Tech

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June 25, 2016

Major Hospitals Turn to Mobile Technology

 

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Some of the largest hospitals in the United States are turning to mobile technology as a primary means of communication. These big healthcare facilities are already using mobile health apps and other tech platforms, or they’re planning on it, says a survey put out recently by mHealth consulting firm, Spyglass Consulting Group.

The group surveyed 19 major hospitals in the U.S. and found that 63 percent of them had an mHealth communications platform in place that would support at minimum 500 web-enabled devices, or that they had intentions of employing such a platform in the next 12 to 18 months. The reach for each would be at least 500 mobile devices and smartphones, but some could connect with more than 5,000 devices.

 

For Doctors and Patients

Hospital mHealth strategies and plans put doctors, and patients, in communication with one another through mobile technology. Gregg Malkary, Spyglass founder and managing director, says that mobile devices like smartphones are now replacing desktop computers, landline phones, and pagers as a preferred means of communicating and accessing patient data. The mHealth apps and technology allow for retrieval of important information, and response to pressing matters, from any location at nearly any time. 

 

All Hospital Departments Are On Board

With the integration of mHealth mobile technology into a hospital’s day-to-day routine, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, financial personnel, information technology professions, and ancillary care workers are all able to come on board to best support the care of patients. Patients today are looking at their healthcare options as they would any other choices in any other industry. They’re checking out what hospitals offer and assessing which ones will ultimately make their care easiest. This means they’re often choosing to get treatment done at hospitals that communicate seamlessly between departments, which is where mobile health technology can come in.

 

Security and Reliability

Of course, having access to easy communication and patient data retrieval is not all that’s required when implementing a mobile health technology system. Security and system reliability are crucial. At the 19 big hospitals surveyed, patients and doctors are finding that these needs are being met across the board, throughout the hospital’s departments. From radiology to housekeeping, different professionals at the facilities have their needs met with the current mHealth platforms.

Spyglass also reported that 83 percent of people surveyed said they required a mobile health communication platform that was comprehensive in scope, meaning it worked for them inside of the hospital and out. Seventy-eight percent thought that, for any mHealth platform to succeed, it would need to have a tightly integrated IT infrastructure and be available on a large scale. Out of all the respondents, 50 percent said that the existing tools available to them offer limited options for reporting and analyzing data. 

Malkary stressed that all of the U.S. health provider organizations reported that any smartphone communication system considered would need to be highly reliable, easily manageable, scalable, and support the critical mission of patient communication.

June 24, 2016

Staying HIPAA Compliant Under the New Mobile Guidelines

 

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Text messaging has become a way of life and a primary means of communication, which means that even our doctors are sending us texts regarding prescriptions and other matters concerning our health care. For many, this type of communication is well received and easy to engage in. But with the new convenience comes the need to make sure that mobile messaging is Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant.

Text Messaging and Healthcare Requires Extra Precautions

The Pew Research Center says that almost two thirds of people in the United States own smartphones, which means there’s a good chance that patients and doctors are used to communicating via text messaging. Both of these groups likely feel comfortable exchanging SMS messages in the course of discussing patient orders and treatment. But in a healthcare setting, SMS service takes on extreme importance. 

The Joint Commission recently said it’s acceptable to use text messaging to submit patient orders, within certain parameters, but it cautions that critical steps are needed to remain HIPAA compliant. Firstly, it says that in order for text messaging regarding health to be compliant, people must be happy with the service. According to Al Villarin, MD – a CMIO at IT consulting firm Burwood Group – compliance begins with a contract between the clinical and the technical. To remain compliant, any healthcare tool must fit easily into an existing workflow and be well received by everyone in the loop.

Burwood Group executive director Tim Needham, who oversees healthcare solutions delivery practice, agrees and says that new communications systems succeed only if they can involve the entirely of the participants. Physicians, therefore, must only use technology – in this case SMS services – if they deliver value and are efficient. Otherwise, healthcare practitioners and patients will revert back to the default methods that they know.

