Thursday, February 15, 2018

Making a Difference: A physical therapist assistant becomes a healthcare entrepreneur

Part II
Guest blogger: Mary Morgan Saalman

Mary Morgan Saalman
I returned from my first John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release® seminar—taught by John Barnes himself—and began using the techniques I had learned right away. It was beyond amazing, and my life shifted forever, as my understanding of the body, all bodies—even those of our animal friends—was finally clearer. The first person I treated using MFR was a man who had been with our clinic for months. He suffered terrible neck pain from a vehicle accident. We were ready to plan his discharge because he had “plateaued,” which means he had improved about 25% but had shown no progress beyond that for two weeks. Therefore, insurance dictated that he be discharged from therapy. However, he still experienced terrible pain and could not turn his head very far, which was a problem for him considering he was a truck driver. 

I asked him if I could use MFR to treat him during his last visit. He agreed. I worked on him for only thirty-five minutes. I discovered the problem was not in his neck, but rather, due to restrictions in his pelvis and lower back that were pulling on his fascial “web” all the way up to his neck. He was amazed when we finished. His pain went from an 8/10 to a 2/10, and he had full cervical range of motion. He was stunned. So was I. He was incredibly thankful but couldn’t help but feel discouraged by the fact that he had spent over $1,500 on his therapy over eight weeks during which he had to meet his deductible. Now, here I had helped him significantly in just one visit. This was the day I knew I had to find a way to open my own clinic so that I could practice the work I knew would help people, especially those who could not afford insurance or traditional medical care, but how would I accomplish that?

I was a physical therapist assistant so was required to practice with a physical therapist under my current license. After an entire year of using MFR to treat my patients and watching people improve and get their lives back more fully and quicker than traditional therapy, I knew I had to make a change. So, I bit the bullet and went to school to receive my massage therapy license. I had no desire to practice massage, which is not what I do. However, I needed the license in order to open my own clinic to practice what I know to be a much needed and affordable healing modality.

I am strictly cash based. I do not accept insurance. I refuse to be a prisoner to insurance companies ever again. I know what my clients need to heal. Insurance companies do not. You might think that people would find it difficult to pay for medical services out of pocket, that it would be unaffordable. However, this is not true. I currently charge $70 per hour. That may seem like a lot of money, right? Well, it is to many of us. However, here is the difference. People do not have to see their physician to get a referral to visit me, unlike other forms of physical, occupational, or speech therapy. Furthermore, since MFR is a full body and mind treatment, my clients improve with fewer treatments than with traditional therapies, which saves them a lot of money over the long run that they would have otherwise had to pay toward their deductibles. Their outcomes are better with MFR than they had been with traditional therapies.

Many of my clients have told me that they were so excited to tell their doctors about me and myofascial release, how it has changed their lives, and helped them to understand that their body is a complete unit, not merely “areas of pain.” They tell me that their doctors “don’t buy it.” This is frustrating for me. Still, some physicians have asked their client to bring them more information on MFR and my clinic because they are shocked at the incredible improvements their patient has made [with me] since their last visit. It’s changing one mind at a time, right?

My dream came true last August. After much hard work and faith, I opened my clinic, Advanced Healing Myofascial Release & Wellness, in Angola, Indiana. I cannot express how wonderful it feels to be able to help people heal and learn more about their bodies. I also teach my clients how to treat themselves at home. My goal is to decrease the number of times they visit my office by hastening the healing process so that they are not returning to me forever and spending their precious dollars. Many talk to me about how much money I have saved them, keeping them out of the revolving-healthcare door by helping them to heal their bodies, teaching them how to keep their bodies healthy, and more importantly, feeling much better.

I do not turn anyone away. I do my best to work out a payment plan for anyone who needs help. A traditional therapy clinic will rarely do that. If you do not have insurance or the money up front, they will not treat you. I consider that barbaric. Many of my clients have very little, but they do have enough to see me for a few visits to feel better and learn how to maintain the improvements made during treatment, saving them money in the long run. 

Many of my clients come to me because their physicians are pushing them to have surgery for, pick your problem: carpal tunnel, frozen shoulder, back/neck pain, hip pain, etc. These patients are looking for an alternative to surgery to help them feel better and function without the pain and/or the cost of going under the knife. I get results. 75% of my clients no longer need surgery after working with me.

