turn to mobile technologies, including apps, to help them with something else: healthcare.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is adopting mobile platforms, such as apps, to take care of many patient needs and to make providing healthcare easier for doctors. The No. 1 hospital in New York recently launched the NewYork-Presbyterian app for phones and tablets, which enhances the experience of patients and gives them more ways to communicate with the hospital. 

They’ll be able to get in touch with physicians through the application and use an online payment system to settle bills. The app offers assistance navigating around the hospital, viewing information about services and medical professionals, and connecting with NewYork-Presbyterian’s social media channels.

 

A Health Care App for the Way We Live Our Lives

Since mobile technology has become so integrated in day-to-day living, the NewYork-Presbyterian app makes sense. It’s in its infancy, so there’s room for it to grow and become more perfect, but it’s a useful tool for people looking for a simple way to stay informed and correspond with those assisting with their care.

“If you were to come in for an operation, you would be able to give your loved one’s phone number to the registration desk and while you are having your operation, it sends automated messaging to your loved one’s phone number,” says NYP Chief Innovation Officer Peter Fleischut. The app allows you to make sure friends and family members are updated in real time, so that they always know what’s going on. 

Future updates to the NewYork-Presbyterian app will include a telehealth feature that allows for scheduling of follow-up visits and remote patient monitoring. The anticipated version of the application will also have a visitor’s guide and a way for users to request second opinions from doctors.

 

The InnovateNYP: Pediatric App Challenge

Along with the NewYork-Presbyterian app, the hospital has recently launched the InnovateNYP: Pediatric Challenge, a contest that asks techies and forward-thinkers to come up with games, creative tools, and activities to encourage the best healthcare for our kids. The Challenge is open to hospital employees and the public, and it’s the first of its kind, bringing designers, developers, technologies, and clinicians together in an effort to advance new ideas in pediatric care. The kick-off activity for the Pediatric Challenge is a 10-week InnovateNYP: Pediatric Appathon that will have participants from around the world creating what will hopefully be the next huge advancement in healthcare for children.

 

Patients Are Embracing Mobile Technology to Make Important Health Decisions

Fleischut says that patients are embracing the hospital’s mobile offers, in particular the text feature that lets them get in touch with the hospital when they need to. However, the actual usefulness of this feature, as well as the importance of future additions to the app and the hospital’s technology, is yet to be determined.

“It’s one thing to get initial downloads but I’m more interested in being able to engage with our users,” Fleischut stated. “How long are they staying in the application? How frequently are they coming back to the application?” 

With the tech community involved in the venture, there’s likely to be constant monitoring of the processes to build technology for the hospital that focuses on exactly what patients and medical staff need.

 

March 06, 2016

Richmond Becomes First Northern Californian Jurisdiction to Add 911 Texting

 

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If you have an emergency in Richmond area of Northern California, you now have another way to reach 911 dispatch services. The city is the first in Northern California to offer the ability to reach its emergency dispatchers via text message, which means it can now provide help to more people in need.

While texting 911 can be useful in a variety of situations, such as in a domestic violence dispute or an emergency in which an individual is hearing impaired, dispatchers warn that the public should not rely on texting as a first means of communicating with 911. 

 

When Is Texting 911 a Good Idea?

In the past, a victim of an emergency might not have been able to make a phone call to 911 for fear of an attack. Or, a person who couldn’t hear might have had to take the time to call a third-party service just to get assistance reaching 911. In emergencies, time is crucial and being able to easily reach 911 can make the difference in saving a life. Dispatchers caution that the best way to reach help fast, in most cases, is to call. 

Sometimes, 911 dispatchers receive phone calls from people who say something to the effect of, “Not right now, Aunt Betty, I can’t speak,” says Richmond Police Department dispatcher Michael Lusk. From that type of message, dispatchers are often able to infer that something is not right and send emergency personnel. This is not as easy to do with a text. 

However, texting messages to 911 can be effective in cases where an individual must remain silent in order to dial for help, such as a kidnapping situation. If a person cannot describe aloud what’s happening, a text message can be the ideal solution to requesting aid. Lusk states that he has received six 911 text messages since the program went live at the end of January. 

 

The Benefit of Voice Calls to 911

The benefits of voice calls to 911 services include the speed with which dispatchers can give answers, and assistance, to those in need. In addition, when an individual calls 911 from a landline phone, their location is automatically sent to dispatchers so that emergency services can be sent out.

