8 Ways To Become A Well-Read Person

8 Ways To Become A Well-Read Person

Have you ever watched an experienced networker in action? They circle the room, warming up and making friends with everyone they meet. Not only do they put on a happy face and show true interest in what the other person is saying, they seem to be able to carry on a conversation about a wide range of topics.

When you’re knowledgable and well-read, conversation comes naturally. You don’t have to stretch for the next topic or the next thing to say. When you become a seasoned conversationalist, your clients, colleagues and acquaintances find you easy to be around.

So how do they do it? After all, networkers aren’t born; they’re made. It’s a skill that’s teachable and easy to learn with just a little bit of work each week. It starts with the ability to have intelligent and interesting things to say. And you can do that in a number of ways.

1. Subscribe to a daily newspaper
Subscribing to a daily newspaper doesn’t mean doorstep delivery any more. If your office subscribes to The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, start there. Or sign up for a digital edition, most offer them at reduced rates. If you travel, pick up a local paper and learn what’s happening in different locations. Or use RSS feeds to follow the news from different parts of the world.

2. Read a good book
Several hundred thousand books are published each year here in the United States, and that doesn’t take into account all the books that are self-published. While it would be impossible to read each and every one of them, you can find the best of the best by looking at the top seller lists each week. The New York Times, Amazon, even magazines like Inc and Entrepreneur put out best seller lists to help you select the most interesting books on the market.

3. Multi-task
It’s hard to fit in everything you would like to do in a 24 hour time period. If you don’t have time to read, chose an audiobook instead. You can download it to your phone or tablet and take it with you everywhere you go.Whether on your commute to work, or your 30 minute workout after work, listening to something new can give you more than enough tidbits to share over dinner later that night.

4. Podcasts are the new books
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to a podcast, you’re missing the newest wave of technology. Though podcasts have been around for years, they are once again picking up steam – which means you’ll find a podcast about anything of interest to you. Head over to iTunes and browse through the hundreds of possibilities. Or check out one of the many apps that cater to podcasts – how about Stitcher?

5. Sign up for a class
There is a world of opportunity right outside your door. Classes don’t need to be expensive or even a great distance from your home in order to open up your eyes to new opportunities. Check out your local parks and recreation center in your community. A community college offers a wide variety of classes, and often have adult learning opportunities that can teach you something new in one evening. Don’t have time to attend a class? Stream it instead. You can find many opportunities online to watch via telephone, webinar or even through video. You can even learn new ideas quickly by following and watching TED videos every week.

6. Find new local events
As a networker, its easy to get into a rut, going to the same events over and over again. When you see the same people, its hard to find new things to talk about. Switch it up and find new groups in your area. Use sites like Meetup to find events happening all around you. Don’t limit it to business or groups a mile or two from your home. Do a few searches based on your other interests too. Business comes from being out there and connecting with new people. Who says you can’t do that on a hike, or sharing a glass of wine at a tasting?

7. Visit museums and cultural centers
Have you taken advantage of all the resources in your community? You’ll find many historical and cultural exhibitions in your area with just a simple search. You can join the museum and be the first to every exhibit that comes to town. Or take a tour to learn more about the native culture; you can find tour guides in a variety of places, even your local greenhouse may offer talks on native plants.

8. Stretch outside your comfort zone
It’s easy to fall into a rut, doing the same old things over and over again. Yet the more you venture out to learn new things, the more you’ll be able to share what you learn about. If a colleague mentions a class that sounds interesting, consider signing up too. If an acquaintance talks about a new hobby that sounds interesting, investigate how you could give it a try. Be curious. Ask questions. These are often skills we had as children, yet have lost as adults. The more inquisitive you are, the more you’ll grow. And the more you’ll discover about the world … and yourself.

How Small Practices Benefit From Electronic Health Records

How Small Practices Benefit From Electronic Health Records

Is there such a thing as being too small to benefit from technology? If you run a small medical practice, at what size will you begin to reap the largest paybacks?

