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Archive for the ‘Digital Excellence & Literacy’ Category

Your Post Public Domain Day Summary

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(Note – all links are non-affiliate links)

On January 1st, 2022, works that were published in 1926 entered the public domain. As a result, certain literary works could be redistributed, reused, and displayed without regard for licensure or ownership. This year’s entries into the public domain, however, are very noteworthy for they have some notable inclusions such as:

Now Public Domain!

One of the main advantages to items entering the public domain is that writers, musicians, and others can create derivative works that either keep the work in public view or foster further creativity. As an author, I have written public domain characters like the Black Bat, the Masked Rider, and Marty Quade.. Other kinds of derivative works include

  • High-quality EPUB and AZW files like those provided by Standard E-Books (who just included some new-to-the-public-domain works)
  • Volunteer-created audiobooks like those provided by Librivox
  • For-profit compilations like those provided by Delphi Classics
  • Scanned digital comics through the Digital Comic Museum
Now Public Domain

However, there are a few caveats when creative derivative works. For example, writing works based on Winnie-the-Pooh and/or Bambi should take care to base themselves on the original work and not Disney’s animated versions. (Disney owns the trademarks on their particular iterations of the character). Different countries also have different standards for what is considered public domain , and ebook vendors like Delphi Classics often differentiate the availability of their products. Although there was a landmark court case involving Sherlock Holmes several years ago, the last of the stories included in 1926’s Casebook of Sherlock Holmes passed into the public domain this year. For writers, scholars, and creators, every aspect of the Sherlockian canon is now freely available to use for derivative works.

This post is not intended to be extensively thorough in regards to public domain works. It is meant to serve as a resource for the greater community. In an effort to find unique resources for creativity, education, and community building, many are seeking free-to-use and easy-to-obtain services. With the “opening up” of public domain in the United States over the past few years, there is a great sense of excitement about what is being made available…and that works are no longer at risk of being lost or ignored.

If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. You can find direct contact information via our About page, and you can subscribe for e-mail updates when new posts are available. And as always, thanks for reading!

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Written by gordondym

January 3, 2022 at 11:13 am

Linux: How to Avoid Linus Tech Tips’ Mistakes

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Linux is receiving greater exposure in response to news about Windows 11 updates and possible concerns. Capitalizing on this, the Linus Tech Tips YouTube channel engaged in a 30-day Linux challenge. As someone with ten years of experience working with Linux across several different laptops, I watched with interest to see how they would perform. After all, Linux is getting more attention thanks to the media as an option for people and organizations looking to reuse older hardware. The results of Linus Tech Tips’ challenge were…well, let’s watch for ourselves:

How it All started

Other tech-oriented YouTubers like Chris Titus and Techhut have chimed in with their takes. It’s easy to poke holes in Linus’ video (and at the end, he admits his mistakes), and there are those who either have outdated tech that cannot be upgraded to Windows 11 or wish to make the change to Linux. This is not a simple process but requires some thought and preparation. But unlike Linus Tech Tips, a simple Google search shouldn’t be your only option. Here’s a preliminary list of the first steps towards making the switch to Linux.

Getting Started With Linux

Before transitioning any machine to Linux, you will need to take an inventory and ask yourself some key questions. This can help guide your decision towards Linux adoption:

What Software Do You Need, and Is There An Open Source Equivalent: Looking at how you use your computer can help you determine what software you need and if there is an open-source solution that can run on Linux. If you need an office suite, LibreOffice is a full-featured alternative to Microsoft Office. For image manipulation, GIMP is a great alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It’s less about “can I run a Windows program in Linux” and more about “can I do the same things with Linux that I can with a regular computer?” (Although there are ways to run Windows software on Linux like WINE software or virtual machines). Whether using it for simple office processes or gaming, knowing why you’re using your computer can guide your Linux selection.

