How to Digitize Your Practice in 4 Easy Steps – Part 4: Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe

Health_Security

The number of customers affected by data breaches in the healthcare industry this past year have been staggering:

  • Anthem Blue Cross: 80 million customers affected
  • Premera Blue Cross: 11 million customers affected
  • Community Health Systems: 4.5 million customers affected

The Anthem breach, the biggest one yet, is expected to have damages that exceed its $100 million insurance policy.

That kind of money is quite attractive to thieves. According to PwC, the private information attackers were after can command $1,300 per patient record on the black market.

Between electronic medical records and bring your own device trends (or “shadow-IT”), the transition from paper files to tablets, and a whole host of other “digitizing” practices are changing how we view patient privacy.

The process of securing your patient’s data can be daunting – especially if you’re a small business without an IT department.

However, the fact is that in the majority of these breaches, both within and outside the healthcare industry, implementing well-known security measures could have prevented these attacks from happening in the first place.

Securing your data with these measures is a must if you want to avoid a data breach – even the smallest breach for a small business can be enough to send it into bankruptcy.

A full explanation of all these measures requires a certified security engineer. While they may be pricey, it’s well worth the money.

But like implementing any piece of technology, you should never go into the security contracting process without knowing some of the industry lingo to help you understand what is being recommended to you.

Here’s some of the measures your security engineer may tell you about:

Firewalls:

These are hardware or software devices that filter traffic based on certain criteria such as where the traffic is going, where it is coming from, and what kind of traffic it is. Most routers these days come with a firewall built in, but to get full protection it should be configured by a security professional.

Intrusion Detection and Protection System:

These are devices that are placed across your computer network that are able to detect and/or react to cyber attacks. There are a few different types of IDPSs based on whether they just detect an attack or whether they detect and respond (passive vs. active), whether they sit on a networking device like a router or on the host system like your desktop computer (network vs. host), and how they analyze the traffic (knowledge based vs. behavior based). This last one is of special importance, as one security analyst said that a behavior based (aka anomaly analysis) IDPS could have prevented the Anthem attack. Whereas a knowledge based system utilizes a library of known attacks to determine if the network traffic is friend or foe, a behavioral-based system looks to see if the traffic is deviating from normal traffic patterns.

Encryption:

This is a process of using letters, numbers, and mathematical formulas to make your data unreadable to outsiders. There are thousands of different encryption techniques and technologies. For instance, HTTPS, which is a secure internet protocol, you probably use everyday. If you have any kind of patient data, there are probably legal requirements that say it should be encrypted – and if not, you should be encrypting anyways. Encryption is one of the simplest ways to make sure your patient data stays private.

Penetration testing:

Penetration testing is when a professional versed in information security attempts to hack into your network. They’re looking for all the vulnerabilities that hackers would be looking for in an attempt to compromise your data security. After their hack, testers will give you a report of all the weak points in your computer and network security, allowing you to patch them and prevent the bad guys from getting your important information.

Authentication:

This is the process of confirming that the user is exactly who they say they are. The most well known authentication process is submitting a username and password to log on to your computer. The general rule of them is that the more levels of authentication, the more secure your data will be (the harder it is to impersonate an authorized user). So for example, in addition to a username and password, many companies (especially in the defense industry), will also require the user to swipe their ID card into a reader attached to the computer or scan their thumbprint.

I know a lot of these technical terms may be overwhelming – but there is a good piece of news when it comes to creating a secure environment for your data. While technical controls get all the attention in the news, they will never be as important as good policy and human resource controls.

A few of these include:

  • Training users about how to detect and protect themselves from common cyber attacks (like phishing and downloading viruses and other malware)
  • Conducting the appropriate background checks on new hires
  • Utilizing secure work practices like separation of duties and task rotation
  • Making regular security reviews/audits a core part of your business
  • Limiting employee access to important patient data on a strict need-to-know basis

So now you’re ready to really protect your patient’s valuable information. Patient privacy and security is extremely important, so arming yourselves with knowledge is the first line of defense against security breaches and attacks. The next step is to find a security engineer consultant to help you implement all the security measures we just addressed.

That concludes our four part series on how to digitize your practice. We hope that this information has been informative and useful as you start on your journey to digitizing your practice.

