Preserving Digitally the World’s Historical Sites

Non-profit organization CyArk has launched a very ambitious and essential project. The group aims to digitally preserve the world’s most spectacular historical sites. It will create 3D backups of historical sites in a project that aims to… eternity!

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85th Annual AHIMA Convention Exhibit, October 26-30, 2013.

The AHIMA Convention & Exchibit is an annual conference about healthcare management. More than four thousand experts participated in the conference this year. In case you are interested in the field, you shouldn’t miss it next time.

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Healthcare Information Management in the Era of Information Technology

Doctor looking through Records

Doctor looking through Records

Where I come from, and as I was growing up, I remember clearly that there was a dream that many parents shared: to see their children growing to become doctors. Of course, lawyers were equally popular among most parents’ dreams: which parent wouldn’t have dreamed to see his or her precious child graduating law school? Not many, I can assure you of that! Nevertheless, becoming a doctor was probably even more prestigious. Doctors were always seen (and I don’t think that this will ever dramatically change) as prominent members of the society. Unless robots take over one day in the very remote future, doctors will still be around, offering their services to their fellow citizens and whoever needs them.

Societies are not something fixed, though; as a matter of fact, they are constantly changing. Nowadays, with the emergence of information society, there is a profession that rapidly gained popularity. Healthcare Information Professionals (HIM) are altering the professional landscape of the world of medicine, responding to the present needs of developed societies.

The meteoric rise of the role of information management nowadays, paralleled by the sudden death of the era when professionals had to deal with paper records stored in desks and folders, have created the need for specialized professionals in data and records management in all professional fields. In hospitals, HIM professionals are becoming more and more necessary, as the way we understand medicine and the treatment of patients is also rapidly transforming.

Inventory and intelligent data management

Data management doesn’t concern only the specialized companies that are dealing with information management and storage. On the contrary, in every professional field the need for more efficient use of data is urgent. Today, the use of data in order to optimize healthcare for patients is as urgent as it has never been before. Therefore, the whole essence of what is the role of a HIM professional has totally changed.

Education is also affected by these developments. Universities that offer health information management degree programs are focusing more and more on data analysis and research, today more than ever before. Students receive training in computer software programs to analyze data. Generally speaking, it becomes more and more obvious that in our times any professional must have basic knowledge of computer programming and must acquire the necessary skills for a job office that is getting much more complicated than it used to be. If you ask the elder in the profession how it used to be decades ago, you will hear stories of a remote era. Along with the technological advancement even the job realities changed and we definitely have to keep up the pace, even enjoy the benefits of what it’s being offered in terms of improved services and efficiency.

A direct consequence of the increasing importance of information technology in the field of healthcare information management is the larger number of men to be hired in a previously female-dominated profession. What is more, and according to the experts in the field, what is becoming more evident as time passes is that all HIM professionals must be ready to adapt relatively fast to new challenges and that they must keep an open eye to the rapid and continuous changes in their professional field.


As for the future, AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) is already planning and trying to explore new possibilities. One idea is supposedly to try to organize the HIM profession in a large collaborative project, where professionals are working together in the way that NASA’s Mission Control Center operates. The leading figures in the field also agree that a higher level of education must be pursued by the HIM professionals, an education that must include information governance skills and knowledge as well.

Sure, the world is changing. Sometimes we feel glad about it, but occasionally we get stressed trying to keep up with the… changes! One thing is for certain, though: nowadays, education is a lifelong project and everyone must remember Solon, the wise ancient Greek, who once said… “as I grow older, I constantly learn more”… Maybe parents should learn that being a doctor is not the only prestigious profession in the field anymore and that being a healthcare information manager is just as demanding.

Trust: It’s the Bottom Line of Life

Emmanuel Sumithran Gnanamanickam, a community leader and manager of an NGO in South India, is an inspiring young man. He and his small group of people have dedicated their lives to provide basic health care, education and support to tribal groups in the region. He said that his experience with the tribes taught him a very important lesson:

unless you are willing to trust, and be trusted by people, life cannot go on, because a lot of what happens in life is based on trust. It’s the bottom line of life”.