Refurbished Thinkpad T530 for Linux
Photo by Gordon Dymowski

A good example is a laptop I’m writing this post on – it’s a Lenovo Thinkpad T530 running Linux Mint 20.2. I use it primarily for writing both the blog and my fiction, so I rely primarily on LibreOffice and the built-in text editor. Since I am exploring the possibility of self-publishing, I also have several software packages that are alternatives to commercial packages or open-source alternatives like Calibre, Sigil, and Scribus. The only money I spent was on the laptop itself and a solid-state drive to replace the hard drive. (Total cost was approximately $200). Everything works well, the battery has a long life (almost four hours on a single charge), and Linux runs very smoothly.

Inventory Your System – One of the first things anyone should do before upgrading their system to Linux is learning their system requirements. On Windows 10, that information can be acquired in the matter of a few keystrokes, and you’ll need to know these key system processes:

  • Processor – This drives the desktop or laptop computer’s activity;
  • RAM – This is where the computer’s processes run (and can be expandable in some units)
  • Storage – How much data can your device hold and should you replace it with an SSD (solid-state drive)?
  • Video Drivers – Although Linux can work with a variety of peripherals, some that require special drivers like NVIDIA can be especially challenging for Linux.

Two Key Decisions – After being used to Windows and its various quirks, the decision to switch to Linux may be daunting. However, there are two very important preferences that you need to examine before making a final decision:

  • Stability vs. Immediacy – if you prefer your software to remain relatively stable with few quirks, you want something that derived from Debian or Ubuntu (like Linux Mint, MX Linux, Linux Lite, Pop OS, and others). If you want to be “bleeding edge” and are willing to dedicate time to precise configuration and tweaks, an Arch Linux-based distro like Manjaro might be your ideal option.
  • Workflow Style – Many people prefer a Windows-style layout and others prefer a Mac-style layout. Many Linux distros offer a variety of desktop environments. These are ways to interface with the main software, and can be preset with various levels of configurability.

Researching Linux Distributions


One key mistake that Linus Tech Tips made was a simple Google search of “best Linux distros” which are geared primarily to tech enthusiasts and those with advanced knowledge. Knowing where to start once you’ve decided to explore Linux can be challenging, but here are some easy first steps.

Toughbook Running Linux Lite
Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Check Out Their Website – Google can lead to a simple reading of a distribution website to learn its strengths and functions. Every distro has some manner of community forums that can allow you to investigate potential problems. (Also, please be warned if anyone seeking advice is being told “RTFM” – that is a huge red flag)

Distrowatch Is Also Good, But With a CatchDistrowatch is a site that focuses on recent updates to Linux distros. However, it does come with a slight warning: you will see a hierarchy of distros along the right side of the page. It’s only a ranking of unique web visits to that distro and not a ranking of the “best distros ever.” But the site provides links to both downloads and reviews to get a clearer sense of distribution features and functions.

Video Is Your Best Research Tool – Searching YouTube and Odysee for videos about Linux distros can be especially helpful as they sometimes provide screen captures of actual use. Besides Techhut and Chris Titus Tech (who has a great 30-day-switching-to-Linux playlist), other good channels include Linux for Everyone and Explaining Computers (more hardware-focused but with the occasional foray into Linux).

Linux & Windows Side-By-Side Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Test-Driving Linux Distros

This is the other major mistake that Linus Tech Tips made in their video: you never do a full switch on your computer without trying the distro first. (Plus, saying “yes” to something you’re not sure you should do is never a good idea). There are some great methods for “test driving” a Linux distro before deciding to perform a full install. This can save your computer, your time, and your patience.

Get a Feel at DistrotestDistrotest is an “online virtual machine” containing many types of Linux distros. Simply select one, wait for it to load, and working with it online can give you a great sense of how a distro “feels” in use. It’s also a great way to get a practice run as you’re deciding whether or not to switch over.

Create a USB Live Key – Running a distro off of a USB drive can be very helpful in getting a feel for Linux on your particular machine. (In fact, that’s how I test-drove several distros before deciding on Linux Mint). Explaining Computers has a great how-to video on installing and running Linux off of a USB drive. (Some distros for lower-spec machines are developed to run solely from USB drives). The other advantage is that most distros have an “install” icon on the desktop, making it easier to switch when ready.

