Facebook Friends and Enemies

Facebook is a great social networking site as it allows us to communicate with our friends and relatives. Worldwide people and businesses have their own Facebook account. In the beginning of Facebook, the user experience was great in that Facebook was free.

Nothing is free. We know now, as if we didn’t before,  that nothing is free applies to Facebook as much as any other business.

“Users must stop being cogs in its profit-generating wheel and start mucking up the machine,” I thought this was an interesting start to an article recently, without attribution, by E. Alex Jung’s article, Is it time to quit Facebook?

When in history have consumers not been cogs in profit generating? Never, that’s when.

Facebook knows this and while I feel Mark Zuckerberg was as surprised as anyone by its growth and success, the company is playing a risky game with business owners, small and large now. Small business doesn’t matter to Facebook. Entrepreneurs included in the small group.

However, it’s bad karma to deliberately, across the board, invite your friends in and then not make them feel at home. Does this ring true with you?

Carol Steven, in her article also titled Is it time to quit Facebook?, appearing on LinkedIn Pulse, concludes her essay on the side that Facebook is still a good value. “Consider a small fee, like a dollar a day.”

A while back, when Facebook was still the rage, entrepreneurs and start-ups could rely on the Facebook advertising model as affordable and far-reaching. Not true anymore with the change in algorithm affecting news feeds.

I like Facebook for what it offers with family and friends. As a start-up myself, Facebook appealed to me for the reasons above. I stopped putting quarters into the machine however when some questioned if Facebook pays people to Like pages in ads. This was after a change in which organic views dropped dramatically, and Facebook made no secret of the fact that going forward, organic Likes and Follows would be few and far between. In the Facebook forum, Facebook did not directly answer the question. It’s possible that a third-party unknown is in for easy money. I don’t know.

I guess I’m a bit disappointed that a company like Facebook cannot find space within itself to help small businesses get established with a following that is real and organic. Doesn’t such willingness to help ultimately behoove both Facebook and start-ups? In my mind it does.

The platform is there. It’s ready to go. But Facebook today is a busy place making millions every day off the backs of its followers.

Don’t expect any help or service from Facebook, even if you pay for it. You’re just a cog in the wheel, as the saying goes. Now I have to think of a different original title for this post. I hope it scores.

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Is SAD stopping you?

What is stopping me from getting this done? I’m not feeling like the energizer bunny today, yet that’s no excuse. Someone told me a long while back, when your body speaks to you listen and do as it says. Meaning, if you feel sleepy, take a break and close your eyes. Seek a place of solitude for 20 minutes or so, let your body feel the sleepiness and get beyond it. You will feel better.

Sometimes moving beyond the mental block is as simple as asking the question, what is stopping you?

Try learning something new to add to your many skills. Have you checked out the growing options in free course work from various colleges and universities? If not, Google free online courses. I have signed up for two in the past. I didn’t finish either one. I work best with a deadline. Yet that won’t keep me from trying again. Timing is everything, right?

At this time of year as we move into September, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may settle in. Whomever named that disorder was right on the money. SAD can begin in September or October for many folks and not subside until the first blooms of spring arrive. SAD is a form of depression that occurs around the same time each year. It’s no joke as the symptoms include extreme fatigue and mood swings. Oh joy!

I suffer from SAD. It’s not a lifelong disorder so its onset is tricky to pinpoint. You know however, it’s all down hill after 40. Well, it can seem so at times.

Best advice to stave off SAD is to talk with your physician,  get a referral to a counselor or therapist. If you have a therapist in your speed dial, this is a good time to call. Sleep is especially vital when summer turns to fall. Go ahead and rest. I know, it’s easier to say than do. Who has time for rest?

Learn some stress management techniques. Go to yoga. Find a level and style of yoga that works for you and do it consistently through the SAD months. Really, it helps.

Some say socializing is important when feeling down and blue. I’m an introvert on socializing, take it or leave it. Listen to your inner voice.