There are quite a few things that have happened recently that made me also think about trust, how important it is for our lives. There is an unprecedented crisis that affects us all. Companies close, people are left unemployed; there is a lot of insecurity and uncertainty out there. Many seem to have lost their confidence in their government or even towards society as a whole. Others feel betrayed as if somehow a contract has been broken. I have heard too many speak of their lost faith in the human kind; they are our friends, our neighbors, our family.

Our lives are woven together as in a fabric, but the connections that used to make society strong now seem to make us vulnerable. What we seem to be lacking of is trust and somehow this seems to have a negative effect on everyone’s life.  It is proven for example that where trust is low, crime and corruption are high.

From a business perspective, IBM boss Thomas J. Watson notes that: “The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy.”

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Trust is valuable and needs to be fostered. Trust is the key. When you are in a relationship, if you can’t trust the person you are with, the relationship will fail. Trust involves a degree of vulnerability; People feel safe in the hands of another therefore share personal information, feelings, thoughts. It is necessary in a romantic relationship, in a relationship of a patient with a doctor, in a relationship between a customer and a company, between a citizen and his government. Trust is a silent contract; people have confidence that the other part will not act or use information shared against their interests and will fulfill a certain role.

Almost everything evolves a relationship of trust. A trivial thing like driving a car is based on trust. If I didn’t trust that the drivers of the cars coming against me would stay on their own side of the road, driving would become a very difficult and dangerous experience. A law is valid only when people trust that it is on their interest and act accordingly.

To give another example, if I was lost in a country I‘ve never been and I didn’t trust the people, I would be quite stressed and full of anxiety when asking directions or any kind of request. I would personally spend a lot of time and energy to evaluate the correctness of the information handed to me in fear of being tricked into an unknown and unpleasant situation. You’ve seen horror movies. You know how it all starts and how it ends. Can you really trust these strange people?

Yes, you guessed correctly, low trust makes you paranoid…

The simple fact is that you don’t have to get lost in a strange country with strange people to become paranoid. Just ask all those who don’t trust their government. Maybe they have a real reason.  According to recent researches, fewer Americans than ever trust their government to solve their problems. The same goes for British and Greeks  to give but a few examples of a growing global tendency.

And what happens when citizens don’t trust politicians? They seem to get drawn towards conspiracy theories. In Greece, more and more people believe in the theory of chemtrails. Paranoia, is a sign of low trust and signifies a severely damaged relationship; in the case of Greece between citizens and government.

We live in times of a crisis. These are difficult times for many that test the strength of our relationships. This is true for individuals, as it is for companies and governments. My recent observations would suggest that nowadays more than ever progression in business demands uncommon levels of trust. Buyers are more nervous than ever before. And it makes sense.

The only way to turn this situation around is by really caring for your customer. You see, the thing about trust is that you can’t fake it. And this is where actions speak louder than words. Action is the only language of trust.

In the field of business, an example of such an action that helps foster a relationship of trust is a software escrow agreement http://www.ironmountain.co.uk/services/software-escrow.

. It is signed between developers and users of software to ensure that despite what happens, in case of an uncontrolled catastrophe, due to a bankruptcy or a merger with another company, the user of the product will not be left without access to the source code that might be required for maintenance, disaster recovery or upgrades. And this can make the difference.

As Emmanuel Sumithran Gnanamanickam said, trust is vital; without it “life cannot go on, because a lot of what happens in life is based on trust. It’s the bottom line of life”. In our difficult times (which will unfortunately be with us for quite a long) this is truer than ever. In the end, “to be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved” (George MacDonald, The Marquis of Lossie, 1877). Just think about it.

Knowledge is power: Industrial espionage, data protection and the quest for meaning

There are people who suffer from a specific condition of the mind called hyperthymesia. It is a neurological condition where one cannot forget anything that has ever taken place in his life. The effect of such a condition is destructive because knowledge is based on forgetting.

Without this ability, we wouldn’t be able to make sense of anything since everything would be always present. Meaning comes through the choice of what needs to be remembered and what can and should be forgotten. Like when you bring in your mind the image of a forest, first, we need to forget about the details of all those single trees.

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If this is the condition of the human mind, what does this mean in a world based on data collection and management? Or, to pose the question in a different manner, if in order to create knowledge the human mind needs to forget, what data does an organization or a business needs to put aside? Should there be an expiration date, where after it passes, certain data collected loses meaning and has to be deleted or should we hold on to all data forever? Would this be meaningful? What needs to be protected?