Find/Purchase a Used/Refurbished Machine – If you have an older, less frequently used laptop lying around, that would be a great test run for any Linux distro. This would allow you to get a handle on Linux while maintaining your current operating system on your main desktop or laptop. If you’re looking for a low-cost alternative (or don’t have a spare laptop), consider checking out a digital recycling center or organization like Free Geek Chicago to purchase a low-cost laptop (and in FGC’s case, some units have Linux pre-installed).

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to poke holes in Linus Tech Tips’ attempt to install Linux, since installing and working with any operating system brings specific challenges. However, Linux has many advantages for individuals and organizations (especially community-focused ones): it is available to download free, provides flexibility in computing, and brings out the best in any particular machine. This is the “latest, but not last” word from this blog on Linux, but we are curious to see where the conversation heads next…

Speaking of conversation, we encourage you to join the conversation via the comments section below. You can email me privately via this contact form, or join the conversation on our Facebook group.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

November 15, 2021 at 10:25 am

Meet Your Neighbor: COOP Careers

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(Special thanks to Kalani Leifer for his time and insight)

On September 15th, COOP Careers launched their inaugural cohort of first-generation and low-income college students in Chicago after launching similar programs in Los Angeles and New York. Recently, I had the chance to speak with Kalani Leifer, Founder and CEO of COOP Careers, to learn more about the organization and its community-driven approach to workforce development.

At the start of the 2008 recession, Kalani Leifer had chosen to volunteer with Teach for America and served as a high school history teacher in New York. He was also part of a new startup high school with an initial class of 120 students. Watching students develop strong peer-to-peer relationships over time, Leifer wanted to work to ensure that these “trailblazers” were able to succeed rather than languish post-graduation. In Leifer’s view, it would be seen as a broken promise to the students, and that their hard work and dedication meant nothing.

COOP Careers was initially launched in New York in 2014 with three cohorts. With its mission around overcoming “underemployment” in first-generation and low-income college graduates through digital skills and peer connections, the organization sought out corporate partners to build out the program and fuel upward mobility. (Partnering with corporate entities like IPG Mediabrands, their programs focus around digital marketing and data analytics) Describing the growth process as “organic”, Leifer related how the first two cohorts of that year would serve as “credible messengers” and advocates within the greater community. In 2005, COOP Careers took on two alumni as coaches as they launched two new cohorts, and added a third and fourth cohort that year.

As Leifer described it, this became a form of “alumni mobilizing” as past COOP Careers participants became passionate advocates of the program. Providing referrals for potential employment, outreaching to various other community organizations, and serving as coaches for future cohorts, past participants in COOP Careers ensured that the program would thrive. As cohorts were launched in Los Angeles and San Francisco, COOP Careers continued to see its grassroots mobilization-style approach to identifying new communities and launching further cohorts.

Although COVID complicated COOP Career’s plans for a Chicago launch, Kalani Leifer indicated that it provided to be a “silver lining”. Alumni captains were able to perform their duties virtually. In many ways, the Chicago cohort followed the COOP Careers model: engaging the initial community with the idea and watching it grow and develop. Referring to COOP Careers’ approach as “grassroots mobilization” is not too far from the track, as the program works to not only train future professionals but establish and strengthen a strong peer network that can foster professional growth. As Leifer himself remarked, “Launching a career is hard; it shouldn’t be lonely.”

COOP Careers has established a firm presence in Chicago and is a well-needed resource. They’re also a neighbor worth knowing.

If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you want to contact the blog via email, please use this form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Sunshine Enterprises: New Initiatives Coming Fall 2021

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Located in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, Sunshine Enterprises has a long history of driving entrepreneurship and small business development through its own cohorts as well as selected partnerships. Having graduated 1,000 new entrepreneurs through its primary program, Sunshine Enterprises is launching two new initiatives to foster further entrepreneurial activity throughout various communities in Chicago.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Starting September 9th, Sunshine Enterprises will launch its first cohort geared specifically towards tech-centric entrepreneurs. Focusing around efforts such as digital media, app development, web design, and social media, this aspect of Sunshine Enterprise’s Community Business Academy will provide the tools and fundamentals for entrepreneurs starting a tech-based business. As part of this cohort, entrepreneurs will learn how to negotiate the challenges of developing a tech business as well as learn how to appropriately scale their efforts. With consistent concerns about a “digital divide” in Chicago, Sunshine Enterprises is making a strong effort to drive tech-based business efforts and foster stronger community-based business development.