Sometimes, dispatchers rely on background noise on a 911 phone call to better determine what’s going on during an emergency, and to turn in as evidence should a court case be held later.

 

Call 911 If You Can, But Text If You Can’t Call

Communications shift supervisor for the Richmond Police Department, Deana Norton, says, “If placing a voice call is going to endanger yourself or others, please text us.” She adds that you should always text your location along with your message. This part of your text is crucial, because it will help get emergency services out to you immediately.

To text your emergency to Richmond 911 emergency services, all you need to do is type 9-1-1 into the space where you would normally type a phone number. Emergency dispatchers are logged into a website where they can view text messages that come in to 911. Their screens look like a chat platform, and have drop-down messages from which they can choose to send appropriate responses, such as, “Do not move the patient unless it’s necessary.”

 

Texts Are a Last Resort for Help

While the ability to text message Richmond 911 emergency services will likely prove useful in some instances, it has not been heavily relied upon yet, and it shouldn’t be. According to Michael Lambton, a communications shift supervisor, the Richmond Police Department’s 911 dispatch center takes in about 20,000 calls every month throughout Richmond, San Pablo, Kensington, El Cerrito, and Contra Costa College. Since January, dispatchers have received fewer than a dozen 911 texts, and most of them weren’t even emergency texts. 

Having the 911 text emergency system will surely provide Richmond residents with additional help, but the program should be treated as supplemental and not a primary means of assistance. 

 

January 24, 2016

Honolulu PD to Introduce Text 911

 

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Nobody wants to wind up in a life or death situation; but in the event that an emergency occurs, it is certainly good fortune to be carrying a cell phone, right? In general, the use of cell phones in emergency situations has helped dispatchers and first responders act quickly—which in turn has saved countless lives. This fact is due, in part, to the location features in most smart devices that allow emergency services to track a caller. Moreover, explaining a situation over a mobile device is far more efficient than typing up an email or sending smoke signal—most of the time. 

In some rare cases, it’s not possible or safe to communicate orally during an emergency. Who can forget the intense moment from Liam Neeson’s 2008 hit Taken, when his daughter is lying facedown under a bed praying her attackers don’t find her? Meanwhile, her father waits helplessly on the other line while she is carried away, presumably for making too much noise on her cell phone. 

This is just one exaggerated example but, truth be told, the ability to text 911 could come in handy under certain circumstances.

 

How Texting 911 Works

Just last week, the Honolulu Police Department announced its plans to launch a Text 911 system, an emergency service that will allow anyone with text features on a phone to text for help. This system includes police, firefighters, and paramedics and works similarly to the phone system we commonly use.

According to the Honolulu PD, the system is not yet available but expected to launch sometime in the next few months. While this is a great service to offer residents of Oahu, it’s most certainly not the first of its kind. 

Vermont, in fact, was the first state to organize a statewide text-to-911 system in 2014. A successful trial run with Verizon in 2012 dispelled any doubt naysayers had about flooding dispatchers with negligent texts. In 2013, Vermont received approximately 150 text-to-911 messages, ten of which helped victims of domestic abuse successfully communicate their situations without compromising their safety. 

However, Vermont’s success is tightly linked to a centralized public-safety system that makes room for fast action and changes to protocol. This is not the case everywhere. Most of the time, public safety initiatives like the text-to-911 system require participation from city or county level officials—which amounts to a lot more time and money. 

The bottom line: state emergency call centers will have to adopt several new technologies in order to make text-to-911 a viable solution for everyone in the US. Despite support from the FCC, this has not come to fruition just yet and will likely proceed slower than expected for obvious bureaucratic reasons. 

For now, emergency services still emphasize the importance of making a voice call to 911 in the event of an emergency. While texting may be necessary under obscure circumstances, one huge disadvantage of the service is that emergency call centers are not yet able to track an emergency text. 

Smoke signals are also not advised. 

 

December 10, 2015

Napa Police Using Mobile Tech in the Fight Against Crime

 

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When Apple released its fingerprint recognition feature on the iPhone 5S, consumers were pretty excited. Today, the identification feature once reserved for high-security has become mainstream, finding itself in the daily lives of millions of mobile users. But fingerprint recognition on your iPhone isn’t the only thing mobile tech is good for. For almost two years, the Napa County Sherriff’s Office has been using mobile fingerprint technology to help law enforcement with a variety of specialized tasks. 