Think about this on a larger scale. Any surgery is expensive. Now, think about the possibility that people receive alternative treatments, such as MFR, to address their health problems and the possibility that even 50% of these people no longer need surgery. Think about the cost savings to insurance companies, which in an alternative universe, would be put back in to the system to help lower insurance premiums and other healthcare costs. Think about the savings to people who no longer need surgery, considering that the average insurance deductible today is $3,000 with a 20% copay on charges above the deductible. Furthermore, most surgeries cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on what needs to be done and if it is done on an inpatient or outpatient basis. My clients averaged paying $400 for my services. That seems like a deal to me.

The cash-based trend is growing in our country. Many therapists are slowly switching over to cash-based businesses, refusing insurance. It might seem that this would cost the client more, but it does not. There are also physicians who are experimenting with cash-based business models solely so that they can provide medical services to those who cannot afford insurance or to see a “traditional physician.” Those who have done so state that they now have time to care for their patients’ needs instead of tackling mounds of paperwork for insurance companies. Nor are they spending their time developing care plans based on insurance company requirements. They spend more time with their patients, better understanding their needs as opposed to adhering to the “conveyor belt” business model they were taught in medical school.

There are many ways to make healthcare more accessible for every person who needs it. Making healthcare affordable for every single American should be a priority. Most healthcare professionals sincerely care about their patients and want to help them heal. It is simply wrong to turn sick and hurt people away. The medical care professionals who are turning toward cash-based practices are at the forefront of a new business model that will make healthcare more accessible and affordable to all people. I am proud to be a part of that trend. 

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog post belong solely to the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of A Better Tomorrow Media. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Making a Difference: Fed up with the status quo, a physical therapist assistant discovers a better way to serve her patients

Part I
Guest blogger: Mary Morgan Saalman 

Mary Morgan Saalman
My life as a physical therapist was hectic. Like most healthcare practitioners, my patients came in for treatment and were out in no time, leaving little opportunity to discuss or understand their situation beyond the physical. Feelings and concerns were after-thoughts. They entered the room and the clock started ticking. Patients were seen usually for forty-five minutes—maybe an hour—during a typical physical-therapy session. As I treated a patient, I may have felt that we were making a break-through, but then time was up, and I had to usher them out because the next patient was waiting. 

I have become increasingly frustrated with this situation over the years. The insurance companies always seemed to be a dark cloud, looming overhead, dictating every move we made. Nothing could be done for my patients without insurance company approval. Almost always, patients would talk to me about how they could not afford therapy for very long, or that their insurance wouldn’t pay for it or other less invasive forms of treatment. The insurance companies, however, were all too happy to pay for extensive surgery, if the physician recommended it. 'Why?' I wondered. What was their justification for this and how did it save money, decrease the cost of insurance, or make healthcare more affordable and accessible?  And more importantly, was this best for the patient? Why was/is it so difficult to access high-quality, affordable health care?

The main reason people have difficulty accessing quality medical care is the lack of insurance or inadequate coverage with high deductibles. For many individuals and families, a $3,000 or $5,000 deductible feels as if they have no insurance at all. Many people live paycheck to paycheck and do not have the money to see a doctor, unless they are forced to because of an illness or an emergency.

Another road block to accessing quality medical care is the fact that our society has evolved into one that treats the illness while disregarding the overall well-being of the person. The bulk of our medical practitioners are taught to set up literal conveyor-belt type businesses that move patients efficiently in and out of the office, seeing as many people as time affords. Medical students are taught during their education to look at the body in parts with the mindset of alleviating patients' symptoms in order to make them feel better. Of course, this often means medication or too many unnecessary surgeries. Many healthcare practitioners feel that if the patient is not “feeling” their symptoms, well, that’s a good thing, and this is the outcome they and their patients want. Unfortunately, this has led our country down an ominous road to opioid addiction, unhealthy habits, and too many unnecessary surgeries.

Numerous medical practitioners schedule patients in fifteen- or thirty-minute increments, perpetuating the conveyor-belt business model, ensuring themselves a healthy bottom line. Healthcare professionals often limit the time with their patients, which leaves little time to talk and learn about the “whole” person, rather than just their sore back or headache. This perpetuates the dependence on pharmaceuticals, which “will fix everything.” I believe it is this mentality, inherent in our healthcare industry, that is preventing us from not only receiving quality medical care, but also from taking care of our mind and body in integrated ways, which would improve our health and save us money. The U.S. healthcare apparatus is driven by greed, making the status quo extremely difficult to change. 

Another obstacle to accessing quality medical care is the fact that insurance companies dictate patient treatment. Every medical care professional who accepts insurance must adhere to the regulations of the insurance industry. Every physician’s plan of care for their patients takes in to account what the insurance companies will cover. For example, if you are diagnosed with a condition and have insurance, your ability to receive the treatments or therapies you need are completely and totally based on what your insurance company considers “necessary and reasonable.” Your physician might feel you need specific tests or medications. However, your insurance company may state they are not necessary. Therefore, unless you can afford to pay for expensive medications or tests out of pocket, you might not have access to the care that you need to improve, or sometimes, survive.