The right management of data is power. The choices organizations make on what to keep and what to “forget” makes them more or less effective. What remains is all that gives meaning to their existence; valuable pieces of data which when combined produce knowledge.

Knowledge is Power. People know it, companies know it, nation states know it. In this context, certain data need to be protected just like certain data can be forgotten. It makes sense.

In a recent article from Der Spiegel, after the recent NSA scandal and the revelations of large scale data mining by the USA, the author claims that data protection and security has become an issue of even greater importance.

As noted in the article, executives in many companies in Germany have become increasingly nervous and have taken extreme defensive measures. Specific documents that were sent by email are now delivered in paper to the recipient. The only data that are still sent via email are those that have no real value and the company would have no issue posting publicly.

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It has become common knowledge among companies that they have to protect themselves from the eyes of competitors. Spies are everywhere.

They might be working for an intelligence agency or an industrial giant. They might be plain amateurs. What is clear though is that there is a secret war taking place in the web. Just like in real wars, there are armies of mercenaries waiting for the highest bidder to buy their services. Knowledge is power.

In Germany, the number of attacks every day is in the hundreds of thousands. The United Kingdom reports 120.000 attacks every day. Only in the state of Utah according to a report made by the chief information officer and executive director of the Utah Department of Technology Services there are more than 20.000.000 attacks per day, while in a most alarming news story, according to officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency in charge of U.S.A.’s nuclear weapons, reports their computer systems face millions of hacking attempts daily! The number of attacks increases by the day all over the world. It is well documented.

To secure your business’s data, in these conditions, is not an easy task. However, there are trained professionals that have proven themselves on the field of data protection. Companies that can give you a sense of security when it comes to insuring that your valuable pieces of data that give meaning to your organization’s existence and well being will not be lost. Companies that will help you manage effectively the increasing cost and complexity of data growth, of what to keep and what to “forget”. That will train your staff on critical elements of data protection.

Maybe this is the most crucial choice that you will have to make. The choice of the professional you will trust to help you fight most effectively a war of increasing importance; the war for knowledge.

And this is something you should not forget: this war is not a matter of choice.

Disaster Recovery and Why We Need it

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Will Your Data Survive A Disaster?

It would have certainly been absolutely great if we could have predicted all of the possible disasters. Life would have been much easier and comfortable; we wouldn’t have to be afraid of anything. Wait a minute, though; don’t you all agree that in that way life would have been something completely different from what it is now? I’m quite sure you would have agreed on this. And maybe you would have agreed that even though during our lives certain bad things happen we do love the fact that life is unpredictable… just like love is after all!

The unpredictable is an essential part of our human life; we learn how to cope with it as time goes by. Sometimes it’s hard and some other times it’s much easier; the fact remains that no one can have absolute control of his life. Eventually, things that we haven’t planned might occur and disrupt our peace and quiet; the important thing is to know how to prevent them in the future – if this is an option, that is…

A loss of a human life for example cannot be replaced by another; every human life is unique. The rule does not apply to things, though, whatever these might be. We might be able to replace what we have lost in a case of a fire even if it might take some time. Thing is, that there could be ways to prevent some disasters from taking place in the first place. Take for example the fire that occurred a few months earlier in Macomb County, Michigan, which destroyed the county’s servers and entire phone system. There was one thing missing that could limit down the terrible effects of this event and that was a backup data center.

It even sounds weird to my ears; in 2013 I simply cannot imagine that people leave in chance things as important as the proper functioning of a county’s daily operations. A backup data center could have left the county having to deal only with the damages of the building. They would have been sure at least that their data and all of their valuable records would have been safe. Some years earlier a data system failure caused the loss of the jail records of the county.

Nowadays, it goes without a saying that disaster recovery is more than essential for any company or business that wishes to do business in a serious and effective way. Check here http://ironmountain.co.uk/services/records-management-offsite for disaster recovery services by Iron Mountain, one of the leading companies on the field. Their services come as the longed-for answer to puzzling situations that we might confront ourselves with on a daily basis nowadays, in the full blossom of informational society.