 

Careful Consideration of Text Messaging Services Is needed

To remain compliant, it’s important that healthcare facilities and professionals carefully screen potential SMS services to make sure they offer secure communication systems and ease of use. Thankfully, most vendors in this area have focused on security and ease – and therefore HIPAA compliance – for the last few years. They’ve developed tools that seem to be well adopted across departments. Still, finding those sms services that the entire industry takes hold of is another story. This has been difficult; the potential is there to make healthcare communications more organized for all professionals and patients.

As part of the HIPAA compliance evaluation process, it’s imperative that each hospital and physician’s office take the time to analyze the effectiveness of its mobile communications – and then make necessary adjustments if needed. A tool is only as good as its ability to serve the people, and compliance is most likely found when it can be proven that all parties feel satisfied with the service used.

June 22, 2016

'Marcher' Malware Targeting European Bank Customers

 

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Android mobile device users in the UK have a serious potential problem to deal with. A destructive piece of malware that steals banking usernames and passwords, called “Marcher” malware, is targeting their private information.

“Marcher” has been ripping off Android users’ logins since 2013, when the cyber fraud program entered the underground forums for Russian speakers. In the beginning, the malware only went after credit card info by overlaying a phony screen on the Google Play store, which asked for credit card numbers, expiration dates, and codes from users. Then it targeted large banks and financial services, focusing on companies in Germany.

The evolution of Marcher now threatens those who bank with financial companies in Germany, the UK, France, Austria, Turkey, and Australia. Marcher only attacks Android devices; there are no reports of an iOS Marcher malware version.

 

Specific Targets Within the Android Market

Android users who have the popular KitKat, Jelly Bean, and Lollipop versions installed on their mobile devices are among those hardest hit with the Marcher malware infection, according to Check Point security company researchers. These users have frequently been receiving phishing emails that purport to be a Flash update. After users click the links in their emails, which they think will let them upgrade their OS and safeguard their devices against identity theft and data loss, Marcher’s process of devastation starts.

The three-step road to havoc involves deception and trickery, as users are coaxed into enabling the installation of the malicious app (outside of the Google Play store) and installing it, which leads to the fake overlay screens popping up on bank apps to gather personal information. These overlays are made to look like necessary components of users’ approved banking applications. Check Point says that they’re easy to create and often programmed by individuals that the original malware operators have outsourced.

 

Banking Apps Are the Target, But Not the Only Victim

About 88 percent of the apps that Marcher targets are banking applications, but this malware also goes after airline, ecommerce, and payment system apps. The primary goal of the malware is to steal login information, which allows easy access to personal information, funds, and more.

IBM says that Marcher’s capabilities turn users’ mobile devices into tools that can harvest authentication elements and credentials whenever the criminals’ needs arise. When a mobile phone or tablet becomes infected with Marcher, those who control the malware can continue to send text messages encouraging users to go to their mobile banking apps and give up private details. This is often done by sending an SMS message that claims money has deposited into a user’s account. 

IBM states that users are typically curious, and that they follow up on the SMS message by checking their accounts right away for the unexpected transfers. Unfortunately, the fake overlay is waiting for them, and it steals their banking credentials. This is possible because the Trojan hijacks the text message, and it fetches for overlays that match a long list of banking apps that the user might have on his or her device. 

These deceptions are just a couple of the ways that Marcher is creating mayhem for Android users. As is true with other malware programs, a crucial way to avoid the devastation is to carefully monitor the SMS messages that arrive on your mobile devices. IBM suggests that Android users not follow any URLs from text messages or emails that offer unexpected perks, bonuses, problems, or tools. It’s best to treat these messages with extreme caution, and to delete them immediately and follow up on issues of concern by phone or on a separate device.

June 15, 2016

The Mobile Wallet Is More Critical to the Future of Retail Than Apps

 

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In recent years and months, mobile payment systems such as Android Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay, have been ramping up, giving merchants ample choices. The consumer demand for mobile wallets is on the rise, and for good reason.

For merchants of all types, from small mom-and-pop stores to Fortune 500 companies, mobile wallets can boost revenue and reduce operating costs substantially. 

Here are five reasons why the mobile wallet is more crucial to the future of retail than apps.