Sunshine Enterprises has also announced that their Terra Firma program is now part of their Fall cohort sessions. Thanks to help from Emerald South, the Terra Firma initiative works with landscaping, horticulture, and art activation businesses and three small business development centers (South Shore Chamber, YWCA, and Build Bronzeville) to provide the resources and tools to launch and scale these businesses to beautify Chicago with specific focus on the city’s South Side. Focusing on the three Rs (Restore, Reinvest, and Renew), Sunshine Enterprises will collaborate with Greencorps Chicago around training and workforce development for these businesses. Modeled on the Philadelphia LandCare program, Terra Firma seeks to reflect Philadelphia’s results, including

  • increased home/land values by average $41,000
  • reduced gun violence by 29%
  • decreased feelings of depression by 69%
  • employed 22 minority/women-owned contractors w/ 300 local hires
  • 10% of sites developed into new uses

If you are interested in participating in one of Sunshine Enterprise’s cohorts, consider attending one of their community information sessions or contact them directly. Driving community-based entrepreneurship has been at the forefront of Sunshine Enterprises’ mission, and seeing that mission expand provides a well-needed sense of optimism.

Have questions or comments? Please leave them below or join the conversation via our Facebook page. Contact us directly if you know a community organization doing great work but needs some additional exposure.

As always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

July 28, 2021 at 8:30 am

Meet Your Neighbor: Klava Fund

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(Special thanks to Stephen Klava of Klava Fund for his time and insights)

Crowdfunding and fundraising can be challenging for many individuals and organizations. Small businesses are at greater risk for closing due to COVID-driven financial pressures, and other mission-driven organizations find themselves wondering how they can meet their immediate expenses within a short period of time. Thanks to Steven Klava of Klava Labs, the Klava Funds app provides an opportunity to drive small business success and gain critical fundraising and crowdfunding skills.

Available on Android and iOS, the Klava Fund app was built on Flutter SDK in Dart and arose from the growing cultural transition towards digital cashless transactions. Stephen Klava saw a need for nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations to raise funds easily as a substitute for cash donations. Users can create a new campaign centered around a hashtag as a unique identifier, and the Klava App provides immediate social media distribution (allowing people to “get on board” and easily track success) as well as QR Code functionality. Unlike larger platforms such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter, the platform is easy to use and, most critically, takes a grassroots, community-based focus to its outreach.

Just ask the Evanston family who lost everything in a fire before Christmas. Thanks to the support of a good samaritan, the family found shelter and a place to figure out the next steps. The good samaritan developed a sign-up sheet for the greater Evanston community and contacted Stephen Klava through LinkedIn, to create a Klava Fund.

Identifying and addressing needs is a theme throughout Stephen Klava’s life. With a degree in mechanical engineering from Bradley University, Stephen Klava worked in the water treatment and product development fields in the private sector. Although his work was primarily in the suburbs, Klava wanted to shift his priorities and focus on Chicago-specific initatives. After learning Java and other coding platforms, Klava worked for an IT consultancy which specialized in various platforms (including LinkedIn, Salesforce, and earning a Google Partner designation).

Although initially created to help nonprofits and mission-driven organizations, the Klava Fund app is setting its sights on Chicago-based small businesses. For example, bars and other socially-based venues can use the app integrating photos to raise small amounts of funds to cover expenses. Theaters can use photos of performances to drive small campaigns to pay smaller bills. The Klava Fund has also opened a new Ambassador program for those who want to help others (especially people with smaller networks on social media) start and run a successful campaign.

But what does Klava Fund need right now? It needs more grassroots networking efforts. With many small businesses, organizations, families, and individuals struggling to make ends meet, the Klava Fund wants to work directly with the community. Initiatives like Oak Park’s Takeout 25 in other areas can be great opportunities for collaboration and cooperation with Klava Fund. In a time when connection and collaboration is sorely needed, Stephen Klava has provided an opportunity for small businesses, individuals, and other organizations to foster that spirit through the Klava Fund.