Control Your Healthcare Through Technology

Everyone can relate to being sick. To feel powerless or helpless in our own healthcare is a debilitating feeling. In these moments, we look for a sense of control and transparency about the status of our condition, facts and explanations in a language we can understand, updates on our progress, and the ability to have input into our own care.

Basically, sick patients need accessibility, convenience, and a sense of control.

When an individual falls ill, the most common diagnosis is with an acute condition, such as the flu or a cold. Treatment for these conditions is so routine that doctors often skim over treatment plans, and the patient may leave feeling unsure about the specifics. Patients are turning to the Internet to try and find medically accurate answers, and end up feeling more confused about their condition than they had been when they started.

If patients leave an appointment equipped with tools to help debrief their visit and properly prepare them for treatment, they’re likely to feel more in control, and thus more satisfied.

Chronic conditions, such as a cancer diagnosis, always come with a long-term care plan that involves the patient and their family. While tools like patient portals are available to help distribute information, there is still significant room for improvement. There are many technological tools that can be implemented to assist the patient and family in educating themselves on their diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital recently asked patients and their families which technological tools would be most useful to aid in their care. Many cited expanding a patient’s portal to include their entire medical record, complete with diagnostic imaging results. Others thought scheduling help, such as a tool to plan medications, would be beneficial. A number of families also suggested a tool “to be alerted to schedule changes [in] real-time prompts.”

Although St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital acknowledged that their patient population is primarily chronic patients, they maintain that the suggestions are likely representative of all healthcare consumers. Time and time again we have heard the patient speak, and repeatedly they have asked for improved accessibility and transparency into their care. Developing technological tools to assist in improving their care is the first step in this absolutely necessary direction.

On Everseat and the Future of Healthcare

Tech companies like Open Table and Uber are revolutionizing the way consumers get access to the things they need.  Supply and demand is truly being optimized as new technologies allow consumers more control than ever before. When compared to the restaurant and transportation markets, healthcare remains pre-historic in terms of utilizing B to C technologies.

alexP_prodIn order to gain some insight on the future of the healthcare industry, I sat down with Alex Piguet, VP of Strategic Accounts at Everseat to talk about healthcare trends.

ZW: What is your role at Everseat?

AP: My primary role is introducing the supply and demand technology that Everseat provides to large corporate and enterprise accounts such as hospitals and other academic institutions.

ZW: What is the most important problem that Everseat solves?

AP: The biggest issue we solve is giving the patient timely access to their providers through a free, and easy to use application. Our platform serves a purpose, both on the client side as well as the consumer side.  Everseat helps our clients run their operations more efficiently, while at the same time helping the consumer get in to see their providers in a timely fashion.

ZW: What are your thoughts on the future of healthcare?

AP: I think the future of healthcare is digital. As new mHealth apps and wearable technologies become the norm, the scheduling of appointments is primarily going to take place online. Think of what platforms like Uber and Expedia have done for travel. Healthcare is behind every other industry in that regard, but it is slowly catching up. Down the road, fewer interactions on the healthcare side will be handled via phone as more and more patients find further uses for their smartphones. In the near future, everyone will be booking medical appointments through smartphone apps, like Everseat.

ZW: How can going digital help hospitals and other service providers with consumer engagement?

AP: Hospitals can benefit from going digital because it’s the most efficient method of communicating with their patients. More and more people have smartphones and have access to the Internet. This accessibility benefits providers because the consumers are more likely to be engaged on this level. Also, with HCHAP scores being directly linked to hospital reimbursement down the road, the patient satisfaction piece should be of huge interest to major health networks.

ZW: What type of pushback do you receive from service providers who are interested in the app?

AP: Hospital leadership will often say: “We already have a portal/scheduling app.” My response to that is: That’s great you already have an app for your practice that you think makes things easier for your patients. However, your patient also has a chiropractor, a cardiologist, a vet for their pets, a pediatrician for their kids, and the list goes on. It isn’t helpful for the patient to have a dozen different scheduling apps for each provider for them and every member of their family. We solve this problem by integrating with a large number of EMRs and practice management systems. This enables us to be the singular, patient-focused scheduling app for the consumer, which results in a much better experience for them.

