What to Do When Your Business Is Unprepared for a Black Swan Event Like the Coronavirus

Don’t panic. There are a few very simple things you can and should do.

You have a receptionist or guard watching the front door, an alarm system at night, anti-virus software protecting your computers and a firewall protecting your servers. It’s all good except for one thing. You just sent your staff to work from home. You can’t let your business information, including some data with compliance requirements that must be protected, become exposed to the internet.Don’t expose your business, your employees, or your customers to internet pirates and scammers or worse. If you have suddenly found yourself in this position, consider providing your employees with these basic tools to allow them to work from home securely.

We live in an age where the level of risk to our confidential information grows greater every day. The need to safeguard digital communications places a tremendous burden on a business and requires constant diligence to mitigate these ever-evolving risks. During a Black-Swan event like the spread of COVID-19, where you are forced to make a critical decision like sending your staff home with only a few days’ notice, it is critical that you do not let your guard down. The use of secure encrypted email application is the front line of risk avoidance for your business.

Email Encryption is a must

You need an application your entire team can use safely, easily, and affordably. You don’t have the time for extended training sessions or to find out who has what capability at home. You need a product that is easy to install, easy to use and highly flexible, including a compatible mobile app. If you will be sending secure emails to clients, suppliers or others outside of your business you will need an application that allows you to send an encrypted email to recipients to purchase the application in order to receive a secure email.

Check out Send_It_Secure by Protected Trust https://envoy.protectedtrust.com/ Their free trial is being extended to 30 days during this crisis with no further financial commitment necessary. Group rates are available if you decide to continue use in the future.

Team Communications

Communicating with your employee team in as easy and transparent a manner as possible helps keep your team focused and motivated, even when working remotely. There are several products on the market that provide texting and group chats, video conferencing, scheduling and conducting online team meetings, and file collaboration and sharing. To keep things as simple as possible for employees just becoming accustomed to working remotely, combining these capabilities on a single, easy to use application will eliminate a lot of headaches and get your team back to work quickly. The Microsoft Teams application is a good way to accomplish this. There are some upfront minimal fees but they are small if you are able to maintain your employee productivity.

Check out https://www.protectedtrust.com/ They specialize in setting up virtual teams.

Culture Change

Employees like working from home and see the ability to do so anytime as a benefit. No traffic, no gas, and work in your PJ’s if you want. Then they finish their first day working remote and add soon their list can change. No quiet office, no escape from the kids, no business lunches, loss of contact with their fellow employees and delays getting their job done because they can’t just walk down the hall to ask the boss a question. Let’s face it, people also have lots of reasons to like working from the office. Your employees may be in culture shock. Some can handle it and will see it as a benefit, and some will not.

Working with remote employees is also a culture change for managers. Can you run a business without the ability to see your employee’s fingers running across the keyboard? Many managers are “Old School” and have a greater problem with culture change than their employees. Much of the change is in the mindset of the manager. https://paulemcmahon.wordpress.com/2020/03/15/6-tips-in-10-minutes-for-successful-working-from-home/

I recommend a book titled “Virtual Project Management” by Paul McMahon. It was written for software managers but has broad application in any virtual environment. www.pemsystems.com

There are many reasons to believe that the days of working in tall office towers are over. What 9-11 didn’t accomplish, the 2020 Pandemic may. Of course, I recognize there are jobs that can’t be done remotely… but many of them can. The overhead cost to operate most offices, rent, electricity, cleaning, insurance all go away when you lock the doors and let your employees work from home. Lowering overhead costs is often a good tradeoff for perceived lack of control over your employees. Use the current situation to try remote working with your employee team. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Redundancy, Business Continuity And Lessons For Healthcare From The Disaster Field Office

The business world has learned several hard lessons over the past decade when it has come to the need to preserve business critical data. Words like “redundancy” and “continuity” have become the watch words of the Information Technology professional and the corporate CFO. The time taken to perform daily and even hourly computer back-ups is no longer perceived as a waste, but rather as time well spent. Where once computer sales people had to argue the benefits of off site storage, now corporate buyers demand such service compatibility.