Study after study are showing the benefits of using electronic health records (EHRs) instead of its paper record predecessor are many:

  • It improves health practice efficiencies and can offer substantial cost savings
  • It improves coordination of patient care
  • It improves accuracy of diagnoses and potential outcomes
  • It provides patient access to participate in their own care

And its not just the large practices that will benefit. If you have a patient, if you run an office, if you make referrals to other specialists, moving into the digital world has its benefits.

Close to two-thirds of practices across the US are considered small in nature, with less than 10 people on staff. If this sounds like you, what can you truly expect by implementing EHRs into your practice?

Paper Reduction

Lets start with the basics. Paper causes problems. When physicians or assistants handwrite medical records, the information may be subjective at best. Notes can be misread. Papers can become torn, warn, or even lost. Paper is also easily destroyed, expensive to copy, transport and store, and makes retrieval difficult as time passes. Its also important to note that paper records have been known to go missing as much as 25 percent of the time, meaning xray or lab results may be ordered again and again as diagnosis is made.

EHRs allow easy navigation of an entire medical record from beginning to end. When multiple people throughout the office can access a record at the same time, information can quickly be added and filled in without the wait time associated with paper records. Instead of putting off paperwork until the end of the day, doctors and assistants can make notes immediately, putting more thought and detail into each entry. EHRs can also be used to establish alerts and reminders, and help keep better track of a patient’s diagnosis and plan, to be better informed and provide better care as time passes.

Improved Efficiency and Productivity

When records are kept in paper format, its difficult to share information with patients, with other medical offices, and even with other doctors or assistants within your own practice. By digitizing records, the process becomes as simple as hitting send.

Consider simple lab work for a moment. Once the doctor makes a request, the request will travel from doctor, to assistant, to office clerk, to assistant, to lab technician, then flow back for results. It may touch other hands, going to a specialist who reads the results, and ultimately to the patient who may have to use it for future referrals. With that many touches, its easy to get lost in transition, and to have mixed messages about its original intent. With clarification written in electronic format, every person can see and review the original orders, and make notes at the time of processing, leaving nothing to chance.

And that’s just the start.

As our health care requirements change with new regulation, mandates will continue to demand the use of EHRs. As a health care provider, its easy to come on board and see the potential benefits. But its another thing to know where to begin.

Choosing A System

As a small practice, coming on board with the idea of implementing an EHR system into your office is the easy part. Next comes the task of doing. With hundreds of choices between EHR programs on the market today, where do you start? What do you look for? How do you know if your infrastructure is adequate for the system you choose? What are the best features and functions, when each program begins to sound a little better than the one before? How do you implement it into your office? How much time will it take?

If you’ve done a little research, chances are you can even add a few questions of your own.

The best place to start is by talking with your staff; what features would benefit them most? Create a list of functions performed every day within your office. Then begin dividing the list into “must have” and “nice to have” features.

Implementation will take several months, depending on the system chosen, the number of employees in the office, and the existing systems that will need to be modified or replaced. If you have any questions as you go through this process, I’d be happy to lend a hand.

How To Add More Time Into Your Day

How To Add More Time Into Your Day

Have you ever sat back at the end of a busy day and wondered exactly what you accomplished? Sure, a lot of things came across your desk. You had a great lunch meeting filled with potential promise. But what did you truly accomplish?

The trickiest part of the time management process is finding all of those time wasters that kill your efficiency and rob you of the opportunity to do more in less time. We all want more time – its our most valuable resource. But in reality, how you use each moment of the day is what controls your effectiveness as a worker, and as a leader. If you learn to focus in on results rather than action alone, you’ll soon be able to choose the thing to follow through on that will benefit both you and the company the most.How To Add More Time Into Your Day

Action, Not Reaction
One of the biggest time wasters involves going into crisis mode when a big event occurs. Rather than planning and having things run smoothly, a telephone call or a simple statement from a client or employee can set the fires burning, and suck everyone in the office into problem solving mode. Reaction not only takes top priority, it stops productivity in its tracks as it pulls you away from other things that truly needed to be done.