ZW: What recent business trends do you see Everseat following?

AP: The trend of increased consumer control and power is definitely the one that comes to mind. As we move through different phases of our startup, we are seeing patients that are utilizing the app for their hair salon or their veterinarian, who then go into their primary care provider and ask them why they aren’t using Everseat. We hope to get to the point where businesses and practitioners simply sign up for Everseat to keep up with their patients’ demands.

This last question brought up a very current trend, as we have seen in the case of Uber and the taxi industry. Uber’s main focus was the consumer. Instead of trying to improve the taxicab itself, Uber focused on the source, and set out to make things as easy and seamless as possible for the consumer. Healthcare, in many ways, is still thinking about how to improve the taxi, instead of concentrating on the true focus, the patient.  When a group of service providers becomes rigid and unwilling to embrace new technologies, they will eventually get replaced.

In the case of healthcare, as with other industries, the most successful businesses will be those who are the most advanced, or the early adopters. Those businesses are the ones who will set the trend for rest of the healthcare industry and are the future of the industry.

How to Digitize Your Practice in 4 Easy Steps – Part 3: Get Your Share of the Data Gold Mine

The term “open source” is thrown around a lot these days, especially when mentioned alongside the names of tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. But despite it’s deeply technological roots, you don’t have to be a software genius to take advantage of all the benefits open source can provide.

Briefly speaking, open source (and open data) means allowing public access to programming source code (the building blocks of computer software and applications) and data sets.

One of the most popular examples of open source development is the Linux operating system. This is an operating system that has been around since the early 90’s, but has developed hundreds of varieties as both professional and amateur programmers are able to access the original source code and customize the operating system to suit their own needs (and the best part – it’s free!).

A good example of open data is New York City’s open data program. You can go here to find just about every kind of data piece imaginable about the city, from restaurant health inspection grades to a list of all licensed taxi drivers and the average daily inmate population of the city’s jails.

For the healthcare industry, the primary benefits of open development have to do with data sharing and opening everything to everyone. Think about it: there are trillions of bits of medical data being collected everyday, from the newest invention in the Internet of Things, to the traditional research being conducted by Universities and pharmaceutical companies across the world. Like New York City’s data sets, these can be combined by individual practices, hospitals, etc. to come up with new insights into their own businesses and the healthcare industry in general.

So how exactly does this help you?

Imagine using Google data of the top health searches in your area for specific marketing and ad campaigns to bring in more clients. Or, using the latest research data from multiple health disciplines to come up with unique, holistic solutions to common health problems you’re seeing in your practice. You can even share your own data with other practices to increase patient awareness on topics of concern.

Of course if you’re like any law-abiding provider, your first concern about all this data sharing is the privacy of your patients. The aggregate information method of data sharing uses a collection of personal data with all identifying information removed. This is the safest way to use data without compromising the privacy of patients. If you plan on using or distributing patient data, make sure that it is completely scrubbed of all identifying information, lest you open yourself up to lawsuits and legal investigations.

The other way to use open development is by utilizing the open source code that is planted across the internet. With the right skill set, you can utilize this code to create and customize your own applications.

You can find open source code for just about everything these days, it’s all a matter of figuring out what you want to build, finding the code, and then finding a programmer to tailor it for you.

This concludes part three in our 4-part Digitize Your Practice series. In the conclusion of the series, we’ll look into the biggest concern your patients have when it comes to digitizing your practice: their privacy.

Yellow Lines on a Hedgehog; or How Healthcare Innovators Can Win the Future

hedgehog_roadThere is an expectation in our culture right now that healthcare providers can be better, cheaper, faster, safer, more empathetic, more equitable and more efficient.

Tall order. What will it take to make such a fundamental set of shifts from the status quo? Or, to paraphrase an expression used by U.S. President Barack Obama, what will it take for healthcare innovators to win the future?

Health technology leaders gathered in Chicago this week for a summit facilitated by Becker’s Review. Billed as a “CIO/HIT Summit”, the event played out as a series of conversations in which peers shared their experiences, vented their frustrations, and talked about the kinds of strategies, tools and partnerships that will help healthcare providers get better.