Corporate healthcare too has learned these lessons, but for reasons that are inexplicable to those of us who use the systems everyday, this level of security and redundancy does not extend to the most critical of healthcare data, the patient’s medical record. To be certain, electronic medical records provide a greater level of security and data redundancy than their paper predecessors, but the type of duel storage data verification used for the most critical business information does not exist for patient medical records. In the disaster field office we have learned that if a system is going to fail, it will fail at its weakest link.

In 1999, the Institutes of Medicine published a report titled; To Err is Human and the national debate on patient safety began. The Institute of Medicine report highlighted a number of areas of concern, chief among them were medication errors and wrong site surgery. Now Eight years and dozens of regulations later, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) CEO has revealed that wrong site surgery has not declined, it has increased.

Unfortunately, healthcare professionals, despite their best efforts, are failing to create the systems that will ensure your safety in the hospital. Few people are capable of remembering the complete and detailed treatment plan for every patient in their care. Medical records exist to ensure that critical information is at the fingertips of caregivers. The problem with today’s medical records is they are based on a century’s old technology, paper. The risk of a medical error or complication increases when the medical record is incomplete or absent. Unreadable handwriting and failure to cross reference medications for incompatibility only add to the danger.

Would you give your money to a bank that kept your financial records in a dusty handwritten ledger? Would you ride on an airplane in which the captain navigated with a paper map and sextant?

Technology has come to the aid of the patient both at the doctor’s office and in the hospital. Kevin Freking, of the Associated Press recently reported on the first major corporate sponsorship of portable electronic medical records. Applied Materials, BP America, Inc., Intel Corp., Pitney Bowes and Wal-Mart will enroll employees in a central database to maintain health records in an effort to eliminate duplication, omission and error.

This is a concept that is supported by President Bush and the National Academy of Science – Institute of Medicine. Not only with the system collect medical record information and reports to a central repository, but individuals will be able to provide personal and family information to augment the record. This type of system is envisioned by the Whitehouse as a national standard by 2014 and is a requirement for implementation by medial providers by 2008. The problem with this on-line repository database is that it is internet dependent and while accessible only from an internet portal, it is not truly portable. You cannot carry it self contained in your hand.

So how can the medical record undergo validation at every patient encounter, particularly when patients move from doctor to doctor as required by their disease, their job or their insurance coverage?

What if this vital data where contained in a watch, pendent or wristband you wear everywhere you go?

What if every time your electronic medical record was accessed, it was compared to the data you wore and any differences required that your healthcare provider reconcile the information?

W. David Stephenson of Stevenson Strategies made the fantastic suggestion that people carry their medical records on secure U3 enabled USB drives. According to Mr. Stephenson:

“This sounds like a real win-win technology that hits my sweet spot, and in a disaster, a literal and figurative lifesaver, because you’d not only have your medical records in hand, but also all of your critical applications and business files as well.”

Thanks to the falling cost of computer memory and USB Flash drives, the first 1 Gigabyte Portable Health Record (PHR) wristband has arrived on the market. A Personal Health Record is a software/hardware solution used to store personal information, insurance data, medical records and medical images. In the event of an emergency, or even a routine medical visit, the healthcare professional places the drive in the USB port of any compatible computer. With a Personal Health Record, your medical information is available where you and your healthcare provider need it.

Currently there are 25 companies selling Personal Health Record solutions. Although all 25 companies claim password protection for the user interface, only one of the systems uses encryption to safeguard the data files from direct access by other software. Encryption is an essential feature for a Personal Health Record.

Also needed is the ability to ensure that the patient does not deliberately or accidentally alter the records, especially if they record includes notes from medical professionals as several of the systems do. Another nice feature would be the ability to synchronize with the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) at the doctor’s office. With this type of synchronization capability, a central repository serves not only as a primary data source, but an ideal back-up for the USB data.

When choosing a Personal Health Record look for:

* An Emergency Information screen that appears immediately when the PHR is activated

* Password protection with encryption for information stored on the PHR

* Image import and storage for x-rays, EKG’s and personal documents

* Storage for a several emergency contacts (including local contacts and employers)

* Storage for all your insurance information (medical, dental, travel, vehicle, business, liability, worker’s compensation, etc.)