Have questions? Please leave them below or join the conversation via our Facebook page.

As always, thanks for reading!

Four Networking New Year’s Resolutions for 2021

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As 2020 slowly comes to a close, many freelancers and other job-seeking professionals face the challenge of virtual professional networking. Finding and performing remote work can be challenging as businesses had to struggle with adopting new work policies. Many professionals have had to embrace change in difficult times, but there are opportunities and strategies to ensure job search success. Networking is part of any professional career development plan, and we suggest five New Year’s Resolutions that can make the difference for people seeking full-time or freelance work in 2021.

  1. Take a strategic approach to virtual networking: Engaging in a “spray and pray” approach to virtual networking (attending multiple sessions per week) can eventually lead to both “Zoom fatigue” and job search burnout. Performing due diligence when possible to see if there will be mutual contacts should factor into your decision. Crafting an ASCII text file “business card” with your name, position, contact information, and LinkedIn profile/website can facilitate follow up. (If there’s a long stream of contact information within a Zoom chat, you can easily save it as a text file for later review). If a recurring networking event doesn’t feel right, it is permissible to skip it entirely.
  2. LinkedIn should be your go-to networking channel: Although consistent posting can help boost your profile, commenting on other content, and using LinkedIn groups provide an opportunity to demonstrate your professional expertise. (LinkedIn also suggests best practices for job seekers). Even though other online networking channels exist (such as Angel List for startups), LinkedIn provides multiple opportunities for engaging with key contacts.
  3. Focus on follow up, even with “older” contacts: Touching base with potential contacts is always a good idea, and sending a quick thank-you fosters relationship-building. This past year, I “checked in” with several contacts to catch-up and determine how I could assist them.  (Using a free tool like Calendly allows for scheduling calls based on your schedule and avoids multiple back-and-forth emails when scheduling a follow-up call).
  4. Remember that networking is more relational than transactional: Successful professional networking doesn’t always result in the one person with one lead but developing a network that can serve as a resource for mentorship, insight, and expertise. Research suggests that most hires result from “weak networking ties.” Building professional relationships come from a sense of sincerity and authenticity;  adopting that attitude fosters a strong community of professional contacts.

Transitioning back to semi-normalcy after the pandemic will be difficult. Many Chicago-area businesses are adopting remote work policies to varying degrees of success. Finding and keeping work can be challenging (especially with many people in a state of “underemployment”), so we offer these New Year’s resolutions in a sincere effort to provide hope and guidance.

We’re all in this together, and together we’ll move through it.

Do you have any networking strategies? Do you have any professional (or other) New Year’s Resolutions for 2021? Please join the conversation in the comments below, or comment via our Facebook page. If you wish to contact us directly, please use this contact form.

Thanks for reading, and have a Happy, Safe New Year!

Written by gordondym

December 29, 2020 at 11:13 am

Remote Work Trends in Chicago Business & Technology

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(Special thanks to Matt Mead of SPR Consulting for his time and insight)

Many full-time workers and freelancers are adjusting to remote work in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, many companies have had to rapidly shift towards remote work policies with varying results. Given Chicago’s thriving technology and business communities, we wanted to examine how local companies have successfully adopted remote work policies and how those policies may progress in the future months. We spoke with Matt Mead, Chief Technology Officer at SPR Consulting, about trends and predictions around remote work in Chicago.

Can you provide an overview of how the Chicago technology & business scenes are adjusting to remote work models in light of COVID-19?

Fortunately, many tech companies and groups with companies that are tech-heavy were not strangers to remote work technologies— even before COVID. As a result, the transition to working remotely has been less impactful than most assumed. While working with our clients on various technology initiatives, we’ve had no significant issues moving previously onsite engagements into the virtual realm.

However, working remotely does take more effort to keep all necessary stakeholders and team members up to speed. Fortunately, there are almost ubiquitously adopted tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack that make the transition easier and keep all people in the loop by leveraging features that allow synchronous virtual meetings mixed with asynchronous threaded communication.

What are the challenges that are being faced by the tech/business community in the wake of COVID-19?