Senior executives from world-leading institutions like the Stanford and University of Chicago medical centers participated, and leaders with highly-regarded regional medical centers like the University of Mississippi, Christus Health, Children’s Hospital of Colorado, and the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano in Texas made up the majority of those on more than 25 expert panels. Allscripts, Inc. CEO Paul Black brought a critical perspective on a panel as well and there were numerous players with insights about mobile technology including Everseat co-founders Dr. Brian Kaplan and CEO Jeff Peres.

When professional conferences are at their best, there is a real exchange of ideas in addition to exchange of business cards, and a sense of common rather than competing interests emerges. That spirit of co-creation is the basis of beginning to feel like real change is possible, and like true innovation might actually occur. The following are three themes that came through loud and clear in Chicago at the Summit:

(1)    The time may really be arriving to put patients first.

Cynics may not believe it but leaders in the provider community understand perhaps better than ever that they need to put patients first. As our own co-founder Dr. Brian Kaplan puts it, “The entire healthcare industry has been focused on how the players communicate with each other. A 180 degree shift is underway in which the focus will be on how we connect with our patients.”

(2)    Mobile technology is about to explode and will touch everything.

Remember when a website was just a website? The CIO of a large health system observed that 2016 will be for mobile what 1996 was for the internet itself. The mobile revolution will not just take place inside the hospital. It may happen even more rapidly in the relationship between provider and patient, simply because patients will demand it.

(3)    Leadership means partnership.

The rapid pace of change means no organization can manage its way forward without strategic, durable partnerships. There is a robust community of innovative organizations that see technology as a way to make people healthier. You can afford to specialize if you have partners whose specialties complement your own.

Yale New Haven Medical Center’s Chief Information Officer Daniel Barchi made everyone laugh with the photo of a freshly painted double yellow line that runs right over the carcass of fresh road-kill, probably a hedgehog. Barchi warned against the kind of narrow thinking that can hold back progress and make us do some pretty stupid things. Barchi was talking of course about the line painting crew, but none of us wants to be the hedgehog either.

The Uber Model: Better Healthcare Through Improved Patient Access

It’s hard to imagine, but America’s healthcare system is rare amongst other industrialized countries. This is mostly due to the privatized model that we have been conditioned to deal with our whole lives. It seems that uniqueness is not equated with success; our country is consistently ranked at the bottom of healthcare systems based on measures of quality, access, and efficiency.

The United States is unequivocally the most expensive health care system in the world as well, yet patient satisfaction remains embarrassingly low. It’s astounding that this trend continues in this country despite the increasing amount of technology and innovation driven citizens.

It’s time to demand better health care. Making it more inexpensive is undoubtedly an end goal, but providing more accessible and efficient means of acquiring it are achievements that can be more immediate.

How can this be done, you may ask? The answer lies with Uber.

Now, you might be saying “I thought Uber was within the transportation industry?” Of course you’re correct, but the same model can be applied to the health care world.

Uber has been tremendously successful because of its streamlined, convenient, and accessible approach for users. If patients started demanding the same from providers, the problems of absurdly long wait times and unattainable access to healthcare would be improved. Just as Uber allows users to see available transportation within their immediate radius, providers could allow patients to see open appointments very near to them.

A disproportionally large percentage of Americans depend exclusively on their primary care provider for appointments and referrals, often subsequently resulting in waiting for weeks or even months just to be seen. A recent study published by the Washington Post illuminates the significant problem of wait times; the average wait time for all specialties, including family practice, was 18.5 days for new patients in metropolitan areas, with even longer averages in more rural areas. Some attribute this to a physician shortage, while others believe that the improving economy has caused more citizens to book appointments. Either way, wait times are a trend that’s expected to rise in this country, that is, unless something is done to disrupt the problem.

The time is now to begin integrating more technology into the ancient habits of America’s healthcare industry. Uber has revolutionized the way our country thinks of individual transportation services. Gone are the days where you might stand for ten minutes trying to hail a taxi. These same improvements of convenience and access are at the fingertips of the nation’s healthcare industry. Now we must make this disruption happen.

