University at Buffalo students develop app to keep you out of the emergency room

In a litany of problems facing our healthcare system, one of the biggest we hear about the most is emergency room visits. The ER is expensive and meant to be used in genuine emergencies, but people who lack health care services or for a variety of other reasons will not see a conventional doctor end up filling our ERs and taxing the system, often without the means to pay for the services they received. Even if I personally think Excellus oversteps the bounds of decency when trying to convince us not to waste ER time, it is a very serious problem.

And one major component of that problem is that patients leave the ER and then fail to follow up with necessary after-visit care. The result is that they end up right back in the ER for the same problem. And ER doctors treat patients who then disappear, so there is really no way to follow up. Patients leave the ER and are cut off from their only means of education.

But a recent University of Buffalo project aims to solve that problem, and has won an award for their efforts. GE Healthcare awarded the new mobile app $25k in grants for solving the problem if readmittance with a program of follow-up measures aimed to keep the patient informed well after the visit:

Seeing an opportunity to reduce the readmission rate, the UB team conceived the app, called “Discharge Roadmap,” after the competition was announced in November.

The app allows patients and their caregivers to fully participate in the discharge planning process, Casucci said. It provides a convenient and stress free way to learn about proper health management, assess personal health care needs, and communicate care preferences to hospital and community-based care providers, she said.

The goal is to ultimately improve the hospital discharge planning process by reducing patient readmissions, she said.



Don’t worry, Chrome TweetDeck’ers: your favourite Twitter client is safe. For now.

Twitter users – especially power users – love their clients. We get attached to them, almost more than to Twitter in some senses. We rely on the look-and-feel of specific tools to do what we do on Twitter quickly and effectively, and we get pretty nervous when things change.

Such is the case with the recent news that Twitter plans on cutting off support for a couple of its more prominent client versions, TweetDeck AIR and TweetDeck Mobile:

In a blog post, TweetDeck, which was acquired by Twitter in 2011, said that it would be discontinuing support for its AIR, iPhone and Android apps, and the mobile apps would be removed from their app stores at the beginning of May. It also warned that continuing to use the apps until then could be problematic — they rely on an older version of its API which it will be conducting tests on in the future, which could lead to outages for users.

This announcement left myself and others in a small panic, wondering what we might do without our favourite client:

.. and so on. The problem is: the original article isn’t entirely clear what “desktop version” means and makes no mention whatever about the version most people currently use, the Chrome or FireFox extensions. For that, we connect the dot not connected in the original article and read the original blog post:

Over the past 18 months, we’ve been focused on building a fast and feature-richweb application for modern browsers, and a Chrome app, which offers some unique features like notifications. We’ve recently introduced many enhancements to these apps –– a new look and feel, tools like search term autocomplete and search filtersto help you find what you’re looking for more quickly, and automatically-updating Tweet streams so you immediately see the most recent Tweets. Our weekly web releases have been possible because we’ve nearly doubled the size of the TweetDeck team over the past six months (and we’re still hiring).

So clearly in the minds of those at TweetDeck at least, the Chrome and other extensions are here to stay. That will come as a comfort to a lot of Tweeps I know.

But this move is part of a wider move on the part of Twitter to focus the use of its API in more limited ways. It has been widely reported that Twitter wants to unify the experience of working with their product, which makes sense: as new users come online, the confusing panoply of clients that all look and function differently is an impediment to wider market saturation. Unifying the experience is great. For them.

Doing so, however, means taking our clients away from us. I’ve searched forever to find a decent Android client and settled on Plume. But I know Plume’s days are numbered, and Twitter’s mobile experience lacks the fluidity of managing columns of lists so I can monitor my news sources and friends effectively.

So the question still needs to be asked: if unifying the experience means cutting the power users whose content drives Twitter’s appeal off from the tools that allow us to do our thing, is Twitter also risking cutting itself off from the quality content that makes it worth reading?


Are you ready for your phone to reach out and psychoanalyze you?

Let’s face it: going to the shrink is expensive. And especially in these days of “high deductible” health insurance policies, it may not be the most affordable option for your basic anxiety-prone individual.

But that may not necessarily matter for very much longer, as scientists including psychologists at the University of Rochester are working on voice recognition software that can detect your mood. And you can have it on your phone.