Ability to Reduce Costs

Retailers and food service operators can enjoy the benefit of reduced costs by using mobile wallets. This is because they can drastically lower fraud loss and/or payment processing fees, the latter of which merchants often cite as one of the largest expenses after labor.

With apps, there is still a huge risk to hackers getting into the system and obtaining critical customer info, such as their addresses, bank accounts, and credit card numbers.

More Sales and Increased Revenues

Mobile wallets have the ability to move more consumers through the line quicker, driving up revenues for merchants. If a business has the ability to leverage a mobile wallet to engage and connect with costumers, it can sell more products and services during slower periods by enabling customers to check out anywhere at anytime, or enticing them with exclusive discounts and coupons.

While apps allow retailers to connect with consumers and offer them promos, buyers do not have the ability to purchase items as easily as they would if they were using a mobile wallet.

Catering to the Anywhere, Anytime Customer

More people are performing their daily errands online, creating significant opportunities for retailers to be invited into a consumer’s mobile world. If a retailer creates a rich interactive experience for the mobile-enabled consumer, it allows customers to purchase items both in store and via internet-based mobile purchasing opportunities.

Simplification

With mobile wallets, users enter their information once and then receive PIN numbers through text messages, which are used to complete the purchase. Shoppers only need to enter their PINs to complete the transaction, saving them the time and hassle of re-entering all of their information again for future transactions, as some apps require.

Rich Marketing Platforms

A report recently released by Forrester Research suggested that mobile wallets are set to become an essential marketing platform within the next five years. Mobile loyalty is important for connecting with consumers, and brands should mobilize their loyalty programs and branded content to offer promos to consumers in real time.

Mobile wallets are imperative for brands hoping to use mobile technology to reach consumers. If your retail business wants to enjoy the many benefits of mobile wallets and text messages, contact EZ Texting today. We look forward to hearing from you.

June 08, 2016

How mHealth Tech Is Helping Stroke Recovery

 

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Each year, nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke—an attack on the brain caused by a loss of blood flow, which can result in disabilities such as memory loss, speech impairment, and limited mobility.  

During a stroke, brain cells lose the blood flow they need to stay alive. When brain cells die, it can cause permanent disability, depending on how serious the stoke was and in what area of the brain blood loss occurred. 

More than two-thirds of stroke survivors will experience some type of disability. For patients recovering from a stroke, therapy is one way to improve the cognitive functions that are often disabled after a serious attack. 

 

Mobile Tech Improves Stroke Recovery 

In a recent study conducted by Constant Therapy, researchers found that stroke survivors who engaged in at-home therapy featuring customized brain rehabilitation software, like an app, increased their cognitive, speech accuracy, and processing speed during recovery. 

Each stroke is different, and each survivor will need different therapy to reconstruct or reconfigure the areas of the brain that suffered damage during the stroke. Constant Therapy has designed an app that allows doctors and caregivers to customize the treatment plan to focus on the different brain areas that control specific brain functions. 

The company analyzed 20 million therapy exercises, as well as 100 million data points. Combining this big data with a mobile platform will continue to improve the customization capabilities of the mHealth program. 

“The more data we collect, the better our algorithms become,” said Keith Cooper, CEO of Constant Therapy.

Plus, having the therapy available in an app, and for various mobile devices, allows patients to maintain therapy programs at home, not just while they’re in the hospital. 

Stoke survivors that incorporated at-home therapies, like Constant Therapy’s app, received 5 times more therapy than those only receiving therapy at a clinic. 

The more survivors engage with the app, the faster and more thorough their recovery. Processing speed in language and cognitive exercise increased more than 80 percent for patients who completed more than 500 experiences on the mHealth app. 

 

mHealth to the Recue 

Commonly referred to as mHealth, mobile technology affords both providers and patients more control over their wellness plans, before and after a catastrophic event like a stroke, heart attack, or other serious medical emergency. 

In fact, it’s estimated that the mHealth solutions market will be worth nearly $60 billion by 2020. This includes an explosion of growth in a number of mobile services focused on monitoring, managing, diagnosing, and recovery therapies for patients and providers. 

The risk of stroke can be reduced by regular exercise, eating well, not smoking, and monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol. Unfortunately, stokes can happen to just about anyone without warning. 