How to Digitize Your Practice in 4 Easy Steps – Part 2: Homemade Healthcare

Sara is a 28-year-old laboratory assistant at a large pharmaceutical company. She’s a new homeowner, and along with the constant stream of home repairs, she maintains a busy schedule of kickball leagues, pet ownership, dating, and marathon training.

In other words, she’s a very busy woman doing things she loves. So needless to say, she’s always on the lookout for ways to for ways to streamline all the things she likes less – like dental appointments, haircuts, and arranging for a taxi to take her to the airport.

One way she does this is by using apps on her phone to avoid the traditional time consuming ways of doing things…

  • She uses Uber to book trips to the airport (with the simple touch of her screen) instead of calling a dispatcher for a taxi that may or may not show up on time.
  • She uses Everseat to book appointments at her convenience on the same day, instead of having to wait weeks or months with traditional phone booking.
  • She doesn’t have time to run to the dentist, so she uses a specially made camera attached to her phone that is able to take pictures of her teeth. These pictures are then sent to the dentist, who can tell her whether or not she needs to come in for a check up.

Notice the trend? It’s the trend of greater customer convenience, of customers taking more of the service-providing process into their own hands.

Of course healthcare is not immune to these trends. As more and more people gain access to the internet, more and more will be informed of the new tech trends impacting their health care and access to their health care.

In last week’s article, we talked about the explosion of the Internet of Things – the trend towards digitizing devices so that they can utilize the computing and communications power of the internet. It’s this trend that’s driving the trend towards greater customer convenience.

When we can connect just about anything to the internet anywhere we choose, we expect the internet to do all sorts of things.

For the healthcare industry, that means conducting more diagnoses and treatments from the comfort of the patient’s home. It means being able to send reminders to a patient’s refrigerator that they’ve had too many carbs for the day. And it means patients can do post-op on their couches while providers monitor their vitals via a smart phone.

Another trend you’ve probably already seen is people using the Internet to do their own medical research – for better or for worse. But you shouldn’t immediately discount the information they’re bringing you…

First, while it may increase the number of armchair physicians coming to your office with maladies you’ve never even heard of and their equally absurd remedies, it can also provide you with new insights into medicine and medical technology that you may have never thought of before. Or new ways of doing business with them that brings in more money for you.

Second, you can use these experiences to take the time and explain your thoughts on the new information. This will help protect them from a lot of the snake oil remedies that are easy to encounter on the internet.

Thirdly, just by listening to your patient and (at least pretending to) taking their idea seriously you show them that you care about them. A simple lack of bedside manner is enough to drive a patient into the arms of a competitor who will listen – and of course their money goes with them.

So just remember: the trend towards empowered patients isn’t going away anytime soon. The sooner you embrace this, the more quickly you’ll bring your practice into the Digital Century.

That concludes part two in our 4-part Digitize Your Practice series. In Part III of the series, we’ll look into one tech trend that’s finally entering the healthcare industry: the open source development model.

How to Digitize Your Practice in 4 Easy Steps – Part 1: Internet of Things

You can’t turn on the news today without being bombarded by images of smart watches. All the name brand electronics companies are throwing their weight into the field – Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and Sony. It’s easy to see that we’re witnessing the rise of the next big device, surpassing smart phones and tablets in their pervasiveness. But smart watches are just the beginning of a greater trend of smart devices invading our homes. Anything and everything that we use in the home is all the sudden becoming digital:

  • Thermostats that sense and learn when you come in and leave, and adjusts the temperature accordingly.
  • Smoke detectors that can send alerts to your phone.
  • Refrigerators that let you know when your food is about to go bad.
  • Washers and dryers that learn what kind of cycles your clothes need.
  • Windows that tint as the sun rises and un-tints as it sets.

As fascinating as these new smart technologies are, they’re still just minor game players in the movement towards what Michael Wolf from Wired labeled as “Internet of Things“:

In this future, the intelligence once locked in our devices now flows into the universe of physical objects. Technologists have struggled to name this emerging phenomenon. Some have called it the Internet of Things or the Internet of Everything or the Industrial Internet—despite the fact that most of these devices aren’t actually on the Internet directly but instead communicate through simple wireless protocols. Other observers, paying homage to the stripped-down tech embedded in so many smart devices, are calling it the Sensor Revolution.