Taking a vacation or trip to a sunny place helps, but be warned, you go home to the short gray winter scene that drove you away. There is no escape, we ultimately have to deal with anything we would rather run from.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend. If anything exciting happens, tell me about it. I really would like to know.

All my best,

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No-Nonsense Caring & Daring Self Discovery

I love it when people ask me what I do because I am not just one of anything.  The truth is, some folks are just one thing; like a banker, an insurance representative, a chef, a dentist, a doctor, a nurse, a programmer, and so many more hard-earned career titles. However, that is not to say that anyone is one-dimensional. We are all multi-dimensional in different roles through out each day.

As it turns out, if I put all the pieces of my past together, I am a writer, a health communicator with a nice mix of clinical experience from working in the trenches as a Licensed Nurse’s Aide, and industry experience from a decade in health and financial services, a marketer of services and products, a director, an entrepreneur three times up to bat.

I am not much of a sports enthusiast. I will say I like baseball. I can follow the game, and as a visual person and writer, the baseball metaphors are fab. I am also a wife and a mom, and we have four dogs; two Tibetan spaniels, one Shih Tzu, and one hound mix getting on in years. I am also an advocate for change in many social issues. I’ll save that for another day.

What makes me different, is my young midlife. I often feel that I’m too young to have a husband with terminal cancer diagnosed in 2008. I’m too young to have to support his illness and illnesses that go along with cancer; to be strong in the face of his weaknesses.  I fear I can’t possibly be strong enough for him and me, and our son, and all that goes along at end of life.  What scares me the most today is knowing all treatments and therapies are exhausted. If you have stood in shoes like mine, you are different too. Life like this changes people and families and friends.

So, once again, I am trying something new in my professional development (Batter up!). In an effort to support my family and hopefully to help others like me, I  am going the Full Monty on ideas I’ve put off for various reasons. Mainly anxiety and fear.  I must stop self-defeating thoughts. We all have demons, a point so poignant and clear with the suicide of actor and comedian Robin  Williams. There is a saying that writing is easy,  just open a vein. The truth is, we really don’t know where our talents lie until we try.

Don’t be mislead. I’m not going the Full Monty nude. I mean that I am going transparent with facts and fears blocking my path (Play ball!). I’m going to dare to dig deep on issues I’d rather run from. I have found faith, and some peace through yoga, and the benefits of physical fitness. Maybe I’ll rediscover my quirky sense of humor. I have to admit, I’m tired of all the seriousness of the day.

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Bring your best brand to market

Still, after all this time it happens that someone new to me says they don’t take part in social media. I smile and accept the statement, generally. However, if it comes from someone at the helm of a business, they are not tune with today.

  • True, not everyone is on Facebook.
  • True, not everyone is on Twitter. Twitter is another animal altogether. It’s not so much that Twitter requires skill, Twitter requires a good deal of chutzpah.

You need someone on board full-time to really benefit from social media, all platforms. Two, at the rate things are changing. Keep this in mind at budget time.

Sometimes the objection is fear of having to converse with a customer or visitor to their Facebook page. After all, isn’t that what Facebook is about? Other times I hear “Oh, I couldn’t learn that at this point…”

  • True,  I try to avoid using too much energy and time with folks who have no interest. I’m not a salesperson, I just help your business with what tools I have. Online chat requires chutzpah. Feeling out of control is a pervading issue for those intimidated by social. Yet control is in your hands, you can mold it as you wish. Are you the messenger or is your chosen platform your messenger?
  • You have control over the message and messenger. Say you have a brand message you want others to know about, be they in your community or across the country or around the world, nothing gets it there faster than Twitter. However, there are contenders. One tweet, no matter how finely tuned the 140 characters are,  if it’s not delivered repeatedly,  it’s lost. So are you.

In my experience,  the business chief of whatever who recoils from Twitter, not watching or participating is lost at the need for repetition. They don’t see it because they don’t look at it, therefore don’t understand. Look back in time (or watch Mad Men on Netflix like I did) and it’s a lot like planning your television ad campaign. Repetition is so necessary that you deserve a dedicated person in the budget. Think Mad Men style of advertising and branding yet realize engagement is crucial. It takes a measure of understanding and investing to get the mixture spot-on. If  a dedicated social media expert is not a budget item,  you will spend far more than you need to. Choose not to take part and you lose market share, new customers, or worse, lose to your competition. Social is that important.

