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Keep the lights on and your business running
June 15 2016 0 comment

Keep the lights on and your business running

There is nothing worse than having a productive day at the office become undone due to a power outage. Losing power for even a single minute can have far reaching effects on your company’s operations as you need to make sure everything is running properly and all data is accounted for. While power outages can be a nuisance, with proper preparation you’ll have no trouble in persevering when the lights go off.

Power outages are one of the only disasters that can strike just about anywhere in the United States. If you are in Seattle chances are tropical storms are not going to be an issue and if you’re in Miami you aren’t going to fret over a blizzard, but losing power can occur anywhere, at any time and without warning.

A Department of Energy report noted that power outages cost American businesses nearly $150 billion in 2014 and added that increasing demand for energy coupled with an aging infrastructure could see the number of blackouts increase. While weather-related events are the most common cause of power outages in the U.S., it is far from the only thing that can disrupt energy service.

Since this is a problem that will continue to plague businesses, especially those ones that are unprepared, it’s important to be ready should a blackout strike. Here are a few things you should consider when it comes to power outages.

Power outages hurt in more ways than you think

The most notable issue a business faces when a power outage occurs is an inability to work. Employees often times sit around unable to do anything until the power is turned back on. Once the power does return, additional time is needed to safely turn everything back on and to check if all your files are still there.

There are also numerous indirect consequences that your business may face either during or after a power outage. These include a loss of revenue from potential sales, a decrease in customer satisfaction and a drop in your company’s reputation. The more your company is prepared for a power outage, the better continuity you will see and the less damage will be done. While it may be impossible to completely avoid issues caused by blackouts, you can minimize their impact.

Be ready in case of an outage

One of the biggest sources of frustration for employees during a blackout is losing files they had been working on. Autosave features do help prevent this but sometimes you’ll still lose that one important note or sentence you didn’t have the chance to save. Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) are one way to buy your employees a little extra time should the power go out. You're able to plug your computer into these devices and they will operate as a battery when the power goes out. The life of these power stations is anywhere from ten minutes to an hour for some models which should give you enough time to save your work and properly shutdown your computer.

If you want to stay in business during a power outage, a standby commercial generator can help. These normally run on propane or natural gas and immediately switch on as soon as your main power supply goes out. If you aren’t concerned about the lights but want to keep your employees productive, equipping them 4G enabled devices with Office 365 or Google Apps will let them continue to work on files that have been saved and stored on the cloud.

Always test your outage plans

Regardless of what your company's plans are during a power outage, you will need to test them on a regular basis to ensure everything runs smoothly when the real thing does happen. If you utilize a UPS or standby generator, you will want to test these out every six months at the very least to make sure they function properly. If your business has special plans for what employees need to do during a power outage, you should run a practice drill on a yearly basis to ensure everyone is up to speed on their duties.

They key to business continuity is preparation. Let our team of experts help prepare your business for anything thrown its way in 2016 and beyond.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Patients want electronic communication
June 01 2016 0 comment

Patients want electronic communication

More and more people are clamouring for the ability to communicate with their doctor through email and social media. In fact, a recent study from the Journal of General Internal Medicine reports that 37 percent of patients have emailed their doctor while 18 percent used Facebook to get in touch with their physician. It behooves medical professionals to embrace electronic communication with patients but it’s important to be smart about it.

While patients would like to be able to communicate with their doctors via electronic channels, physicians have been slow to adapt to this. Some healthcare professionals have embraced this by using email, Facebook or specialized healthcare communication apps to better engage with their patients.

The results have been positive as patients have easier access to their physicians using technology they are comfortable with. Of course, if your practice or healthcare organization is thinking about embracing doctor-patient electronic communication, it is important to set up guidelines to make sure both sides fully understand the process. Here are a few things you should consider before using electronic communication to chat to patients.

Open the right line of communication

Chances are you don’t want patients bombarding your email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social media profiles you might have with queries about their health. Before engaging patients using electronic communication, establish what media you wish to have patients contact you through. Email is the most reliable method while setting up a professional Facebook page is also a viable option. Whatever you do, make sure you keep your personal and professional social media and email accounts separate. If a patient ever tries to contact you through a personal account, direct them to your professional one.

Setup response time frames

A lot of people believe using social media, email or other channels of electronic communication should lead to fast, if not immediate, response times. As a healthcare professional, you probably won’t be able to answer most questions as soon as they land in your inbox. Establish an acceptable response time within your electronic communication guidelines that lets patients know when they can expect to hear back from you. Something between 24 to 48 hours is ideal in most cases.

Keep things secure

Security is always important especially when it comes to the exchange of health information. You will always want to check that you are sending the right information to the correct individual. It is also a good idea to have one email address or account from which patients can ask you questions from. This will help eliminate possible fraudulent activity. If you do think one of your patients has had their account hacked, or the information you need to share is sensitive, it is best to have them call or come into the office.