While all major industries have been impacted by the advances created by the Sensor Revolution, perhaps none has felt it more than the healthcare industry.

As the internet has (for better or for worse) allowed knowledge that was once within the strict purview of doctors to be accessed by the average person, so too will the internet of things advance this trend of allowing individuals to take more control over their healthcare. And that’s exactly what the majority of tech-savvy Millennials (the generation born between 1980 and 2000) and everyone younger than them are expecting from their healthcare providers.

It’s easy for them to imagine being able to view lab test results on your phone just moments after giving blood. Or use prescription bottles that note when you last opened them, and send a notification to your phone letting you know that you need to take your next dose. Or even getting your prescription on your phone, where you can then send it to your local pharmacy to pick up at your leisure.

But these aren’t just visions anymore – all of them are currently in the works by businesses of all shapes and sizes, from small tech start-ups to giant pharmaceutical companies with billion-dollar market caps. A few other mind-blowing and life-changing ideas are already popping up across the Internet:

  • Insulin pumps that allow doctors to monitor patient insulin levels remotely
  • EKGs that can be worn at home and that alert a doctor when the patient is having irregular heart rhythms
  • X-ray machines that send the image to a smartphone or tablet, which are then accessed by radiologists in different states or countries to review

Or how about this extreme form of the Internet of Things – nanosensors in our body that can transmit data a wearable device which then sends the information straight to your practice:

NanosensorsSo how can your practice embrace the Internet of Things?

First, decide if expanding into the Millennial demographic and the Internet of Things is right for your practice. Many offices won’t have any choice but to embrace changing technology and smart devices. Any practice that fights this trend will become irrelevant. You will also miss out on technology that could make your office run more efficiently and save you time and money.

Second, if you want to bring these technologies into your office, a good place to start is to keep abreast on the latest advancements and trends. Some of my favorite websites are BGR, Re/Code, and Arstechnica.

Next, you’ll have to figure out whether the technology you’re interested can do one of 5 things:

  1. Save you time
  2. Save you money
  3. Bring in more money
  4. Bring in more patients
  5. Increase patient satisfaction

The more of these benefits the technology can bring in, the better. A wearable device is good for increasing patient satisfaction, for example, as it allows them to monitor their own health. But once that device is attached to software that allows the doctor to view the vitals remotely, then the doctor saves himself time (only has to see the patient when irregular vitals are detected) and money (he can spend his resource more efficiently on patients that actually need to be seen).

The next step in bringing smart devices and applications into your office is deciding whether to make or buy them. If your office serves a very particular niche or has a very particular need that attracts little attention from tech developers, then you may have to work with a consultant to create your own device or app.

However if you’re just looking to change general business practices like how you communicate with customers or saving money on appointment bookings, or if you want to implement one of the monitoring devices I mentioned above, then you can get away with buying one of the hundreds of apps and devices coming onto the market everyday.

Lastly, like all good things in life, you have to be aware of government regulations that may limit how you use your smart devices and applications. Many of these technologies utilize private patient information, which means you’ll have to take privacy concerns seriously by complying with federal regulations concerning the private data.

Additionally, because many of these devices and applications are used to diagnose or treat diseases, that means they’ll soon come under the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) if they haven’t done so already. That means that soon some of these technologies may require prescriptions in order for the patient to access them, which may defeat the purpose of using them in the first place. It will affect some technologies more than others, so just be aware that it may be something you have to consider before you purchase your next app or smart device.

That concludes the first part in our 4-part Digitize Your Practice series. In Part 2 of the series, we’ll dive deeper into the trend towards greater patient control over their healthcare, and how you can balance their demand for greater control with your practice’s knowledge and experience.

Yours in tech,

Ken Swearengen

5 Ways 3D Printing will Change Your Life

A ball gown, a gun, and an ear. What do these objects have in common? All three can be created on a 3D printer; a computer-directed machine capable of building any object layer by layer. This new, rapidly evolving technology has been used in the aerospace and automotive industries for decades. Now, this revolutionary technology is expanding into the home and could change our lives in many unexpected ways. According to Forbes, the market is expected to reach 21 billion dollars worldwide by 2020. Here are five ways we expect 3D printers to directly affect our lives:

1.    Hair and Makeup products

For years, beauty companies have struggled to find safe ways to test their products. Countries like China demand animal testing in specialist products such as hair dyes, sunscreen, and antiperspirants. L’Oreal recently partnered with Organavo, a human tissue company, to print 3D human skin for product testing. With this new 3D printing technology, we can all look forward to a day when our makeup and hair products are tested on printed skin rather than mice and rabbits.

