Save money on your next computer

At some point, you will need to buy a new computer.  Hopefully it won’t be because your old computer died.  Today’s blog is a suggestion about how you can get a new computer for less.

Andrew Clarke

I recently purchased a new laptop because my computer died, and I needed to be back up and running fast.  I checked Best Buy, and they had pretty good prices.  That’s when I remembered something called “open box” items.  These are items that have been returned for any number of reasons.  Normally the return is because the purchaser just decided that he or she didn’t like the computer.  All returns are thoroughly checked and returned to factory condition, so you’re not getting an inferior product.  The beauty of buying an open box item is that it comes with the same warranties you get with a new computer, you have the same return policy, and you save a minimum of 10%.  I was able to get a very nice laptop for about $200.  A few times a year, Best Buy has a special event where they offer these open box items for even less.  If you’re nice, the people at Best Buy may tell you when their next event is going to occur.

It is possible that other retail stores offer similar deals, so check around in your local area.  You should also make sure you check around for pricing, including on-line.  If you have a smart phone, there’s a free app called RedLaser that will help you find other sources for the product you’re looking at, including on-line.  Some stores offer price matching, so don’t be afraid to ask.  With this app, you can show them the pricing from other sources.

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Guess the average American’s healthcare cost

In case you missed it, the federal government’s annual study on medical spending was just released and it includes data on the average person’s healthcare expenses per year.

So how much are we spending?

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report, the average American spent $9,596 last year.

Yes, the news is about to get worse:

The 2014 number is way up from the $7,700 we each spent in 2007.

And worse:

By 2016, each person will spend more than $10,000 a year on healthcare.

And worse:

That number will hit $14,944 in 2023.

In depressingly related news, a study by Express Scripts was recently released that concluded Americans shelled out 13.1 percent more for medicine last year than they in 2013.

So who’s spending the most? According to the CMMS study, the states with the highest per-resident spending are Massachusetts, Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, and Delaware.

The CMMS also concludes that, as expected, older Americans spend a lot more on healthcare than younger Americans. The reason why those five states rank the highest in spending is because they have more older residents.

So what do we do about it? Todd Campbell of “The Motley Fool” has found a bright light at the end of the tunnel — his article on the study recommends investing in healthcare companies:

“Since the increase in healthcare spending poses a risk to your financial security, it may make sense to think about ways to hedge ever-increasing healthcare costs and seek to profit from investing in healthcare companies like insurers, hospitals, and drugmakers.”

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He said – she said: gender discrimination in healthcare?

In an article entitled “One Big Reason The Ellen Pao Case Matters,” Nilofer Merchant describes the situation of Ellen Pao, a researcher in Silicon Valley who has filed a $16 million lawsuit against a prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm for gender discrimination. As she states “It’s not about the money.”

NEMT CEO Linda Sullivan

Perhaps the correlation to the medical transcription industry is a stretch … or maybe not. Is there gender discrimination in the medical transcription world? There maybe is in a different way. Medical Language Specialists (MLS) are generally fairly well educated and highly intelligent individuals – they have to be to do the job right – and they are nearly all women.

I’ve heard it said that the knowledge level of a MLS is the same as a second-year medical student. The lines, or visible black characters, that these individuals produce has been commoditized, beginning the vicious cycle of the downward pricing pressure from the healthcare facilities to the medical transcription companies and, of course, to the MLSs themselves.

The economic realities of today and the legislative mandates imposed on healthcare facilities has put unprecedented budgetary pressure on healthcare institutions and some things have got to give. Pricing in medical transcription is one of them.

My question is this: If MLSs were largely well-educated white males, would the situation have evolved in this way?

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Never share your passwords

Recently we received a phone call from the IT department of a client who was having some issues with our system. During the conversation it became clear that we had an instance where someone had shared their password. It came out accidentally and was not done maliciously. Our system is configured in such a way that client logins only allow them access to their own data, so no harm was done. We just disabled the user in question while the facility investigated the situation.

NEMT President Linda Allard

I kept thinking about this over the weekend and wondering why anyone would share a password. We all know that we should not share our passwords with anyone. We live in a password world. Our lives are full of them, and we can’t even log into our social media to play a game without one.

We bank online and pay our bills with the click of a mouse. Would you share your banking password with your neighbor? I really like my neighbors, but I wouldn’t give them my banking password. As much as I would love to have them pay my electric bill, I just don’t think they would do that if I gave them my password. I’m sure most of you are thinking “well of course not.”

Sharing your password with someone at work is the same as sharing your password with a neighbor. In protecting PHI, HIPAA has told us that we need audit trails. They have also told us that we need to monitor those audit trails. If you share your password with someone and they make a mistake, who will be blamed for that mistake? What if they cause a HIPAA breach with YOUR login? Who is held responsible? You can say it wasn’t you, but the logs will say differently.

If you job share or share duties with someone and you both need access to a system, you can each be given your own login. That way, the logs will be accurate and you will be HIPAA compliant. More importantly, you will not have to worry about being responsible for the mistakes of others. Now is the time to go and remove all those sticky notes with passwords and user IDs that you allow people to use. If anyone else has had access to your password either because you told them or because it was on a sticky note on your monitor, reset your password immediately so that only you know what it is.

Hey, did I mention Don’t Share Your Passwords?

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Posted in HIPAA, News and stories | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Stop! Think. Delete.

The hackers are getting more and more creative.  That means you have to really pay attention.  It only takes a split second to allow a hacker access to your computer.  One of worst things that’s started happening is known as Ransomware.  Unlike spyware where the activity happens in the background without your knowledge, the idea with ransomware is for you to know exactly what’s going on.

Andrew Clarke

Ransomware is exactly what it sounds like.  The hacker holds the data on your computer or your company’s network hostage by encrypting it until you pay.  If you don’t pay within a specific amount of time, your data is locked forever. There have even been a few police departments that were recently in the news because they were hit … and some of them actually paid!  To avoid getting yourself into this situation:

  • Backup regularly (you’ve heard this advice  a lot … it can’t be overstated) to a source that’s completely separate from your computer.  Having a backup gives the hackers less power, and it gives you more peace of mind.
  • When checking email, don’t open email from unknown sources.  Just delete it.
  • If something comes from someone you know, don’t automatically assume the attachment is safe.  Just because the email says it’s from your friend doesn’t mean your friend sent it.  Is the email something you would normally get from him/her?  Does it sound like it was written by your friend.  If you’re unsure, send your friend a separate email (don’t reply or forward to the questionable email) asking if they actually sent it, or just delete it if it’s not important.  Better safe than sorry.
  • Think before you click.  Think before you click.  Yes, I wrote that twice on purpose.  Don’t fall for scare tactics.  The IRS won’t be sending you email.  They know where you live and tend to contact you via regular mail, certified mail or phone.
  • Don’t fall for random acts of money.  If you’re not expecting money (via PayPal, for example), don’t click the link!
  • Read the name of the bank in the email.  If you don’t bank with them, that’s a clue.
  • Something else that recently made the news … The power company will not turn off your electricity in an hour if you don’t pay up.  That goes back to not falling for scare tactics.

The most important thing is to never, ever, ever pay ransom.  It amazes me that I found articles where some so called security professionals actually advocated paying.  You would be dealing with criminals, so what’s the guarantee that they would actually release your data and not do it again?  In 2014, it was reported by one source that the ransomware CryptoLocker had an estimated 500,000 victims targeted with reported returns of $3 million.

The answer is to backup and click with care.

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