Don’t get overwhelmed

One of the main issues from a doctor’s perspective when it comes to electronic communications is what you will and will not answer. For starters, you don’t want to be fielding questions about appointments, payments or the weather. You also don’t want to be giving away medical advice and opinions on a free basis as people will stop coming to your practice altogether and just solicit you for free information online. One policy to consider is to only answer questions from patients based on upcoming or completed visits. This will help eliminate frivolous queries from your patients.

Alternatives

If you don’t feel comfortable using email or social media to talk to patients or you want a system that is a little more comprehensive, there are several applications on the market designed specifically for healthcare providers. Not only do these enhance doctor-patient communication using mobile devices, but can also allow for video chat, scheduling and a host of other features along with direct messaging. These often tend to be more secure than email and social media as well.

Communication between physicians and patients will continue to move from traditional channels to electronic ones. Failing to adapt will only frustrate your current patients and make new patients less likely to consider you. Contact us today if you’re interested in learning more about how electronic communication in regards to healthcare works and what you can do to embrace it successfully.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Scenarios that might require BCP action
May 16 2016 0 comment

Scenarios that might require BCP action

Do you know when to invoke your Business Continuity Plan? A lot of business owners assume they know when it will be required, but the reality is that it can be hard to determine when a BCP is really necessary. It’s important you are able to assess what is taking place, and make an informed decision with regard to putting your continuity strategy into action. Here are few things you need to consider when it comes to invoking your plan.

When a disaster happens, your first thoughts will likely revolve around how it will affect your business and the services it provides. Depending on what occurs, you might be required to call your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) into action to ensure your company remains operational and that any Recovery Time Objectives are met.

Unfortunately, too many business owners fail to properly prepare themselves for taking this action, by viewing disasters as two-dimensional events. Realistically, a disaster has many possible outcomes and is not as black and white as you may think. For instance, think about how a flood can disrupt your company.

The logical conclusion for most business owners is to picture their office underwater. While that is one possibility, several others may also exist that could require you to consider implementing your BCP. A flood may not disturb your office, but what if it strikes an off-site storage facility where you keep digital or paper data? This is likely to have just as great an impact on your business, and necessitate your BCP coming into action.

Here we’ll take a look at a few other disasters that can happen, and which factors you need to consider before implementing your BCP.

Fire

If a fire takes place at your business, invoking your BCP is a fairly obvious decision. However, what do you do if a fire occurs in the same building as your office, or next door to you? It can be a problematic situation as you may not know what, if any, damage has occurred. Smoke travels fast and can leave behind soot, which may render your servers inoperable or highly unstable. There may be health issues at play as well, and sometimes it is not be feasible to have your employees working in the office in the immediate aftermath of smoke damage.

Before invoking your BCP in this situation, you will want to speak with fire crews on the scene about when they will let you back into your office and what kind of damage has been done. This should give you the necessary information on how to proceed, and enable you to decide whether your BCP needs to be put into action.

Civil unrest

It can be hard to gauge what to expect in times of civil unrest. We have witnessed large protests that remained peaceful, but we have also seen ones that have become unruly and destructive. Several business owners had to halt or significantly reduce services in places like Missouri and Baltimore because of the latter. Only time will tell if they are able to recover, or end up having to shut their doors for good.

Due to the volatility of these events, it is impossible to fully prepare yourself, since you can never completely know how the situation will pan out. Instead make sure you and your staff are prepared to invoke your BCP should the situation deteriorate. Even if something were to happen at your premises, if you’re diligent and paying attention you should be able to act quickly and prevent a large-scale service disruption.

Security threats

Most people don’t put things like viruses and security breaches in the realm of disasters, and that in and of itself can be disastrous. Let’s use one of the fastest growing security threats to small businesses, ransomware, as an example. It could be downloaded to your network by a deceptive email and opened by an employee. When ransomware makes it way onto your network, it will encrypt or block all access to your data until you pay a sum of money.

Because ransomware can appear suddenly, often business owners get flustered and either pay the ransom or suffer a long period of downtime trying to figure out how to fix the problem. Either way, money is lost. If ransomware or any other security breach occurs, it’s important to quickly analyze the situation and determine whether you need to invoke your BCP, which should allow you to avoid both downtime and ransom payments.

It’s important to remember that a disaster can appear in many different ways, shapes and forms. If you need help on determining when it is appropriate to initiate your BCP, or have any other questions about how a BCP would help your business, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
4 facts about HIPAA and your IT
May 04 2016 0 comment

4 facts about HIPAA and your IT

While HIPPA’s implementation in relation to technology has been problematic to say the least, things have become much clearer over the course of the past year. However, there are still a few areas in which your office might not be compliant. This isn’t necessarily through negligence on your part, but rather simply a lack of understanding as to the requirements. We look at four facts your practice should know about HIPAA and your IT.

If you’re still confused about which parts of your IT are HIPAA-compliant and which parts need to be addressed, don’t panic. You’re not the only practice still struggling to figure out just what exactly is and isn’t compliant. Here are four important things you should know about the technology your office uses and its relationship with HIPAA.