2.    Pets

TurboRoo the Chihuahua and Derby the dog were both born with deformed front legs. Through the use of 3D printing technology, both learned how to walk. Pushing with his two back legs, TurboRoo now effectively moves on a cart that is custom-built to his body. Derby runs two to three miles a day thanks to a set of 3D printed prosthetic legs. Using 3D Printing technology is faster and more efficient than sculpting new legs, makes the prosthetics easy to replace, and gives both of these dogs a chance at an active life.

3.    Human Organs

Scientists have successfully printed human ears, noses, skull bones, jawbones, tracheas, skin sections, bladders, arteries, and fat. Larger, more complex organs like livers and hearts are in the process of being developed. Today, over one hundred thousand people in the United States are waiting for an organ donation. Printing functional organs will save thousands of lives by allowing patients to receive organ donations fairly quickly instead of being placed on an extensive and potentially fatal wait-list.

4.    Teeth

3D printing is revolutionizing dentistry. 3D printers are capable of creating teeth, crowns, veneers, and inlays in a single appointment. A digital camera placed in the patient’s mouth generates a 3D image of the damaged tooth onscreen, design software quickly fits the image to the new part, and a 3D printer in the office prints the new tooth immediately. Whereas this process would have previously taken multiple appointments and countless hours, with 3D printing technology, it is now efficient, easy, and reliable.

5.    Food

Even food can be printed! A NASA-funded project created a 3D printer that makes pizza. The machine has three nozzles to print dough, cheese, and sauce. By using these ingredients as the “ink” of the machine, layer-by-layer the printer slowly builds a pizza good enough to eat. Chocolate, carrots, cookies, ravioli; the list of foods that can be printed, like the list of opportunities this technology provides, is limitless.

The Best App Ever (that’s not Everseat)

If you spoke German, Spanish, and Norwegian, you’d recognize how each language says “How are you?” in those sentences above…

To the modern traveler (and anybody working in tourism), the ability to communicate in another language has become more important as travel becomes cheaper and more and more people start to move to more and more destinations across the world.

There’s nothing worse than being that tourist who assumes everybody speaks English, and demanding that they do so to suit your comfort.

Even just learning the basics – “Where is the beer?” and “Bathroom, now!”, for example – can go a long way in getting you a more authentic travel experience and boosting your image in the eyes of the people you’re speaking to.

Luckily for you, language learning has advanced greatly over the past five years. It used to be that you had two options – pay for expensive language software (like Rosetta Stone), or pay for an equally expensive class at a university or college.

These days you have a lot more options – among them is my favorite app ever (next to Everseat, of course!).

DuolingoDuolingo is a FREE language learning app available on your Apple or Android device. It uses a similar learning program as Rosetta Stone, and I’ve found it to be just as effective (and without the hundred-dollar price tag).

Duolingo uses gamification to reward you for your progress, giving you incentive to complete the different lessons. There are speaking, reading comprehension, and translation parts that each give a boost to the language you’re learning:

Duolingo_screenshot

I’ve been able to improve my high school German, and am currently preparing for a trip to South America by taking their Spanish program.

They currently have 6 full programs for English speakers, with many more in the pipeline including Ukrainian and Norwegian.

There are only two small downsides I’ve found to the app so far…

The first is that it doesn’t teach regional differences in the language. For instance it may teach you to speak the German found in Germany, but you’d be lost trying to understand the German coming from a Swiss speaker (to be fair though, not even Germans can understand them.).

The second is that while Duolingo provides a great basis for learning a language, it is limited in what it can teach you. You’ll eventually hit a ceiling that only practicing with a native speaker will help you break.

With all that said though, this is a great app if you’re just traveling for a short period of time and/or want a quick and easy introduction into the language.

Check it out before your next trip – it might turn out to be a life saver.

Vôtre en technologie,

Ken