The latest device features dual uses: fingerprint recognition for quick identifications and electronic ticketing. So far the Napa County Sherriff’s Office has nine devices, which they share throughout the county. 

 

What It Means for Law Enforcement

If this sounds like an advancement for law enforcement, it is in some ways—however, the technology may be lacking in others. For instance, the fingerprint recognition device scans a person’s finger and crosschecks it against other fingerprints that are already in California’s fingerprint database. These people are predominantly criminals but also include nurses, cops, teachers, and anyone who’s ever had a reason to be fingerprinted in the state of California. While this can be a huge advantage in some cases, in others, the identification technology would prove useless if the suspect had no prior record or had never been marked on the proverbial grid. 

Similarly, even if a suspect is found in the database, it doesn’t give law enforcement much information aside from their identification. For instance, knowing if a suspect has a previous record of violent offenses could be invaluable information for law enforcement working in the field, where quick decision-making can often mean the difference between life and death. 

Law enforcement is using the technology to help identify people in the field, especially individuals attempting to present fake IDs or avoid identification altogether.

“The alternative options for identifying individuals in the field are very lengthy or time-consuming,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Doug Pike, “so this product allows us to do that in a rapid manner.”

In addition to cutting down time, the device also allows law enforcement to better handle people who forget, misplace, or lose their IDs. 

Cutting through the red tape and wasteful time expenditures is undoubtedly worth the expense law enforcement is willing to pay for these nifty mobile devices. Napa represents a small geographic area and a limited number of crimes. For other counties, the usefulness of mobile fingerprint recognition may not be fully realized in a practical way just yet.  

November 24, 2015

Saving Lives with Mobile Technology

 

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The thought of surgery being performed by a robot might be a bit too close to science fiction for folks to stomach. However, the healthcare industry is quickly approaching the intersection of once far-fetched medical technology and a global need for better healthcare. 

Mobile technology is a huge part of this growing trend in health sectors across the country, and the world. In fact, mobile advancements in healthcare are predicted to play a large role in saving lives, and influencing preventative medicine. Here’s a closer look at some of the specific mobile advancements on the cusp of this fast-approaching technological horizon:

 

Healthcare and Gamification 

Along with making medical technology more available, creating ways to empower and proactively engage patients for long-term success is just as important as medical prognosis. 

Gamification involves adding game elements to the outpatient process and preventative repertoire to help patients stay on track with a diet, take their medicine, and maintain healthy habits.

We’ve already seen great examples of this in mobile apps like Luminosity, for brain stimulation, and HAPIfork, which monitors healthy eating. By incorporating mobile technology into the medical paradigm, doctors can help patients well after they leave the hospital. 

 

Comprehensive Communications 

Mobile is also a unique tool in healthcare because of the communication access it delivers and its ability to spread information democratically. The Internet and digital resources play a large roll in this as well, but mobilizing these resources has added millions of new Internet users to the healthcare network.

In 2014, mobile Internet access surpassed desktop usage—in other words, the mobile community is farther-reaching than ever before, making it possible to share, crowdsource, store, and gather pieces of medical information on a globalized network.

 

Saving Lives 

Aside from these abstract healthcare improvements, mobile technology has the ability to save lives immediately. For example, UNICEF has implemented a mobile communication system in one of the most dangerous and densely populated areas in the world: the Gaza Strip. 

Using mobile technology, school children in these areas are able to attend school more regularly, and safely, by allowing school administrators to communicate with parents directly. School administrators can send out SMS messages warning parents of potential treats, as well as let them know when school will resume. Since 2011, 29 schools have used this program regularly, and more than 11,000 students are benefiting from the results. 

From 3D printing and robotic nurses, to wearable tech and live-streaming surgery, the future may be in fact be closer than we think, and mobile technology has found a relevant niche within this growth to do its part in making the world a healthier and safer place to live. 

November 18, 2015

Lifesaving Mobile Tech Gets Support from Verizon

 

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If there’s on thing most smartphone users don’t expect from their phones, it’s the potential to save lives. But thanks to Verizon, startups focused on lifesaving technologies are getting the opportunity to share their initiatives and compete for a chance to win funding. In fact, 12 startups have already been crowned winners at Verizon’s annual Powerful Answers contest, with specific prize money to be announced Dec. 9 in San Francisco. 