There are two primary challenges facing the tech and business communities in the wake of COVID-19:

  • With a now-remote workforce, the many cultural differences between different tech companies, such as free lunches, on-site gyms, etc. aren’t as important. As a result, COVID is starting to level the playing field between employers.
  • At the same time amid COVID, we’re actually seeing technology workers continue to change jobs. Entering the pandemic, we assumed most tech workers would stay put and value the inherent job security of a tighter labor market, but that hasn’t been the case. What’s most surprising is that the required networking and interviewing is being done almost exclusively virtually and it is proving to be effective.

How has the pandemic impacted hiring patterns and processes? (For example, have employers increased their geographic reach in trying to find candidates?)

We’re starting to see technology workers look at wider geography for their next jobs, as most companies are working remotely for the foreseeable future.

By being able to apply now for more jobs that are now remote,  tech workers still expect to be able to drive up their salary as they compete for jobs in higher-paying markets. However, employers think they can drive down their salaries and costs by competing for employees in markets that pay lower. From what we’ve seen so far, it seems the workers are winning, as they are able to work anywhere and are demanding higher salaries in more expensive markets. This ultimately has the ripple effect of raising salaries in all markets, given that everyone is fishing in the same pond for this pool of potential employees.

Finally, as many companies adopt technology and digital tools to enhance collaboration and communication, how do you see this adoption impacting how companies function during – and potentially after – this pandemic?

We can expect most tech companies to continue to present more remote work opportunities than pre-COVID, mostly due to companies having positive experiences managing their remote workforces. As a result, CFOs are now questioning whether the cost of their lease and/or real estate is worth it.

However, this is not the death of the physical office. We also expect that most companies will continue to have a physical space, but their in-office requirements will be less stringent than pre-COVID, as some workers will continue to operate remotely.

Thanks again to Matt Mead of SPR for sharing his time and thoughts. If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you want to contact us privately, please use this email form. As always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

October 7, 2020 at 9:20 am

Telehealth & COVID-19 in Chicago: A Follow Up

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Back in April, we highlighted a West Monroe Partners Healthcare & Life Sciences Survey focusing on the use of telehealth services in Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis. Although the initial study was completed on the cusp of the COVID-19 outbreak, West Monroe Partners used the March results as a touchstone to document changes in Chicago resident attitudes towards medical telehealth services in the wake of the state’s fight against COVID-19. (You can read West Monroe Partners’ summary here).

West Monroe Partners recently released the results of their July follow-up study in telehealth services. Focusing on a smaller respondent base (500 Chicago residents compared to 1,000 residents of three cities including Chicago), the July West Monroe Partners telehealth study focused on documenting not just changes in telehealth adoption, but how the current COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping overall health care delivery. (Almost two-thirds of respondents reside in Cook County) The West Monroe Partners provides some key insights into how attitudes towards telehealth are changing, and how other healthcare-related attitudes and behaviors are being shaped.

  • Not only are people increasing their use of provider telehealth services, but they are also adopting more positive attitudes towards those services: Although 18% of March respondents indicated that they had used telehealth services in the past year, that number rose to 86% in July. Attitudes towards telehealth have also improved, with respondents who were unwilling to engage in any telehealth services dropped from 47% in March to 38%. Respondents also reported increased trust and positive experiences when working with providers via telehealth services; however, providers need to maintain a level of flexibility and transparency with patients.
  • Telehealth usage will continue post-pandemic whether alone or integrated with in-person services: Twenty-five (25) percent of Chicago respondents stated that they would utilize telehealth services over in-person visits after the current pandemic ends. Thirty-seven (37) percent of respondents would take a mixed approach to access health care services, integrating both in-person visits (for more involved issues) and telehealth for basic follow-up visits. Although convenience and access to health care will be a constant concern post-COVID-19, telehealth will continue to be a channel for patients to access health care services.
  • Healthcare providers face multiple challenges in providing thorough quality of care and appropriate “bedside manner” through telehealth: Approximately 26% of respondents over 65 years of age indicated that they would “never” opt for telehealth over in-person visits due to concerns around overall quality of care and provision of services. (Accessibility is also a key issue, as one respondent indicated that telehealth is “pointless” for people who are deaf or have specific hearing issues). Understanding the nature of challenges for telehealth adoption can provide providers an opportunity to gain insight into ensuring a more “personal” touch and overall quality of care.
  • Generational differences provide some insight into attitudes and behaviors towards telehealth adoption. Twenty-six (26) percent of respondents over the age of 65 reported that they would never choose telehealth over in-person visits while fifteen (15) percent would schedule more in-person appointments after the pandemic due to lack of interpersonal contact. Although more respondents indicated a greater trend towards frequently checking their out-of-pocket expenses, the number of Gen Z respondents who felt “in control” of their health care dropped by 15 percentage points. Gen Z respondents were more likely to have lost health insurance as well as engage in telehealth.