Yet studies consistently show that many of these crisis situations can be solved with a little bit of foresight and planning. When a crisis happened, what caused it? How was the problem solved? Instead of reacting, completing the task, and pushing it aside to play catch up on other tasks, spend time evaluating the situation. What could have been done to avoid the crisis altogether? What’s missing in your system? In almost every case there are certain procedures that if implemented properly, would have been enough to avoid the situation. Learn from your mistakes. Implement new procedures and stop the next crisis from occurring before it ever has a chance.

Outcomes, Not Details
Leaders like to be in the know; understand what is happening from every direction. As we start out in a work environment and continue to grow as we learn and age, it can be difficult realizing that details aren’t necessarily our friends. Details take time. Details mean specifics. And in many cases, the specifics simply don’t matter for what a leader needs to know.

Leaders need to know when the task is complete. They need to understand the consequences of doing the job the wrong way, and make sure procedures are in place to avoid the bumps. Yet when it comes to the outcome, the only thing that truly matters is that the task is complete, and the end result is acceptable to all parties involved. The details don’t matter. Release control over the details, and you’ll give yourself more time to do what you truly need to do.

Control Technology
One of the biggest time savers we have is also one of our biggest time wasters: technology.

Those little devices we carry around with us everywhere make us more productive than ever before. They also have the potential to chain us to the office 24/7, and suck us in to doing things way beyond the scope of what truly needs to be done.

To gain control over technology, start by assessing what programs you truly need to be more efficient. In some cases it may mean evaluating new tools to provide you with better access to the things you need most.

Next, take the time to develop a plan for how you deal with technology. Rather than glancing at your phone every time an email comes in, pre-establish select times for email viewing: 7:30 am, noon and 4pm are good times to evaluate what’s happening during the day, but also gives you freedom to not be fixated on the little chimes that are bound to interrupt. You can also establish phone and texting timeframes, and answer questions and communications that come in during these specified time periods.

By establishing time frames in your mind, you’ll quickly learn to express your preferences to the people that contact you the most. If an assistant has an important question at 10am, she’ll know texting is the best way to get an answer quickly, and won’t expect an email response and get frustrated when it doesn’t happen. It’ll also set the stage for you to communicate with the people around you in a manner most friendly and conducive to letting you operate at your top efficiency level.

Why It May Be Time For You To Look at VDIs and a Virtual Private Data Center

Why It May Be Time For You To Look at VDIs and a Virtual Private Data Center

Company. Employees. IT. Each have their own set of rules and expectations, and no matter how hard you try and bring them together, you’re bound to run into a few problems along the way.

The company wants safety and security, all at the most economical price. Employees want technology to be easy; available when they want it, and have someone else fix the problems as they arise. Then there’s IT; they try and and bring everyone’s wishes together; keeping the company’s data safe and secure while giving the employees immediate access to all the programs and functions they need and desire.

Every technology strategy needs a few things to remain efficient:

  • a place to store the company’s data
  • servers to integrate the process
  • desktops for the end user
  • security to protect the entire process from beginning to end

And in many cases, companies piece a system together in order to provide for their basic needs. How these pieces are put together has varied over the years, and in many ways the pendulum has swung from centralized control to decentralized control. For IT organizations, centralized control is always easier and more cost effective; for end users, decentralized (local) control provides more agility and flexibility.

Now imagine a scenario like this.