Know who your customer is and target your effort to where they are. If you target  millennial clients, Facebook is not where you want to put all of your muscle, but it cannot be omitted from the mix. You want a mix with a bullseye on your target audience. This requires thought and planning.

  • True, Facebook boasts 50 million pages, 1.28 billion active users
  • True, there are several other sources of social that cannot be overlooked in today’s market: Instagram, Google+, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Vine, and of course, blogs.

That’s all for today. Other sources and the importance they carry will be the subject of posts to come.  Oh, let’s not forget the nail biter, analysis, and what it all means. I’ve had a debilitating case of writer’s block for some weeks now. I hope the worst is behind me.

Please stay tuned, bring some friends in and stay social!


(source: Social Media 2014)


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Building Sustainable Communities with Public Health Professionals

Public health was a large part of my graduate studies. I recall after a long day at work and late night of class work I would drift off to sleep thinking about rebuilding communities; bringing health care to places that had few choices. I know that sounds like an exaggeration–dreaming of rebuilding communities. Who does that?

In my grandest dream, a public health association opens in a town fraught with insecurities. Health insecurities and others such as, food, shelter, employment. These insecurities make an unstable, poor living environment. Over time, this insecure town or city in my head would blossom into a thriving community. It all begins with health.

Now remember, that was a dream. In reality, I  use my skills and passions to serve the masses of this state. Later I may go to another, or just a struggling population in the U.S. that is lacking essential services. There are more than I want to count of such communities in this country. The essentials lie in the breaking down the masses—to people, then bringing in services for the masses. The process is, of course, more complicated than I can say here.

We all need public health. It is, in my opinion, the most under appreciated aspect of health. Often, people do not realize that they benefit from local public health professionals. Public health is about people and sustaining communities. The people I work with share my passion for a thriving, healthy population. New Hampshire already is that way. Still, we want to do more.

Where does your community or state stand on the issue of public health? Do you know? Support your local public health affiliate where you live. Your support keeps people healthy.

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Obama administration approves reference pricing for insurers

If reference pricing is not a term you hear about often—or ever, let’s talk about it now. By definition, reference point pricing is a strategy or a basis or standard for evaluation. It’s like the suggested manufacturers retail price. Check out the short video as another example.

News from the White House is the Obama administration approved reference pricing for insurers. In other words, insurers can cap payments to providers.

I am a consumer and you are a consumer. At some time, we are all healthcare consumers. In the marketing and consumer world of retail, reference point pricing sells merchandise or services. As a strategy it works in subtle consumer convincing that they are paying a reasonable priced for a service or product. This strategy reflects how much consumers expect to pay. We do it all the time. If the price is too high, we shop around or wait for a sale.

In an article released today by Healthcaredive.com, reference pricing will save more than $10,000 per hip or knee replacement surgery. That is a figure to stop and think about. The burden to the people is the difference, or the balance, between the reference price and the hospital charge. The burden to physicians is a smaller reimbursement.

There are 332,000 hip replacement procedures happening in a year in this country. In addition, just for the sake of knowing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also report 719,000 knee replacements. Saving $10,000 per procedure is a staggering amount of money. The difference between what the hospital charges and what insurers will pay, falls to the patient.

The sum of money a hospital pays for collections now will be higher in the future. Individuals and families that, now, have medical bills they cannot pay, can expect more of the same down the road. It all comes down to shopping. If you need that hip replacement, you will want to shop around.

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Teens FaceTime and Virtual Reality

Imagine this scene:

You are the parent of Ann. Ann has just turned 17 two weeks ago. You know that Ann dates a boy named Todd. They have been together several months. Todd is a senior in high school. You have not met his family.

Let’s peeby Xenattk into Todd’s home. Todd’s parents, Mark and Kelly, know that Todd is always texting to Ann, and FaceTime is common too. Todd turned 18 early in the year. Mark and Kelly are coping with the challenges of Todd’s independence.