Telehealth services are reshaping health care access and delivery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although health care providers are learning to adjust to these changes, understanding and adopting more effective strategies can ensure the quality of care and satisfaction for people and communities to stay healthy.

If you have comments or questions, please leave them down below or join the conversation via our Facebook page. If you wish to enquire privately, you are welcome to use this email contact form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

September 30, 2020 at 11:31 am

Resuming the Linux Laptop Lifestyle

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Earlier this year, I was looking forward to working with my Linux-powered writing laptop. After discussing how I revived several laptops with Linux distros, I managed to be highly productive with thirteen-year-old hardware. Even taking on paid work wasn’t an issue; my Windows laptop focused on work product (some software I use is proprietary to Windows), while my Linux laptop focused on creative endeavors…at least, until June.

My Linux laptop began overheating (it was an older model) and one of the screen/cover hinges fell apart, making it unusable. So my mission because finding – and converting – a new laptop for both writing and creative efforts. My overall goal was still the same: a writing/self-publishing machine that would allow me to craft articles and fiction as well as regular blog posts. Thanks to COVID-19, my normal backup plan of purchasing a machine through Free Geek Chicago was out of the question. (They were closed at the time; they have reopened since then). So I did what anyone else would do: purchase a refurbished laptop.

chicago-now-linux-3-header

(You may be wondering why I did not just use my Windows laptop for writing and work. Since I am often working with client materials that are not for public consumption, distinguishing between the two helps me stay focused and productive. Plus, my work laptop, a low budget model purchased at Walmart, has a keyboard that doesn’t quite respond to my fast typing speed – I have to wait about forty-five seconds before I see typed text appear on my keyboard).

My laptop of choice, after considering various models, was a refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad T530. It helped that I was already looking for a Linux-friendly model, but found a great deal via eBay. With a quad-core processor and 12 gigabytes of RAM, this machine was more powerful than I expected. (My last Linux laptop was a dual-core with 4 gigabytes of RAM). Although it has been upgraded to version 20, I chose to reinstall Linux Mint 19.3 – it hasn’t given me any problems and runs very smoothly. Although there are some deficiencies in my Thinkpad (which lacks a Bluetooth card and requires a dongle for connectivity), it works well…especially the keyboard. Many laptop users claim that typing on a Thinkpad is like driving a race car.

I’m writing this blog post on my Thinkpad, and the hype is true. It’s refreshing to see my words appear as I type…but I digress.

Linux Lenovo Thinkpad T530 With Stickers

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Having used my Linux laptop regularly for writing in the past two months, I’m finding Linux to be an extremely reliable daily driver. Working with Windows can be frustrating even after “debloating” the operating system. (Many of the privacy concerns around Windows 10 do not make it easier.) However, I have to acknowledge that several software packages that I rely on are Windows-only and do not have any open source equivalents. However. using a separate laptop for work may seem like a luxury (especially in current time), but there is comfort in moving from one laptop to another as a way of indicating that “work” is over. Plus, the Lenovo Thinkpad is a business laptop designed to be sturdier and more customizable, making it ideal for writing and self-publishing.