There are plenty of healthcare professionals, such as myself, who treat the entire person as opposed to a sick person who has a bad back, a sore leg, or cancer. However, we are the outliers in the medical community. Even when patients go back to their physicians and tell them that they went to a healthcare practitioner and received an alternative therapy and are feeling the best they have felt in a while, most physicians will immediately scoff and/or write this off, continuing with their business model of get them in, get them out, see more people, etc. This is not quality care. It limits people from finding other forms of healthcare that would not only help them feel better and many times quicker, but would also save them precious dollars because they would not be caught in the revolving door of traditional medicine. The rigid adherence to the traditional medicine model, in my opinion, is a defect in the medical programs in our universities, as many healthcare professionals will agree.

For the record, I am not saying that medications do not have a place in healing, because they most certainly do. There are medications that indisputably save and improve lives, and I am thankful that we have talented people who can create these medications and find cures for terrible diseases and conditions. On the other hand, if we would begin to pay more attention to and tend to our overall health—our bodies, minds, and spirits—maybe some of these diseases and afflictions would become less common.

It is for the reasons I have outlined above that my mindset about bodies and health have evolved over my twenty years in the healthcare field, as a practicing physical therapist assistant. I have practiced in every area: pediatrics, hippotherapy (using the horse as a therapy tool), outpatient clinic, long-term care, and home health. I have always loved what I do. I love helping people to feel better and regain their lives. However, as the years went by, I could not help but feel that something was missing; something just wasn’t right.

I also began to realize that although many of my patients recuperated almost 100%, most others would not. Most patients show improvement. Maybe they begin therapy with a pain level of 9/10 and they finish with one of 5/10 and improved, yet limited mobility. Many patients were returning several times a year for the same problem. Why? And why is this acceptable? Why can’t people improve more, sooner, and spend less time and money on therapy, physician visits, medications and/or surgeries? As physical therapists, most of us are taught in school to treat the “areas” of pain or the “conditions.” Someone comes in with a painful shoulder, so we treat only that shoulder, ignoring that there is an entire body and systems within the body that all communicate with one another. It was these feelings of inadequacy and frustration that led me to find, what I feel to be, one of the most important modalities/treatments for our bodies, the John Barnes Approach to Myofascial Release.

John Barnes is a physical therapist who developed his technique after experiencing his own dramatic injury in college over forty years ago. He focuses on treating the fascial system. He has trained over 150,000 therapists, nurses, chiropractors, and physicians worldwide. Myofascial release is a gentle, hands-on technique that releases restrictions in our fascia, or connective tissue. To learn more about fascia and how John F. Barnes’ Approach to Myofascial Release has helped to heal thousands of people, you can visit my website Advanced Healing Myofascial Release and Wellness, LLC and/or  MFR Treatment Centers & Seminars. You will find helpful information, articles, and book recommendations about the fascial system and the conditions and diagnoses that MFR can help. If you are interested in finding a therapist or attending a seminar, you can search for one in your area on Mr. Barnes' website.

After my first seminar, not only did my life change, but also the lives of many of my patients. It was beyond anything I could imagine and set me on a new path to healing others.

In Part II we learn about Mary’s transition in the medical field, trends in the industry, and  how she started her own business.

Mary Morgan Saalman is mother to Austin and Delaney and wife to Michael Deimen as well as 'mom' to three dogs and four cats. She recently relocated from Jasper, Indiana, to Northwestern Ohio, where she reestablished her business, Advanced Healing Myofascial Release & Wellness. She specializes in The John F. Barnes Approach to Myofascial Release. When not treating clients, she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, kayaking, and is an avid reader. She also enjoys traveling, exploring new places, and meeting new people.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog post belong solely to the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of A Better Tomorrow Media. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Revitalizing small towns through tourism

Travel + Leisure magazine published the article, The New American Small Towns, in The Big Idea section of their May 2017 issue. Small towns across America were highlighted for their unique natural resources, recreational opportunities, regional interests, and new commercial and hospitality ventures that are attracting outsiders, especially those from urban areas. These towns included: Thomas, West Virginia (population 600); Salida, Colorado (population 5,300); Lostine (population 300) and Joseph, Oregon; and Tubac, Arizona (population 1,200).