Todd’s parents are aware that Todd is on the computer in his room and constantly connected to Ann. They know this from various times when they have knocked on his door for any reason, and even when Todd is home during the day.

Early one morning, Todd’s father knocked gently at Todd’s bedroom door thinking Todd overslept. Mark opened the door and saw his sleeping son. Beside Todd on the bed, his smartphone was face up, on FaceTime, connected to Ann, who was also sleeping, nude.

Mark stood stunned for a moment. It seems the too young lovers really do connect 24/7. Mark left the room quietly without waking Todd. Days later Mark told Kelly about the scene. Kelly believed they ought to tell Ann’s parents. Or at least test the water and see what they know about the couple.

Now, we have heard of sexting among teens, and adults too sometimes, but that is different, isn’t it? Still, risky and not recommended behavior. As parents, we face the eventual sex talk with our growing children. Today however, that talk extends into social media of all forms. In general, it’s not wise to put anything online that you would not say to your mother’s face. It may come back to haunt you.

In the case of Mark and Kelly, their son was 17 when he met Ann. Ann was 16. Neither Mark nor Kelly has met Ann’s parents. Have you faced this FaceTime scene in your home? What did you do about it? Do you think Ann’s parents ought to know about this? Assuming, of course, they do not know.

Aside from the social etiquette, this story touches on health communication at a most personal level. Would you want to know if your young teen daughter is virtually sleeping with her boyfriend? The implications are boundless. As parents are we hypocrites, remembering our own teenage years? If you had the technology back then, how would you feel? What would you do?


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Patient TalkBack: Exceptional Health Care at Your Command

Have you ever been angry after a visit with your doctor? The reaction to that question varies from eye rolling “Oh yes!” to table slap, “Let me tell you….”. People are not shy in discussing frustration with their health care providers. On the other hand, people are also open when they say what wonderful care Dr. so and so provided at a critical time.

If you cannot relate, you know someone who had a disappointing experience with healthcare. It’s frustrating communication in some cases. Or, disappointment with the staff.  Or, maybe you waited twenty or more minutes in the waiting room, or worse, you waited in the exam room. That kind of waiting can change the patient experience dramatically.On the other side of that wait, is a visit too brief. Your physician was in and out of the room so fast, you couldn’t think straight.

You may know by now the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is holding physicians accountable for care, tying quality from the patient point of view with reimbursement at the federal level for Medicaid and Medicare.

Haven’t they always been accountable? The answer to that is yes, and no, not in this way. Thinking back to the late 80s and my first professional experience with health care, insurance, reimbursements, lifetime caps, pre-existing conditions, times have changed for the better. Then, in my mind I recall the 90s when thought turned to the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). The HMO model would curtail costs via managed care, it was thought.  Another decade, into the new millennium, sticker shock in health care by the late 90s brought cries for reform into the 21 century. National spending for physician services rose like rockets in the 1980s from $63.1 billion to $117.6 billion in 1989. From there, cost for care continues to escalate today.

Now, however, the ACA is the new game in town. Technology today tries to improve the patient experience and satisfy care providers too. The Health Innovators are launching a patient satisfaction tool that, used properly by physician organizations and consumer patients, will level the playing field for both sides. Patients will be happier controlling their care through Patient TalkBack and physicians will be happy because their reimbursements, linked to the federal government quality assurance scores will rise. It’s a win-win. So, tell your friends, family, and most importantly your health care team that Patient TalkBack  will be a win-win for all concerned. Patient TalkBack has identified the pain points of health care and patient engagement, satisfaction, and education. Patient TalkBack is well received in the Boston and Cambridge areas and the team of representatives from Health Innovators is working into other states as well. In fact, Joslin Diabetes Center is using it, as well as Tufts Medical Center, and St. Vincent Hospital. Patient Talk Back is a mobile solution, step-by-step on a smartphone or tablet. You say you don’t have a smartphone? That’s okay, your care provider may have Patient Talk Back available on a tablet or laptop for you–before you leave their office.