The good news is that we’re getting better at helping survivors get back to normalcy. And with mHealth solutions, you can engage in these treatments from the comfort of home. 

June 07, 2016

Mobile and Microfinancing

 

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Mobile’s role in microfinancing appears to be growing, which isn’t particularly shocking. Mobile finance solutions are increasing in popularity due to the ability to perform banking actions with the mere touch or swipe of a smartphone, and many microfinance institutions have implemented m-banking platforms to reduce costs, improve customer service, and extend their reach in rural areas. 

 

M-Banking Financial Service Options

Microfinance institutions offering m-banking provide services such as loan repayment, account balance checks, and voluntary savings deposits. Countries that already feature mobile money networks find m-banking provides microfinance clients with the flexibility they want to manage deposits and payments, resulting in money saved and improved financial security. 

M-banking has also proved helpful to women in the developing world, as they frequently do not have formal bank accounts, and yet are often responsible for overseeing their families’ finances. 

 

Inexpensive and Efficient

Limited capacity and costly operational expenses are among the issues plaguing many microfinance institutions. Mobile finance solves these issues by allowing for microfinance service offerings on a cheaper, more efficient scale. Additionally, MFIs act as agents for mobile network operators and banks. This subsequently allows microfinance institutions to educate themselves on mobile finance options, minus the outrageous investment costs. 

Another benefit is the ability to take advantage of mobile phone penetration in the absence of an m-banking network. MFI clients can use their phones for non-cash purposes.

MFIs interested in using mobile banking options also do so with the intention of drastically improving operations by reducing service delivery costs and cross-selling their other products. This is designed to substantially increase efficiency. 

 

The Future of African Economics

Financial technology, or ‘FinTech,’ could potentially revolutionize economic situations in many African countries. More than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa owns cellphones, but only one-third has bank accounts. Cash is still the main currency, yet more and more startup companies are putting their marks on the financial landscape. 

African FinTech companies include M-Pesa, the Kenyan money transfer system used all over Africa, as well as 22Seven, the Cape Town-based mobile app that links to user bank accounts and makes it easy to track spending, make investments, and create customized budget plans. 

Nomanini is another option. The wireless device looks like a game console and links cloud service software so informal vendors can process transactions easily from any location. Zoona is yet another African financial service that transfers money via cell phones. Other financial tools and services include Cellulant and GetBucks. 

 

The Bitcoin Element

Bitcoin is a form of mobile money featuring no tradable or inherent value and is therefore a welcome addition to Africa’s financial options. Currently BitX is more popular in Southeast Asia than Africa, but it’s entirely possible that it will catch on among African nations, especially given its African bank origins. 

What does it all mean? Mobile money is a viable option applicable the world over. As long as mobile banking and financing options are safe and secure, their popularity is highly likely to increase. 

 

June 05, 2016

How Mobile Technology Can Save Taxpayers Billions

 

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The Missouri Department of Transportation (MDOT) and other “next generation” government agencies are leveraging mobile technology to save taxpayers serious sums of money. Government agencies are notorious for wasteful spending, but various departments of transportation are taking cues from the Jefferson City, MO, location, as it’s become the model and standard for saving taxpayers millions via new technologies. 

 

Mobile Maps

Mike Miller, the assistant information systems director for MDOT, told Forbes magazine all the way back in 2012 about his department’s clever use of mobile maps. MDOT had to close two major interstate highways that year, and instead of shutting them down for “eight years” while keeping two lanes open and endangering workers, the department opted to provide residents with mobile maps and apps so they could drive around the freeways. That one decision saved MDOT more than $100 million in taxpayer funds.

 

Five-Year Plan

MDOT’s former head Peter Rahn suggested an ambitious plan to save taxpayers $500 million over five years. According to Miller, the department is ahead of schedule with plan implementation, as it began work in 2010 and has already met 70 percent of its goal. Among the efforts to make the five-year plan a success are using vans equipped with video cameras that film road roughness and allowing residents to rate them. MDOT subsequently fixes the affected road as soon as possible. 