Mood recognition is for computers the same as it is for humans: a learned response to individual input. You know when your friend is pissed off not because they act like everybody else, but because they have a specific set of visual and auditory queues. Their voice might go up in pitch or may even go monotone. Researchers are finding that mood recognition software can be 81% accurate with a trained ear, but the same software applied to another voice might drop to 30% accuracy.

Of course, the applications of such software would obviously not end at your phone. Imagine a voice recognition political poll that can detect sarcasm and irritation even when you answer questions contrarily?

Or for that matter, imagine your girlfriend’s phone being trained to listen to you. You think she nags you about your attitude now?

Oh, boy. The future looks bright.

Rochester Technology

Paychex releases mobile app for businesses and their employees

This kind of makes me want to have my company’s payroll through Paychex:

Paychex Newsroom

“Paychex is proud to continue the expansion of its Software-as-a-Service offerings with the launch of Paychex Mobile. The app allows users to access their Paychex payroll, benefits, and retirement information when, where, and how they want—directly from the palm of their hand,” said Paychex President and CEO Martin Mucci. “With the launch of Paychex Mobile, we look forward to meeting the evolving needs our clients, while maintaining the personal service they rely on every day.”

Their new payroll app is available through iTunes and the Google Play library as well as Blackberry’s App World, for you dead-enders. Interestingly from a security standpoint, the app does not require that the employer use the app in order for any employee getting pay checks through Paychex to access their application. All that is required is credentials through Paychex’s authentication system. The press release does not specify how one goes about getting this sign-on information, however. And the app, which I’ve installed on my phone, doesn’t add any light to this question, either.


Apple’s sets about securing the mobile wallet future.

The site has an exhaustive discussion of what it says is a new Apple patent for security systems. H/T Schneier on Security

Here’s the problem: people don’t like passwords much. In fact, they hate them. Having to remember passwords for every stupid website is tedious, plus having to remember all those passwords for your job. But with the era of mobile phones you wave at the checkout counter to pay your shopping bill, the need to secure your little sidekick is more urgent than ever.

Beyond that, there is the trouble of setting a password for a device and then forgetting it. If you forget your password at work, a bored and modestly irritated tech support guy can usually be torn away from his Angry Birds game long enough to reset it. If you forget the password of your favourite website, they all have means of resetting passwords via email.

But a password set on your mobile phone doesn’t have any means of resetting. That makes setting a phone password a bit dangerous, and as a result, most people don’t bother to do anything of the kind.

Apple’s solution is basically the idea of a charging station or other commonly-used accessory that holds a password recovery system embedded on it. A mobile device that is stolen in the field without this password reset system would be effectively disabled.

There’s a lot of questions surrounding this type of system. Like: what happens if you lose or damage the charging station? And do people really want to go back to buying expensive charging stations when we’ve only just entered the world of plug type standards? Finally, the article makes the point that passwords are a big hassle. Agreed. But what about adding another device to your life – one that requires its own configuration at the time of purchase – makes handling passwords any easier or more likely?

Apple Invents an Ingenious Security System for the iWallet Era – Patently Apple.


What’s on that memory card you got, there?

Reporting today out of the Internet Storm Center (basically a watchdog group for Internet security concerns) discusses the curious problems associated with the now-ubiquitous use of SSD memory in electronic devices.

Whereas in the past, spinning disk drives like your PC’s hard drive left traces of old data even after you “formatted” the drive, giving forensic investigators a lead towards sensitive information, SSD drives do not necessarily even leave data on the drive moments after its deleted. This is because of systems built into the storage units that’s meant to always compact and organize data on the drive for maximum space. Rather than either you or you phone/camera/Rooba having to tell your memory card to “defrag,” the memory card does it all for you.

That sounds good for your personal privacy, right? Right, except that the opposite is equally true: you also cannot reliably erase data off an SSD card through conventional means because the card itself manages the data. “Erase” data, and the card interprets the data as useless, thus erasing at the first available moment. But what if that moment doesn’t come?

For more details, check this link and the attached studies.


The New Look of the DFE Mobile Web!

I’ve been playing around with new plugins to support the mobile side of this website, and came back to my original plugin, but with the latest version 1.3: WordPress Mobile Plugin by Andy Moore.  The interface has improved greatly with this newest edition, including a lot of the metadata such as time posted and category.  Unfortunately, I don’t really use categories, but I’m thinking about hacking this plugin to include tags instead, soon.

So when you have a minute, come check us out at the same URL as you do on your PC!

DFE Mobile in Emulator Window