What is more, according to reports the county was planning to build a new data center to replace the existing one. Nonetheless, a backup data center seems that it wasn’t in their plans, which surely indicate the fact that there is a strong need for essential changes on data management. Indeed, in the era of big data, there is no room for mistakes like this. The Macomb case should become an example on how things shouldn’t get done; we must always live and act according to our times!

When I was still a child, I honestly couldn’t have imagined that we would have lived in times where information is so much a critical issue. However, one would safely argue that information was always driving the world – as information is power. In our times, though, we are capable of preserving this information much more adequately in comparison to previous historical times.

Stay Connected & Productive

One can only dream on how history would have evolved if humans were once able to preserve their knowledge against time… the burning of the library of Alexandria simply meant that the world lost forever tons of information that could have possibly altered history as we know it. It is certainly very hopeful to think that we live in a world where such catastrophes could never happen again. The digital era which we live in made it easy for us to store and preserve unlimited amounts of data; the only thing left is for us to take advantage of what we have at our disposal…

The Importance of Archiving Data

Memories

When I was young I used to collect all sorts of things: cd’s with my favorite music, magazine articles for things that interested me, coins, DVD’s, gadgets from my holiday’s destinations and even matchboxes for a short while. The reason is obvious: it was the simple desire to store and preserve everything that made me happy or brought to me good memories from the past. Well, it is a habit I kind of miss since I grew up a little bit. I remember the joy and the feeling of satisfaction every time I felt like updating or even checking on one of my boyish collections. It was a true feeling of joy!

What does it mean to grow up? Well, it means that the necessities of life knock at your door at some time (along with the pleasures of the adult life that is). A necessity of adult life couldn’t be other than the need to gather and preserve data that concern your professional life. You might need to do it by yourself if you are an accountant that works from home. Or, you might need to do it for your company if you’re one of the lucky ones that has his own office downtown (in the times of high rates of unemployment around Europe, yes, this is what I call luck!).

Archiving Data

How many times a company had to face devastating results in the light of a mismanagement of its data? I guess it must be many! Nowadays especially, the need of a company to store its data in an appropriate way it’s not only a necessity directed from the need to operate smoothly and efficiently but it is also a matter of stricter regulations and policies concerning data management and archive storage. E.U. recent regulations have generated heated discussions concerning the issue. Nevertheless, what matters in this case is not how things should have been but how one can adjust to new realities.

Guinness World Record/Shred Day DFW 2012

Iron Mountain provides excellent services for document storage. The company simply gathers the documents and stores them to their off-site storage facilities. Web services offered by the company provide an easy and quick access to your archive. What is more, you can label, search and of course request a retrieval of documents at any time. Iron Mountain has over 1.000 storage facilities around the world and has been operating on the field since 1951. Now, this is what I call a safe choice if you want to guarantee business continuity for your own company!

Apart from storing data and information though, there is also another necessity. It consists of the simple fact that some data, some information, needs to be destroyed. And this is another sensitive issue that has been thoroughly discussed by everyone concerned: individuals, companies, institutions and governmental agencies. It goes like this: some information is valuable (it could costs millions sometimes!) and some other is simply, from a point onward, confidential waste, meaning simply waste. And these are confidential waste that a company must get rid of.

Interactive Kiosks

In addition, by being waste it means that you need to make proper use of them! The world we live in faces a problem, we all know it: it is the single most crucial problem this planet faces and will need to face in the future and it’s the ecological one. I will put it bluntly: if we want to imagine that sometime from now in the future normal life will still go on than we really need to start protecting the environment. In other words, your confidential waste must become recycling material and obviously this is a job that needs to be handled professionally.

Businesswoman signing the contract.

Many companies choose to outsource the job of destroying their data in order to keep up with data destruction requirements and ecological concerns. Usually, they are provided with locked consoles which are emptied on a regular basis by the external company’s stuff. The waste will be 100% recycled. In addition, a small company that wishes to avoid signing a contract, it can request on-demand shredding services by another company. That means that they can use their services whenever is needed as a small company probably doesn’t need to deal with huge amount of information and confidential waste that is.

This whole issue is all about responsibility and transparency in case you didn’t get it. I only hope that most companies will comply with all of the the rules and regulations…