IT discovers a breach in security in the most popular browsers. A simple online test will tell a person if they are at risk, and provide the download patch to fix the problem. This is how it plays out:

  • Fred over in accounting has required a non-standard PC to run his specialty software, but when IT tells him about the risk and patch, he doesn’t have the time to implement (or allow IT) to fix the problem, and he doesn’t consider the risk that significant.
  • Brian in sales is on the road constantly, and chooses to ignore the issue altogether.
  • Amanda uses the company imposed citrix desktop and IT has fixed the browser security issues. But she remains frustrated that IT doesn’t have time to add the printer connection she’s requested, so she can print to the printer in the cubical next to her instead of the one across the building. IT has restricted access to the desktop so she can’t do it herself, even when she knows how easy it is. It just isn’t a priority for the IT department with all the network, server and security issues.

If the company’s technology is being accessed in a variety of ways, the IT team will have a difficult time keeping up on potential threats, or even simple customer service issues. How satisfied is your company with IT support? This may be a sign that the team is struggling to keep up with all the priorities they have to face.

This is where a virtual private data center and virtual desktops can come into play.

For several years now, the blending or moderating of these extremes has been through implementing a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) – terminal servers, citrix, and other VDI alternatives. But these are not easy technologies to implement and master. To be truly effective and stable, they require a high technology investment and ongoing commitment to maintenance. Most small companies and small IT shops either can’t or struggle to afford and maintain this software.

But the world is changing again, and evolution of cloud technologies have evolved and become affordable enough for small IT shops and companies to take advantage of VDIs. Even more interesting is moving the servers to the cloud and not having to maintain physical hardware, just the network. This balance of centralized control, and off loading low-value IT functions (like patch management, backups, etc) is at the heart of virtual data centers.

I’m always on the lookout for great resources that can offer my clients the tools and capabilities for running efficiently in today’s world. And DinCloud has caught my eye as a great resource for running a virtual private data centers and VDIs within your business. They even understand the nuances and complexities of various industries compliance requirements. For example, they are willing to sign HIPAA BAA’s.

If your goal for the year is to make your technology more secure and easier to manage, especially with limited resources, this might be a perfect solution for you. If you have further questions about how best to manage a virtual private data center for your team, I’d be happy to answer your questions.

What To Include In A Company Email Policy

Email. Its one of those tools we have a love/hate relationship with. We know it’s something we have to have, yet its become such a regular part of our lives, we rarely think about all the implications it has on us both professionally and personally. So ignoring the potential impact often becomes the path of least resistance.

In the US, there are an estimated 130 million workers. Every day, they send around 3 billion emails. Yet studies consistently show that not all of those transmissions are business related; in fact, up to 40 percent of them are personal by nature.

There’s more. Studies also show that only 1 in 3 companies monitor their business email process on an ongoing basis. The very thing that could hurt them most, the easiest tool people have to release company information and cause irreparable damage, is also the one thing most companies spend little time thinking about and planning for.

By having a company email policy in place, you can easily evaluate your employees’ performance and productivity, while discouraging them from abusing the communications system. It can help you protect confidential information and protect trade secrets and policies, and also protect from illegal activity, such as sexual harassment.

Does your company have an email policy in place? If not, its time to create one. Here are a few things you should include.

Start with usage
What is considered business use and what is considered personal use? What is acceptable? Clearly define both sides, and list guidelines for each. For example, if personal email is allowed at work, you may wish to set limits on the times of the day they can be sent (during breaks), or how they are viewed and stored. Also have clear guidelines on what can be attached to email, such as MP3 or EXE files. You may also wish to include a maximum file size for attachments sent via email.

Monitoring schedules
Once you have an email policy in place, its important to follow through with monitoring. How will you judge if your employees are using email in the correct way? Will you evaluate email files and usage on a regular basis? Make sure you clearly define these policies to the individual users so they aren’t surprised by the consequences.

Waste of resources
Email can tie up network traffic in many ways, especially with larger files and increased content. If your employees are allowed to sign up for newsletters and visit newsgroups, is there an appropriate limit to what they can receive? Also consider limiting the amount of data they can store. Some files, especially those heavy in graphic content, can quickly grow in size. Saving these files week after week, year after year, can quickly escalate the amount of storage space you need to maintain this much data.