It would be impractical for everyone to switch over to Linux-based operating systems, but it makes a great way to revive older hardware and extend the life of a given machine. My previous Linux laptop had been initially released in 2008, purchased (refurbished) in 2013, converted to Linux in 2016, and fell apart (to be recycled) in 2020. My Linux-powered Thinkpad model was initially released in 2013 and purchased refurbished in 2020. At a time when recycling and repurposing older hardware is becoming more economically feasible, Linux provides a great opportunity to not only save money but also stay productive and learn about hardware functions.

Please leave your comments below or join the conversation via our Facebook page. Email me directly via this contact page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

September 8, 2020 at 4:13 am

Telehealth: A Critical Tool in the Wake of Coronavirus

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2016.04.06 Digital Health Howcove - Telehealth 00108

This photo, “2016.04.06 Digital Health Howcove – Telehealth 00108” is copyright (c) 2016 Ted Eytan via Flickr and made available under an Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, telehealth has allowed people to engage their primary care physicians remotely while practicing social distancing. With recent changes to FCC and Federal Medicaid/Medicare policy, telehealth is now gaining greater traction and attention. With a recent West Monroe Partners study finding that although 80% of hospitals in the U.S. have some sort of telehealth service, only 18% of 1,000 Chicago residents surveyed used telemedicine services in the past year (and that 73% are open to using telemedicine as an alternative to in-person visits), we talked to Nathan Ray, director in West Monroe Partners’ Healthcare & Life Sciences practice, about the background of their study and why telehealth services are a critical tool.

Ubuntu-Powered Toughbook - Net Neutrality

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Telehealth services provide physicians the opportunity to more effectively engage and maintain patient relationships as well as provide preventative and treatment options. For example, someone who has initial symptoms of a cold can contact their physician remotely rather than wait until there is a need for in-person intervention. (Triage for coronavirus is one service that can be performed via telehealth services. ) Certain specialized fields like dentistry are great opportunities for telehealth services; fourteen to fifteen (14 – 15) percent of emergency room visits are based on dental emergencies and would be easily preventable through early telehealth intervention. Preventative measures and interventions (like a remote session with a dermatologist about skin issues) become easier for patients through telehealth, and behavioral and mental health issues can be more easily addressed through telehealth services.  (One great example are  telepsychiatry services recently implemented by the Chicago Department of Public Health).

According to Nathan Ray, Medicaid and Medicare will allow providers to bill and be reimbursed for any type of encounter with patients where health issues can be monitored without the need for an inpatient visit, including physical and behavioral health encounters. Prior to the current coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, only a few providers were early adopters of telehealth, with many physicians considering it a potential future strategy. There are currently no standard tools or platforms for telehealth as many providers are using readily available online communication tools to provide services, and this can potentially remove barriers to people engaging specific health services (Dental hygienists in rural areas could share charts with remote dentists to provide greater access to patients and lower costs). As more people are stuck in their homes due to coronavirus/COVID-19, telehealth services “reduces the friction” of seeing their physician (as Nathan explained) and lowers the overall cost of primary care visits.

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From March 4 to March 16, West Monroe Partners surveyed 1,000 residents in the metropolitan Chicago area (as well as residents in Seattle and Minneapolis) around their use of telehealth services. (Links to infographics are provided) All three cities showed similar results: approximately one out of five residents had used telehealth services, and four out of five would consider using telehealth services. As Nathan Ray explained, physicians who provide telehealth services can not only engage in more preventative measures but also facilitate greater engagement by reducing overall resistance and removing key barriers such as taking time from work and travel expenses. With federal legislation empowering Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services, private and employer-based insurance providers may follow as they observe how Medicaid providers adopt and develop policies around telehealth reimbursement.

Even outside of the current coronavirus/COVID-19 panic, telehealth provides a great opportunity to foster greater engagement and interaction between patients and their primary care providers. With Chicago’s current stay-at-home policy in place, many people rely on telehealth providers as a way to maintain their relationship with their physician, but also as a critical self-care strategy. As my recent conversation with Nathan Ray of West Monroe Partners reveals, telehealth is not only just a critical tool; it also has the potential to shape how health care resources are used. With its potential to reduce resistance towards engaging primary care providers, telehealth has the potential to facilitate a deeper, more productive relationship between patients and their physicians.

Especially after the current crisis ends.

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Written by gordondym

April 8, 2020 at 11:22 am