The Doctor will Take your Zoom Call Now

the-doctor-will-zoom-you-in-now
Editor's Note: Telemedicine has been around for several years.  We've offered it to our staff as a health benefit at The Computing Center for around four years. What's happened as a result the pandemic is the what was a very slow uptake of telemedicine use has taken off dramtically. Locally, Cayuga Health System, and many physician groups now have telemedicine as part of their regular arsenal to keep us all healthy.
 
To call Lois Geisler reluctant to partake in her first virtual doctor’s visit would be an understatement. The 72-year-old Floridian flatly refused to consider telemedicine, also known as telehealth.
 
“I’ve never thought about doing a visit like this,” she says. “I’ve always gone into the doctor’s office.”
 
But after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered doctors’ offices for everything except emergencies, an online visit with a rheumatologist changed her mind. With no driving, parking, or time spent in waiting rooms, she accomplished in 20 minutes what usually takes her two hours.
 
“Unless you need to be examined, it’s easier to do than traipsing to the office,” she says.
 
Geisler is part of the sea of patients whom the pandemic has sent to the virtual world. Industry watchers are calling this the “tipping point” for a trend that was already gaining traction.

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You are being watched (Does it matter?)

We are being watched. This isn’t paranoia—in the past year we’ve seen dozens of headlines warning us that our personal data is being collected, even as the CEOs of Big Tech argue that our interests and preferences are safe on their platforms. “We don’t sell people’s data, even though it’s often reported that we do,” Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve stayed focused on the products and features that make privacy a reality—for everyone,” Google’s Sundar Pichai later penned in the New York Times.

 

But can data privacy even exist in a world where the data we produce is being constantly monitored? Most people understand and accept that if you search Google for a new hairbrush, you may start seeing hairbrush ads. But what about Google marketing to you by scanning your FitBit data (which Google now owns) or accessing your medical records (as they did with their controversial Project Nightingale)? And what happens when medical professionals need to access your records and are told you don’t own that information anymore?

How Americans view surveillance

If you feel like you’re under surveillance, you’re not alone. A study of 4,272 Americans by Pew Research shows that most people don’t like their data being collected but don’t know how to stop it:

  • 6-in-10 people think that both businesses and the government are collecting their personal data on a daily basis
  • 8-in-10 feel like the data collection is out of their control
  • A majority don’t understand what is being done with their data
  • Social media and smart speaker data collection had the lowest approval rates
  • Conversely, data sharing that was done for a specific purpose—such as sharing student data to improves schools, or collecting data to avert terrorist threats—garnered positive approval ratings

While these numbers aren’t surprising, they also show how big tech companies haven’t assuaged our worries about trading off our personal information for online conveniences, such as Amazon logins on third-party sites. In fact, a majority consider data collection very risky:

  • 81% think the risk of companies collecting their data outweighs the benefit
  • 66% feel the same way about government-collected data

Behavioral biometrics and ethical issues

How about companies that monitor your behavioral biometrics, such as how long you pause on a web page, or your typing patterns, or how happy (or mad, or frustrated) you sound when you ask your voice assistant a question? (Last summer Jeff Bezos admitted to congress that Amazon holds on to your voice data even after you delete it.) With the behavioral biometrics field growing at a 23.7% a year, your every move is valuable and can be sold to the highest bidder.

 

But just like your other personal data, do the companies who monitor you own it, or do you? What if you don’t even know you’re being monitored? Here are a couple of the surprising ways your data is being collected.

 

• Modern connected cars have the power of 20 personal computers, according to a McKinsey survey. The data it gathers isn’t only about vehicle performance, either—it can monitor things like how fast you drive or how hard you hit the brakes. Some can even ID you via sensors in your seat (and yes, they’ll notice if you’ve gained weight).

• Walmart has patented a shopping cart that can monitor your heart rate, grip force, palm temperature, and walking speed as you wheel it around the store. The sensors in the cart connect to a server which then notifies employees to check on customers that hit certain thresholds.

Why privacy should matter to businesses

The GDPR has affected large US businesses with international reach, and state-level laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) exempts businesses under a $25 million threshold—which means small- and mid-sized businesses haven’t been hugely affected yet. But with the possible implementation of a federal privacy law in the near future, you should have a plan in place for the way you gather and safeguard your customers’ and employees’ information. Here are a few reasons why:

 

  • It’s important to your current customers. As the Pew Research survey showed, it’s a high priority for the majority of Americans. If you make it clear to your users that they own their own data, it can also serve as a good retention tool for your current userbase.
  • It separates you from the competition. If you are transparent about your data gathering, usage, and customer ownership—and your competitors are not—it can attract new customers and business partners.
  • It looks good for employee recruitment. In a competitive recruiting landscape for tech employees, demonstrating that you are an honest company that uses consumer data ethically makes you stand out.

 

Dealing with Computer Vision Eye Strain

With many of our clients working from home and remotely, participating in video conferencing, live streams and webinars, there is an increase in those who are experiencing eye strain and eye fatigue. For most, it's just annoying and many of us who spend a lot of time have found coping mechanisms, but this may be a new issue to some.

There are a number of "solutions" involving special glasses, screen coverings, etc.  However, what we've learned is that the basics as sugggested by the American Optimetric Association work quite well.  

Attached is a link to the AOA site with an excellent discussion on this topic. www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision/computer-vision-syndrome

We've also reprinted their specific recommendations specifically for viewing computer screens. If you have questions on how best to avoid eye strain, we can provide additional resources.  Contacting your opthomologist or optomistrist can be helpful as well.

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Exercising in the Office

At the Computing Center, our logistics people, technicians, and engineers get a reaonable amount of exercise daily.  Just part of their jobs. Up, down, moving equipment and inventory, as well as delivering products all over town. Others "fly a desk".  It's hard to keep fit doing that without some conscious thought. Here are some ideas.

Stay fit and focused

You've probably already heard that sitting at a desk all day is bad for your health. According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is classified as the fourth leading cause of global deaths, causing 6% of deaths globally.1 But don't quit your desk job just yet! There are new innovative gadgets that can help you stay fit while working. We take a look at the top fitness inspired solutions designed to help you power through your workday.

Watch your posture

Bad posture while sitting creates a host of problems, from jaw pain to pinched nerves in your back. New wearables are designed to help keep you sitting straight and tall at your desk. These posture-training devices are about the size of a lapel pin and attach to your skin or clothing. They gently vibrate when they sense slouching, training you to improve your posture throughout the day.

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Office of the Future

We know it’s coming. The Office of the Future, that place straight out of science fiction where everything’s connected to everything else, heavily automated and full of technology to help small businesses and their employees be more productive and drive new business.
 
Yet, figuring out which technologies to bank on can be confusing, if not overwhelming. In fact, based on IDC’s definition of future readiness, 82 percent of organizations fall short – with only 18 percent believing they’re deploying the right technology to drive and support the way most people will work.
 
What are we talking about? Here are the five technologies you should be thinking about now if you want to get in front of what’s coming and avoid the disappointment of seeing your competitors get there first.

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