Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Web Secret 512: Webside manner

Ever since video-counseling came into being I have urged therapists to add it to their book of business. I have also urged them to get training and become certified online counselors.

Now experts are acknowledging what we already (intuitively) new - online is different than in person. A December 2017 Wired article urged physicians to develop a webside manner - a modern take on the old fashioned bedside manner.

The article explains: "...getting there isn’t always easy... 'It's all the little things,' says experimental psychologist Elizabeth Krupinski, associate director of evaluation for the telemedicine program at the University of Arizona. 'I mean, there's the technology bit, obviously. Webcam resolution, internet connection, and so on. And you have to think about your backdrop, your lighting, what you're wearing as well. But what you've really got to monitor is your behavior.” U of A is one of the first schools in the country to incorporate telemedicine instruction into its medical school curricula.

"It sounds strange, but when you're on camera all your actions are magnified,' Krupinski says. Sitting six feet away from your doctor, in person, you might not mind or notice her slouching, fidgeting, or gesticulating. But a webcam's intimate vantage point augments these actions in ways that patients can find distracting or off-putting. 'You take a sip of coffee and your mug takes up the whole screen, and all they hear is the sound of you slurping,' she says. 'Or you turn away to make a note, and now all your patient sees is your shoulder. Maybe you disappear from the frame entirely.'

Telemedicine students are often instructed to disable their video chat's picture-in-picture feature. 'Turn it off and look at the patient,' Krupinski says. That's also kind of tricky: To appear as though they're making eye contact, clinicians are taught to look not at the patient on their screen, but directly into their device's webcam."

The article notes that in the United States physicians are no longer required to see a person in person before seeing them virtually.

Are you with me?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Web Secret 511: the Post-Text future

Last month, a special section of the New York Times landed on my breakfast table: Into the Eye of the Internet. The section contained several articles, the gist of each was: "The defining narrative of our online moment concerns the decline of text, and the exploding reach and power of audio and video."

Not all of the information included in the section is relevant to iWebU readers. But what is, offers a blueprint for a lucrative direction for both therapists and employee assistance professionals :
  • About 70 million Americans regularly listen to podcasts.
  • In 2017, YouTube reported that people watched a billion hours on that service every day. On average, young Americans spend two hours a day watching video online.
  • More than 800 million people use Instagram, for more than 30 minutes a day on average.
Implication? Maybe Instagram is not your thing but our work lends itself to podcasts and minute long videos. Just make them short and punchy.

In an article on "How Social Media Gives Women a Voice," reporter Claire Cain Miller writes: "Susan Fowler had tried going to human resources. She had tried going to her managers. She had tried transferring departments. But nothing changed. The sexual and sexist comments she received as an engineer at Uber kept coming.

So she went online and wrote a 3,000-word blog post exposing the behavior.
" EAP colleagues - sexual harassment prevention training should be a staple of your offerings. Get a seat at the table and help your client companies so that they have policies, procedures and training programs in place. Therapists - working with victims and/or alleged perpetrators can be a new area of practice.

In "Even the Tech Elite Are Worrying About Tech Addiction," Farhad Manjoo reports that, "Apple ...[was asked]... to study the health effects of its products and to make it easier for parents to limit their children’s use of iPhones and iPads...

The bigger problem is what to do about any of this. Few laws or regulations prevent apps from keeping us hooked, and the tech industry has no serious ethical prohibitions against tinkering with software to drive engagement; indeed, at many tech companies, keeping people glued to the screen is the whole ballgame."

We don't need a research study to know that using an iPad as a substitute babysitter is terrible for our children, and spending unending hours streaming - well just about anything - is unhealthy. So EA professionals, teaching employees how to disconnect is good for the bottom line, and therapists - helping the cyber addicted offers opportunity for practice.

Are you paying attention?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Web Secret 510: The promise of technology

I ended my recap if the Best of iWebU last week - it was time to move on.

Also, I had to share a moving, mind expanding Wired article with you: "Something to Watch Over Me" by Lauren Smiley.

Much has already been written about our growing aging population, which combined with insufficient numbers of home health aides, is headed towards catastrophe.

You don't have to be a medical social worker to know that home care is expensive and at times unreliable. Fortunately, technology now exists, to help with that cost and keep seniors home for a longer period of time. The article describes this tech and I herewith summarize its salient points:

Arlyn Anderson was involved in caring for her 91 year old father, Jim, who was increasingly forgetful, but wanted to remain in his Minnesota cabin. One day, she about a new digi­tal eldercare service called CareCoach. For about $200 a month, a human-powered avatar would be available to watch over a homebound person 24 hours a day; Arlyn paid that same amount for just nine hours of in-home help. She signed up immediately.