Other actions in the five-year plan include having every MDOT building and roadside access point feature wireless capabilities for employees, so no one wastes time trying to find information. The department utilizes its social media channels to provide people with updates and news, cutting communication costs. MDOT uses SharePoint to manage its records and maintain 33,000 miles of road and thousands of bridges. SharePoint use has saved the department a great deal in oversight and project management costs. 

These are only a few examples of how MDOT is reducing costs with mobile technology. 

 

e-Construction Tools

Another tech innovation saving DOT organizations and taxpayers big money is e-Construction tools. These tools are defined as processes and technology that eliminate paper use, with examples including the digitization of construction documents for distribution to stakeholders through mobile devices. e-Construction was named as a standout tool in a recent Pavia System survey, with 53 percent of DOT respondents saying they adopted e-Construction and 71 percent of respondents noting that they use such tools “widely.”  e-Construction has helped build roads, bridges, and highways, and makes for much more timely deliveries. DOT respondents also said e-Construction tools contributed to at least 76 percent of on budget construction project completions. 

Representatives for the Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Texas Departments of Transportation all applaud e-Construction tools for their ability to save money and time while increasing productivity and resulting in fewer mistakes. 

 

Challenges

With so many benefits stemming from government agencies “going paperless,” why haven’t more departments of transportation made these helpful changes? One theory is that such agencies are responsible for long-term obligations unlike private industries, which simply move on to the next project once one is completed. A lack of tools customized for project owners’ specific needs is another possible reason. Regardless, going the “pilot” route and slowly using more and more e-Construction tools will hopefully alleviate these issues. 

June 04, 2016

mHealth is Set to Explode by 2021

 

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According to a recent study, worldwide shipments of healthcare wearables will nudge 100 million by 2021, increasing the market’s value to $17.6 billion. If the forecast proves accurate, it will represent a staggering 135% annual growth rate.

Wearable technology is finding the perfect home in hospitals, clinics and doctor’s surgeries the world over. It’s a relatively recent shift in emphasis for healthcare providers, and many are still finding their feet within the digital landscape. But those who have grasped the potential of wearables, mobile technology and other digital health solutions have found it’s helped them make care more efficient, expansive and affordable.

The most penetrating breakthrough has been in the form of monitoring and controlling patient outcomes - often with technology as simple as mobile messaging. Diabetes, heart problems, asthma - countless common medical conditions can be managed with the help of mobile messaging.

Despite the promising growth forecast, the wearable device market still faces a number of challenges. Many cash-strapped healthcare providers are reluctant to invest until they can be more certain of the long term benefits - an understandable misgiving in an age when so much ‘new’ technology is rendered obsolete within a couple of years of being launched. Some healthcare providers are also concerned about the task of aggregating and analyzing huge volumes of data in a way that will give them valuable insights into patient behavior. Mobile healthcare analysts believe this attitude will change as platforms become more widespread and user friendly. 

Then there are the patients themselves. The report found that there were issues regarding the cultivation of consumer trust in wearable technology, with a significant number of respondents saying they didn’t believe in the accuracy of the sensors, or that a device could truly deliver medically relevant information. There are concerns too about elderly patients’ reticence to use smartphone technology, or to get behind the concept of ‘remote treatment’ at all.

Nevertheless, as the market grows, so too will the competition. The more developers get into mHealth, the better it will become, and as more data is gathered, public confidence in wearable technology will grow.

May 28, 2016

Why Mobile Wallets Are Superior to Chip and PIN

 

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As banks and retailers try to avoid credit card fraud by turning to technologies like chip-enabled cards, mobile wallet solutions are still not being embraced as much as they should be.

Recently, banks launched their defense against credit card fraud by leaving the ramifications of fraudulent charges for the merchants to deal with. Merchants have thus been upgrading their equipment to accept credit cards with chips in hopes that the new and more secure technology will keep their customers’ account information secure, and customers coming back to their stores.

The problem with chip-enabled credit cards is that they’re slow to process. In the restaurant business and other industries that rely on being able to provide prompt service, seconds can add up and matter. 

 

Waiting Times for Chip-Enabled Card Processing

Imagine a grocery store clerk having to wait up to ten extra seconds for a chip-enabled credit card to process before it signals the receipt to print. Think about the frustration the clerk might endure and the delays the customers might experience. Why is this new and improved technology so slow? It has to do with the security processes. And while enhanced protection is a good thing, we think there are better solutions.