* Lists of both your primary doctors and your specialists

* Lists of both current and past medications

* Lists of Allergies and Reactions

* Lists of Hospitalizations, Surgeries, Past and Current Medical Conditions

* Journals where doctors, nurses and you can record notes for future reference

* Synchronization with your main computer and an online data repository

* Synchronization with Electronic Medical Records at the doctor’s office or hospital

* Tracking of Changes made to maintain data integrity

* USB Drive Capacity of 1 Gigabyte or more

In the coming seven years, all of healthcare will by necessity and regulation convert their centuries old paper technology to modern electronic medical records. The use of Portable Health Records for data validation is the logical next step in this evolution.

What a wonderful merger of form and function that could now save your life!

Google Places – The Benefits for Your Business

Did you know that one out of every five searches on Google pertains to a specific location? It’s true. And from this bit of information, Google Places was born.

Introduced to the online scene late last year, Google Places is a Google feature that produces search results for local businesses. Some consider it a highly beneficial marketing tool for their business; others are unsure of any benefits their business could receive from this localized search tool.

Recently, Google Places has added some new and exciting elements to their features list that could bode well for some businesses, but maybe not all. You make the call on these features:

*Streamline analytics feature: Discover who is searching for you on Google, how they’re finding you, and where they’re coming from right before they enter your store.

Benefit: You can customize your marketing strategies based on what search terms customers are using to locate you. For example, if you own a high-end spa in upper Manhattan and you list services on your Google Places page that customers are using to search for a nearby salon, you might consider keeping those service descriptions on your Google Places page. You might also consider using those keywords in other online marketing platforms such as copy on your website, blog, and social media profiles.

In addition to tailoring your marketing copy, you can also hone in on where your customers are coming from, based on their Google map search for directions to your location. This allows you to consider options such as opening another store across town-somewhere closer to your clients who live farther away.

*Business Information Feature: In addition to posting your business location, you can also post a plethora of business information, including your hours of operation, contact information, photos, payment options, products / services features and benefits, printable coupons, and more.

Benefit: Customers can receive rewards for visiting your business by printing out your customized company coupons on Google Places. This encourages support for your company and helps to build long-lasting relationships with clients.

In addition to building relationships with customers, posting detailed business information also provides your customers with necessary information in one easy-to-read location. This streamline navigation feature reduces frustration on your clients and allows you to reduce the number of unproductive phone calls and inquiries that revolve around your hours of operation, directions to your business, and more.

*Photo Feature: Businesses can offer Internet users a behind-the-scenes (transparent) look into business practices and the faces behind the business. Companies can post photos of the office, the team members, where products are made, where services are offered, and more.

Benefit: Showcasing photos of your business is a highly effective way to open your business to your clients and allow them to build trust in your company. When you illustrate your transparent business practices, you are making it much easier for customers to view your company as trustworthy.

*Customized Code Feature: As more and more businesses begin to promote their Facebook pages and Twitter usernames on their business cards, websites, and in stores, online shoppers are no longer limited to searching main company websites as their source for business information.

Playing off this trend, Google has created a new feature for Google Places that generates a customized code for each business. This code can be placed on business cards, in-store receipts, and business websites. Customers can scan this code into their smartphones and be automatically directed to the company’s Google Places page.

Benefit: According to a study performed by compete.com, smartphone users are interested in receiving some form of rewards on their mobile phone. 36% of participants said they would like to receive grocery coupons, and 29% said they were interested in scannable barcodes.

Taking into account these statistics, Google Places’ customized codes enable your company to cater to the smartphone segment of your market. This illustrates that your business respects your target audience’s time and takes every measure possible to ensure their preferences are met and their lifestyle is catered to.

Does Google Places benefit online businesses?

Although all of these benefits sound fantastic, there is one question that comes to mind. What if you’re an online business with a virtual storefront? Can you still utilize Google Places’ wonderful features?

Based on Google Places’ guidelines, there doesn’t appear to be any benefits for online businesses. Here’s a glimpse into some of their guidelines to help you better understand this conclusion:

  • Every listing must have a mailing address.
  • No one business can have more than one listing per physical location.
  • Businesses that cover a wide range of cities and states must choose one business location (it’s recommended by Google that you choose the address of the company headquarters if you have more than one address). You can specify the area you cover, but you must have one address associated with your business.
  • You cannot use a location where the business does not actually exist.
  • P.O. boxes don’t count as viable locations.
  • You cannot have more than one listing for your business, even if there are multiple locations.
  • If you are renting your property, it is not considered a place of business. Therefore, you must create one listing for the location that processes these rental properties.