Email risks
While we like to assume that everyone is familiar with the risks associated with email, clearly that isn’t the case when we consistently see stories in the news about cases going to court over email privacy issues. Email has inherent risks every time you type in information and hit the send button. Harmful effects can occur due to their actions. If someone doesn’t want their information shared with the world, they shouldn’t hit send. The more your employees understand this, the more control you’ll have over your email process.

Email practices
While defining the risks involved with email should be at the top of your to-do list, so to should defining the best way to use and send email. It may seem redundant, but consider it to be company security. Share with your employees etiquette tips on how to create great email – write in complete sentences, clearly define your message, use a company signature, use proper punctuation. Also share instructions on sending attachments, and proper storage procedures.

Proper storage
When dealing with customers, it may be important to file and save correspondence for future use. If confidential data exists, make sure you have specific guidelines for handling it effectively. Create a company wide system for storing email – cloud base filing systems work best – and share how to properly store documentation so others have access too. Also define how long email will remain on the servers, and the appropriate action to take to retain documentation for longer terms.

Violations
Make sure your policies for violations are clearly defined. Employees need to see in black and white what is considered a violation, and the steps that will be taken when violations occur. The more specific you can be with actions taken, the more clear it will be with your employees both as they follow the rules, and if they run into problems and potentially break the rules.

How To Keep Your Telecommuters Motivated

How To Keep Your Telecommuters Motivated

There is an interesting thing happening with the way we work. Close to 3 percent of US workers now consider home their primary place of work. That’s 3.3 million employees, not self-employed or unpaid volunteers, that work the majority of their shifts from the comforts of their own homes.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. While 3 percent might not seem like a very large number, the results show that this number is growing stronger every day.

From 2005 to 2012, the rate of growth of employees working at home multiple days of the week grew nearly 80 percent during that time frame. And while telecommuting only grew 3.8 percent from 2011 to 2012, the year was plagued with job growth problems, with the workforce actually declining 1.5 percent. Which means even as jobs decreased, opportunities for employees to have more flexibility and freedom increased, giving more people the opportunity to work from home.

Telecommuting has a lot of benefits. It can be a very strong recruitment and retention tool, can help business owners lower expenses, and can help maintain flexibility in the way employees do their jobs. It can expand your market share simply by having employees closer to client hubs, allowing them to build stronger ties with your client base without the need for travel expenses.

With all of these benefits and more, its no wonder more businesses are turning to telecommuting.

But what about the motivation side of things? Some people can work well from the comforts of their own home. Others, maybe not so much. And if you’re not there watching over them and tracking performance levels, how can you make sure your workforce stays on track, and stays motivated towards the cause?

Start With A Plan

When you hire an employee, they are presented with a job description and a list of expectations. The same should be in place when allowing an employee to move into a telecommuting position. These should be the ground rules of the relationship and give your employee an understanding of expectations. These rules should include:

  • How you’ll measure performance
  • How you’ll maintain professionalism and the company vision through communications made from home
  • Expectations for staff and office meetings
  • The communication process between you, other employees, and clients
  • The number of hours worked, and timeframes to be available

The key to a successful telecommuting program is flexibility. Which is also why you’ll have to determine what the most important part of your relationship will be – hours or productivity? Does it matter how many hours they work if they can provide productivity and complete tasks in a sufficient manner in their own timeframes?

Regular Communication

While regular staff meetings may not be a part of your plan, regular communication should be. If you won’t be meeting in person more than a few times per year, at the very minimum you should have regular phone and/or video conferences to determine how well your employee is working.

When you are in an office situation, you can pick up body language clues by being around them. Are they tired? Are they bored? Do they have fear over certain situations? Are they avoiding certain tasks? That becomes more difficult when you aren’t viewing behavior regularly.