In total contestants stand to win a total of $6 million to bring their lifesaving apps and technologies to life. Fourteen hundred people entered this year, and of the twelve finalists, three are women-led ventures. Here’s more info on a few of the finalists that have a shot at winning this year’s grand prize: 

 

Drone Lifeguard

That’s right, folks—lifesaving AUVs (unnamed aerial vehicle) anywhere, anytime.  The ‘lifeguard as a service’ model introduced by founder and CEO R.J. Tang is a unique concept for one of the world’s leading causes of unintentional death. Tang and his team are using drones to safely, and more quickly, deploy inflatable life preserves to swimmers who may be drowning. 

 

Disaster Mesh 

Disaster Mesh helps people affected by a disaster reconnect to vital digital communications. Using small devices shaped like maple seeds, the ‘Mesh’ is literally thrown from the sky and intended to cover a large area with network nodes. Survivors then connect to the network, which delivers simple survival options like “I’m trapped,” “I need medical help,” or “I’m okay, continue to network.” 

 

Pogo

This ride-sharing app is all about the family—kids especially. Built for parents, by parents, Pogo connects busy family members with community friends who can provide a trusted ride for children. Users can create private groups as well as run background and DMV checks on members. 

 

Swiftmile

Swiftmile is on a mission to reduce the number of cars on the road, particularly those making short commutes to work. With the Swiftmile Swiftstation, users can enjoy secure, emission free, and economical transportation. The Personal Electronic Transporter (PET) sharing system is designed to help cities, corporations, universities, and other highly congested areas decreases emissions as well as reduce the number of cars on the road. 

 

iHelmet 

Speaking of auto accidents, motorcyclists are often the most at risk when forced to share the road with traditional automobiles. Ganindu Nanayakkara is a software engineer dedicated to ending avoidable motorcycle accidents. The iHelmet was designed to bring safety features for motorcycles into the 21st century at an affordable price. Nanayakkara’s model includes features like blind-spot assist, high-speed alerts, and automated SOS in case of an accident. 

Some of the finalist may save lives through abstract means, while others have the potential to impart significant lifesaving technologies almost immediately. Either way, the startups in Verizon’s contest offer an inspiring use of technology and innovation. 

 

October 28, 2015

Mobile Tech as CPR Guide

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It’s always nice to see technology working for the greater good and not merely motivated by profit. Some apps, like PulsePoint, aren’t working for profit at all—they’re in the business of saving lives. The non-profit app has been endorsed by a number of agencies including the American Heart Association and the Red Cross for delivering updated CPR guidelines and empowering the public to become more than bystanders at the scene of an emergency.  

Did you know that almost sixty perfect of US adults have had training to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or use an automated external defibrillator (AED)? What’s more, these trained individuals would be willing to put their skills to good use in the event of an emergency. However, it’s been estimated that only 11 percent of these people ever use their training. 

These numbers have become a viable resource in the fight against heart diseases and the struggle to protect patients who succumb to cardiac arrest. Using mobile technology, PulsePoint has modernized the CPR guidelines while finding a way to tap into this trained population. 

In the event that someone goes into cardiac arrest, the time it takes the EMS team or paramedics to arrive can greatly impact that person’s chance of resuscitation. Starting CPR quickly can double and sometimes triple the rate of survival. Now, imagine a well-trained and mobilized populace that could provide assistance during this critical window.

 

How the App Works 

That’s where PulsePoint comes in. Individuals trained in CPR, or the use of an AED, register with the app and are notified if they’re ever in the proximity of someone experiencing cardiac arrest. The app is also equipped to notify the trained individual where they may locate the nearest public AED. 

Once the EMS workers arrives, they’ll take over—but until then, having help there a few moments sooner could be the difference between life and death. As soon as someone calls 9-1-1 with a cardiac arrest emergency, the app alerts anyone nearby that has installed PulsePoint and is trained in CPR.

The app is already working in cities both big and small, including places like Cleveland and Fargo, North Dakota.


One of the most interesting features of this app is that it has a lot of crossover potential into other areas of public health, education, and security. Depending on how well the app does in assisting with cases of cardiac arrest, we might see variations of this software developed for other civil service functions.