A Google Nexus tablet arrived in the mail a week later. When Arlyn plugged it in, an animated German shepherd appeared onscreen, standing at attention on a digitized lawn. Following the instructions, Arlyn uploaded dozens of pictures to the service’s online portal: images of family members, her father's boat, and some of his inventions.

Jim formed a relationship with the avatar almost immediately and named his dog Pony. Within a week Jim and Pony had settled into a routine, exchanging pleasantries several times a day. Every 15 minutes or so Pony would wake up and look for Jim, calling his name if he was out of view. Sometimes Jim would “pet” the sleeping dog onscreen with his finger to rustle her awake. His touch would send an instantaneous alert to the human caretaker behind the avatar, prompting the CareCoach worker to launch the tablet’s audio and video stream. “How are you, Jim?” Pony would chirp. The dog reminded him which of his daughters or in-person caretakers would be visiting that day to do the tasks that an onscreen dog couldn’t: prepare meals, change Jim’s sheets, drive him to a senior center.

In Monterrey, Mexico, Rodrigo Rochin opens his laptop in his home office and logs in to the CareCoach dashboard to make his rounds. He talks baseball with a New Jersey man watching the Yankees; chats with a woman in South Carolina who calls him Peanut (she places a cookie in front of her tablet for him to “eat”); and greets Jim, one of his regulars, who sips coffee while looking out over a lake.

Rodrigo is 35 years old. He grew up crossing the border to attend school in McAllen, Texas, honing the English that he now uses to chat with elderly people in the United States. Rodrigo found CareCoach on an online freelancing platform and was hired in December 2012 as one of the company’s earliest contractors, role-playing 36 hours a week as one of the service’s avatars. He is the person behind Jim's Pony.

The rest of the article describes the many sometimes unexpected ways Pony helps and monitors Jim's well being. And how CareCoach was invented. And how it represents a new source of employment opportunity for workers with good English skills around the world.

It honestly describes the promise and the pitfalls of the CareCoach technology.

Overwhelmingly, I was left with the promise.

Worth the read.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Web Secret 509: the best of iWebU - A video game to cope with grief

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret 469: A video game to cope with grief

Why? Because while technology is sometimes something to be feared, sometimes it is to be celebrated. And this post is about when tech delivers.

Web Secret 469: the best of iWebU - A video game to cope with grief - May 31, 2017

When was the last time you saw something remarkable?

I know, I couldn't remember either.

But today, I did.

When Amy Green's young son Joel was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, she made up a bedtime story for his siblings to teach them about cancer. What resulted was a video game, mostly created by her husband Ryan, "That Dragon, Cancer," which takes players on a journey they can't win.

That's right, someone used the video game, a medium we think we know, to accomplish something seemingly impossible.

To understand how this happened, you could watch Amy's TED Talk.

Or read Wired Magazine's thought provoking exploration "A Father, a Dying Son, and the Quest to Make the Most Profound Videogame Ever," written by Jason Tanz.

Tanz explains: "That Dragon, Cancer is not a tricky game to master. Indeed, it’s barely a game at all, more a collection of scenarios that the player explores and clicks through. There is some degree of agency—you can decide how long to spend in any particular scene, for instance — but the overwhelming sensation is one of being a bug caught in a rushing river; you might veer a few degrees in either direction, but you can’t alter the overall flow."

"The questions That Dragon, Cancer is asking... are the kind of spiritual and existential quandaries that have haunted humanity since Job: Why are we here? Can we influence our fate? What kind of God would allow such suffering? How do we endure the knowledge that we, along with everyone we have ever met and loved, will die?

...That Dragon, Cancer doesn’t provide any solutions to its queries

Tanz quotes Reality Is Broken, by designer and academic Jane McGonigal, in which she argues that we should engineer our world to be more like a videogame, incorporating its system of rewards and escalating challenges to help us find meaning and accomplishment in our lives. "Green, though, is doing the opposite. He’s trying to create a game in which meaning is ambiguous and accomplishments are fleeting. He is making a game that is as broken—as confounding, unresolved, and tragically beautiful—as the world itself."

Or you could do none of the above, and play the game.