Watch and listen when you meet to determine how well they are doing. This may take time to learn overall telecommuting management skills, as well as how to handle individual responses from each distinctive worker.

Foster Teamwork

Whether you are a company of a handful of employees, or you have hundreds of employees both in the office and out in the field, its important to remember that you are in this together, and you all have a common goal you are working towards. This may take time to build rapport and trust, and to allow all of your employees to come together and learn what they can about each other.

Make sure each employee stays active. If your employees are scattered across the country, do they live in certain regions or cities? Can they get together as a team within a smaller region, either with or without you present? Can they regularly visit client offices to maintain a good relationship with your client base? Can they attend regular training, or head back into the corporate office occasionally to mix with other employees? Make sure they get involved with others on the team, both employee and client based, in order to avoid feeling isolated.

And above all, make sure each employee is motivated to do the best they can do. While that may require different strategies for different people, the more skills you learn as a manager, the more you’ll see situations upfront before they escalate.

Yes, management styles are changing, and will continue to change in the future. But with a little creativity, you can have a happier employee base, a stronger company, and a more productive workforce in a very effective way.

Are You Compliant With HIPAA Laws When You Communicate?

Are You Compliant With HIPAA Laws When You Communicate?

 

Running an effective business and maintaining HIPAA compliance can sometimes be challenging at best.

On one hand, technology has made it easier than ever to get things done at the office. With a quick email, a text message, and sharing a few images, you can take action and get the best response for a patient in a very fast manner.

On the other hand, are you ensuring safe practices every time you hit the send button on that text or email?

Worrying about the implications of bringing the two together can often keep you up at night. But what else can you do?

One recent study showed that nurses waste as much as 60 minutes each work day tracking down physicians for responses. And this isn’t an isolated problem. In fact, I’m willing to bet it occurs in most medical practices around the world.

So in many cases, office staff start taking matters into their own hands. It starts out innocently with a simple text; and before you know it, that one simple text turns into an office wide practice.

Therein lies one of the problems. Have you ever sent or received a text message to/from the wrong person? Up to forty percent of text users have.

Which is part of why HIPAA laws were enacted in the first place. A person’s private, personal health information must be protected from non-secure eyes. And if communication practices – email, texts, etc – aren’t secure, they shouldn’t be used to carry on conversations about individual results. A single violation for an unsecured communication can result in a fine of $50,000; repeated violations can jump that figure up to $1.5 million in fines in a year. And that doesn’t take into account the publicity and the reputational damage that will follow.

There are actually two parts of the problem that you, as a medical practice, need to contend with.

  • Client communication
  • Internal communication

On the client side, you as the medical practice must maintain full compliance regardless of how your patients choose to communicate. Email is prevalent for communication – many patients don’t understand the vulnerability of email, and will send personal information without a second thought. While you can’t control how information comes in to you from a patient, you can take full control over how its handled the moment it reaches you, how its stored, and how it is communicated back out to patients or other referral physicians or practices.

Internally, all communications must remain secure, and meet several guidelines in order to maintain compliancy. Commuications must be stored in secured data centers, must be encrypted both in transit and at rest, must be delivered only to its intended recipient, and must have the ability to create and record an audit trail of all activity that pertains to the transport of personal records.

Because this is a new and growing field, your options are growing and changing all the time. The key is to look for applications that can provide you with both security and with enough options that make communication inside your practice and as you make referrals to the rest of the medical community a snap.

Like Mediprocity. They are a web based app that works just like texting; but it has the flexibility to also be used from a desktop or laptop, giving your entire office staff ease of use. And what I like about a system like this is it offers a simple solution that you can use through Internet access, without having to download software or worry about integrating with other programs you may already use. It takes control over security and compliance, which means you don’t have to think about it; its done for you.

In today’s increasingly mobile world, technology will continue to be the key to efficiency. Used properly, it has the potential to revolutionize not only the way we communicate in the moment, but also how we think of health and wellness and communicate that with patients.