When a customer slides a chip-enabled credit card into the machine’s slot, the chip generates a one-time code that is sent to the bank over a secure network. The bank then confirms the code and sends the verification back to the machine; the customer is then able to walk off with goods or services.

 

Apple Pay and Samsung Pay as an Alternative

Instead of waiting eight seconds for a chip-enabled credit card to process, customers with iPhones, or Samsung or Android smartphones, can use mobile wallet applications at many retail locations to check out quickly. Apple Pay and Samsung Pay take about three seconds to process a transaction. Android Pay takes around seven seconds. We’ve even heard accounts of some mobile wallet processing taking only 2.4 seconds.

Granted, the length of time required to process chip-enabled credit cards is due in part to the fact that you have to insert the card, wait until the transaction is approved before signing, and then remove the card. It’s not the processing itself that takes all the time. But, with mobile wallets, all you have to do is have your app ready, tap, and scan. Of course, not all merchants take Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Android Pay. So, you’ll have to check for these logos on the merchants’ cash registers or research ahead of time to see which ones use the services.

Samsung Pay is the mobile wallet that’s accepted by most merchants, because it makes use of magnetic secure transmission. This technology produces a magnetic signal that acts like the magnetic strip on traditional credit cards, which means most credit card machines can read it. More banks support Apple Pay than Samsung Pay or Android Pay. Android Pay’s advantage is that it can operate on Android devices, Samsung phones, and even iPhones and Apple Watch. 

Staying on top of security, technology, and other aspects of life comes down to looking ahead and trying to predict where things are going, not focusing solely on where things are now. Hence, it might be best to ditch the old credit card solution for good in favor of mobile wallet technology, which can be used securely on the devices that seem to run so much of our lives.

May 14, 2016

Mobile Technology Is Helping Science Understand More About Parkinson's Disease

 

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A new iPhone app called mPower is giving scientists more insight than ever into the capacities and challenges of people living with Parkinson’s. Nonprofit Sage Bionetworks is a biomedical research organization that collected an unparalleled amount of data through its mPower app, which included a dataset comprised of the daily experiences of more than 9,500 Parkinson’s sufferers. This dataset offers more valuable information than any other study on Parkinson’s has provided, as it takes into consideration millions of data points that were collected on an almost continuous basis through the mhealth (mPower) platform.

 

Unprecedented Data

Sage Bionetworks says that its researchers, through the use of the mobile technology marvel mPower, have received an unprecedented look into the activities and day-to-day changes that Parkinson’s sufferers experience as they deal with their condition.

In the past, Parkinson’s researchers typically relied on small-group studies and data, which included participants in only about the 100-person range. With mPower, scientists are able to view and study data on a larger scale, and the scope of the research is giving more clues as to how Parkinson’s sufferers deal with challenges and treatment pertaining to speech, dexterity, memory, gait, and balance.

 

How Does mPower Collect Data?

The mPower app collects data on the abilities or disabilities of Parkinson’s sufferers in a variety of ways, all with the intent of helping the estimated seven-plus million people living with the disease improve speech, put an end to tremors, strengthen memory, and help other degenerative conditions. 

The app evaluates dexterity by asking users to do a speed-tapping exercise, which the iPhone’s touchscreen turns into data for researchers. To measure speech ability, users talk into their iPhone’s microphone and record their pronunciation of vowels (and other difficult parts of speech) for 10 seconds. They also use mPower to track their medication intake and to see if abilities improve after taking the drugs.

The mPower app gathers data, and scientists and doctors use it to research Parkinson’s on an ongoing basis. Participants using the app are able to control who sees their data, and intended data researchers include mPower-affiliated doctors and scientists, as well as specified researchers worldwide. 

The data collected has already helped researchers view symptom variations that could assist them in intervening in ways never before considered. The mPower app, along with additional text messaging health services that encourage people to stay in communication with doctors regarding their health, has the potential to offer big breakthroughs in Parkinson’s treatment and the treatment of other diseases.