Telehealth and mHealth are not always compliant

If your practice has invested or is thinking about investing in telehealth or mHealth, you need to make sure it is HIPAA-compliant. While most telehealth technology is HIPAA-approved, you might be required to enact one or two measures to make it compliant. An IT specialist should have no problem making sure your telehealth is up to code.

On the other hand, mHealth might be a little more problematic. While a lot of hardware and apps, including Fitbit and the Apple Watch, are HIPAA-compliant, it is a field that is still very new and constantly changing. Your best bet is to consult regularly with an expert to make sure your mHealth is following all the necessary regulations.

All info, not just EHRs, needs to be HIPAA-compliant

If your office has individually identifiable ePHI data sets on-site, including information like billing records, appointment information and test results, they must be kept on HIPAA-compliant devices and servers. A lot of medical practices that use cloud-based storage for their EHRs overlook this fact. While it’s good to have your EHRs ready to go on the cloud, make sure the rest of your ePHI data is protected as well. If it isn’t, you could be facing a fine.

Your protected health information notice must be available online

If your practice has a website, HIPAA’s rules dictate that it must contain a copy of your updated protected health information notice for patients to access. If you have a website and this information is not currently posted, you might consider getting this done in the near future in order to avoid any problems.

Healthcare business associates must also be HIPAA-compliant

It is not just medical practices, healthcare clearinghouses, and health plan organizations that are required to be HIPAA-compliant. Any other business that has access, electronic or otherwise, to protected health information is also required by law to be HIPAA-compliant. This includes any accounting or law firms you work with that may already be accessing your files electronically to carry out work. In order to avoid any potential trouble for your practice or its partners, it best to ask them if they are HIPAA-compliant. If they aren’t, cease all access to files, and make sure they take action to correct this issue immediately.

Still not sure if you’re 100% HIPAA-compliant? Our team of experts can run the necessary risk analysis, and assist in correcting any areas of your technology that may not be in line with current regulations.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

 

What’s the difference between FXS and FXO?
April 13 2016 0 comment

What’s the difference between FXS and FXO?

It’s easy to get lost in the confusion of FXS and FXO, especially if you’re a complete novice in matters of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). These terms are often used in the telecom world, and understanding their difference is the first step in choosing the right VoIP system that best suits your needs. Here’s what you need to know.

FXS and FXO are the interfaces for analog telephony, also called POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). Using these interfaces enables a call to be established - the ports provide the necessary electricity, dial tone, and call signal.

What is an FXS port?

FXS stands for Foreign Exchange Subscriber, a port that connects the router or access server to end-user equipment such as office phones, fax machines, or modems. In other words, it is a plug on the wall that delivers dial battery, loop current, and ringing voltage to the device, so that the analog signal can be transmitted.

What is an FXO port?

FXO stands for Foreign Exchange Office, a port on the end communication device, such as an office phone or fax machine. The FXO connects the device to the FXS port, as well as to the outside telephone line, requesting the dial tone needed to initiate a call.

How the connection works

In order for a call to work, a telecommunication line from an FXO port must be connected to an FXS port, and vice versa. The process for making calls is simple: when your FXS and FXO ports are connected, you will receive a signal from the telephone company through the FXS port in the wall. This signal is then transmitted to the FXO port connected to the device so that, when you pick up the phone, you hear the dial tone. Then you dial the phone number, which is passed as Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency (DTMF) digits to the FXS port, allowing you to make the call.

When you’re receiving an inbound call, on the other hand, the FXS port receives the call, then sends a ring voltage through the FXO port to your end device. The phone will ring, and you can pick it up to answer the call.

FXS, FXO and VoIP

The signal transmission process becomes more complex when you implement an additional network element, such as VoIP gateway. You need an FXS gateway to connect one or more lines to a VoIP system or provider. You’ll also need an FXO gateway to connect the VoIP system with analog phone lines, and to translate the analog phone line to a VoIP call.

In summary...

  • FXS is a plug on the wall, and FXO is a plug on the phone
  • FXS provides the dial tone, and FXO requests it
  • FXS is a port that receives a call; FXO is a port that initiates it

Want to learn more about FXS, FXO, or VoIP? Give us a call and our telephony experts will be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

What You Need To Know About Data Breaches

Data breaches cost the US healthcare industry over $6 billion a year.

In the last two years, 94% of healthcare organizations have experienced a data breach, with 40% reporting at least five breaches.

Despite the prevalence and cost, over half of the healthcare organizations in the US still do not have the technologies or expertise needed to prevent or quickly detect a data breach.

Did you know that 19 out of 20 organizations had at least one breach in the last 2 years? Medical identity theft victims spend an average of $13,500 to restore their credit, reimburse healthcare providers and correct inaccuracies in their healthcare records.

Why are more criminals targeting the healthcare industry?

Patient records are estimated to be worth 50x what a credit card number is worth on the black market.

Take steps to prevent data breaches in your company. Contact us today at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a free 2 hour suppor visit.

Want to know more about data breaches? Check this infographic below.