The answers, or data, that you give is seen in real-time by the designated staff person for immediate action. Believe me, health care providers want Patient TalkBack to be successful, not only for their population of patients, but also so they are certain that the care they give truly is exceptional.

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Risk Assessment in Research and Development (R&D)

Health tech apps are rising and falling as developers across the spectrum scramble to create, improve, out-do, the current generation of devices. Medical devices are super hot in health care present and future.

To some degree following trends in the industry can give us a glimpse of what is to come. Still, foresight and staying power are tough for all involved in health and tech entrepreneurship and engineering development, R&D.

Nike illustrates well the cut-throat action necessary to keep up or grow today. In December, 2013, Mashable published a list of health tech trends to watch in 2014. One hot category they note is wearable tech such as the Fitbit and Nike Fuelband.

A mere four months ago the wearable devices group; devices that encourage healthy habits–get-healthy apps that track and reward users fitness–were leaders. Today, Techcrunch announces Nike is abandoning the Fuelband. Health tech is progressing so fast, the Fuelband couldn’t keep up and big companies like Nike know when to kill their children. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Many health start-ups end up killing themselves before they ever get to have children (metaphorically again).

Know when to pause and when to stop. By pause I mean do an assessment of the business you are trying to create. Have you met goals so far? Are you on target? Do you even know what your goals and target are? These are simple examples of many critical questions. The answers lie in the experience each team member brings to the table, and in how well the team follows success trails, trails that no doubt include a few failures.

When to stop is a much harder call. We all know the Nike company walks in big shoes. More than that,  everyone knows that Nike has been around for a long time. Long enough, monitoring trends and competition, to know when to stop and move on to R&D new ideas in which they can compete.

Update from Techcrunch: Nike isn’t abandoning Fuelband, new color options coming soon.

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Funding innovation and the entrepreneur

Do you watch Shark Tank on your flat-screen? It’s a great look into the minds of venture capitalists and the budding new business. As you know, not all of them succeed with the Sharks, yet some do, and often the producers give us a view of these businesses one year later–after the VC Shark has helped them out. What a wonderful feeling that must be. Of course, that’s not how it happens for most people. Even for the winners on Shark Tank who get funded it’s a tough road ahead of them to make their baby idea a real, marketable reality. As a three-time entrepreneur myself, I relate to the new idea as a baby. Fragile and new, the parents overwhelmed with how to care for it and help it grow. It’s a lifetime commitment.

Some entrepreneurs are so excited about the conception of their idea, they want to move to quickly from baby to toddler. Often, that’s when good ideas go bad. There is a mourning period for the team. Then they ask, what did we do wrong? They review the plans, reams of  paper create a visual of how it will work, learning about patents and the arduous process to becoming patented. Money is not easy to come by these days. We all know that. I believe in the old saying, you get what you pay for. There are some things that do not lend themselves to full value in cutting corners. Attorneys know this; especially patent attorneys. Yet, what’s the starry-eyed entrepreneur supposed to do? The drive to succeed is greater than the need to eat, it seems. Good ol’ Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, it’s always there. Ramen Noodles; remember cooking those in a hot-pot at college? Ah, the good old days. Back to funding and the starry-eyed entrepreneur, there are levels of help available. It’s all the money the founder has, maybe added to a co-founder or two, and if that’s not enough, there are the parentals who did so well saving all of their lives, and made oodles of money back in the ninety’s, now it’s their investment into retirement. Or is it? Above the parental level, the starry-eyed entrepreneur happens to see Shark Tank and learns about Venture Capitalists. On the same level but seeming far more generous and gentle, the Angels. It’s just an illusion. The starry-eyed entrepreneur has entered reality shark tank and their baby idea is put to the test. Will it thrive? Or will it fail to thrive? There is more work to do, is how it usually goes. There is so much homework to do it truly is at times, overwhelming. Where to being? The answer; at the very beginning. For more information and a great opportunity to meet a panel of VCs, RSVP to http://www.healthinno.org/upcoming.html.

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