The article suggests how tourism can help revitalize rural communities, especially those whose populations are decreasing as young people move to cities where good jobs and opportunities are more plentiful. These towns are also proving to be a bridge to close the urban and rural divides in the United States. Every community and/or its region have unique attributes, be it a river, great hiking trails, distinctive retail outlets, local artists and artisans creating one-of-a-kind products or entertainment, lodging offered with a more personal touch, and much more.   

My hometown newspaper, the Perry County News, published a story on December 26 about Cannelton, Indiana, resident Vince Gagliardi who is an avid hiker and organizer of guided hikes through the Hoosier National Forest. I discovered in the article, per Gagliardi, that the area in which I grew up has “…more miles of trails than any other county in the state.” That is a fact that Cannelton, Tell City (my hometown situated four miles from Cannelton), Perry County, and the state of Indiana should promote to lure visitors to the area and along with them, their spending dollars to help boost the local economies.

I reached out to Mr. Gagliardi with a few questions. He was gracious enough to respond and allow me to share his answers.

Deborah:  When did you start organizing guided hikes?

Vince:   Growing up in Maine I spent my fair share of time in the forest camping and hiking with my family. After moving to Perry County Indiana I quickly discovered the Hoosier National Forest and instantly fell in love. A close friend of mine introduced me to a gentleman named Bill Simpson. Bill had been in charge of the hiking club (Perry County Hiking Club) for fifteen plus years and invited me to join the group on a hike. It was great to be able to share the trail with other people. I proceeded to show up for the final six hikes, two of which I led because of Bill's health. He told me that he was done at the end of the season, and if I wanted to take it over, it was mine.

D:           What kind of participation have you found for each hike?

V:           The participation has been great! I have hiker friends who drive down from places like Bloomington and even farther north just to hike for the day. I have had people from all walks of life come out. Lawyers, teachers, stay at home moms, even a couple of nuns have become regulars. Believe it or not the majority are women who want to hike but not alone for fear of getting lost or the Boogeyman, which is perfectly understandable. Most have never even been hiking before but have an interest. That's why I included two low-mileage beginner hikes so that people could try hiking this distance before attempting longer ones. I have even thought about hosting an Intro to Hiking class one evening at the local convention center in the spring to help provide proper information. My wife likes to poke a little fun by telling me "You only want to do it to give you an excuse to talk about hiking." There's probably a little bit of truth to that. I believe I have the only wife in the world that can tell me to "take a hike" and actually mean it, but after ten years together, she knows what I need. I use it sometimes to detox from the stresses of daily life and always come back a calmer person.

D:           The schedule is limited to nine hikes through April 21.  Is this volunteer for you or do you charge?

V:            Yes, the schedule is a little limited. My predecessor had it that way to avoid hunting season and possibly hotter temperatures. However, I extended it until the end of April instead of ending in March, as was previously done. Next year I would like to try starting in October and ending in May. It is strictly volunteer, and I am a "one man show." It would be nice to get some help in the future though. A large group can get spread out so it would be nice to have a person in charge at both the front and the rear. Back in the 80's when the club was first formed, there was a yearly fee. Right now, anyone can participate for free. I'd like to keep it that way.

D:           If volunteer, do you plan or think this could turn into a business venture for you?

V:            Even though I own a successful auto repair shop in Cannelton and really enjoy what I do, I would love to get paid to hike. That would be my dream job!!

D:           What would it take for you to do that, if you wanted to?

V:            As fantastic as it would be to open some sort of outdoor guide business, unfortunately, I really don't think there is enough interest in the area to properly sustain it, although I'm working with the county's tourism board to change that. I was told by the old timers numerous times that thirty years ago on a nice weekend the Hoosier National Forest in Perry County could have 10,000+ people hiking, horseback riding, and camping. It would be great to bring some of that interest back. Perry County has more miles of trails than any other in the state. I could talk for hours on the subject.

We wish Vince much success with this endeavor. Southern Indiana is beautiful, especially in the fall, so October hikes would be well-timed. Hiking is not only excellent exercise but also a great way to explore the area. Regardless whether the Perry County Hiking Club remains an avocation for Mr. Gagliardi or he transforms it into a business, this is an example of how rural communities and small towns could capitalize on their regional assets. If a town of 300 or 600 people can get creative and attract tourists, others can too.

Tourism directors in these communities, regions, and states should actively promote businesses, performances, excursions, etc., via websites, social media, and ads in national media—online and print. Although most small-business grants I've found tend to be for scientific/technological research and development or for nonprofits, grants could be used to develop tourist attractions and tourism-related businesses. It would behoove small towns across America to think more creatively about how they can exploit their unique attributes, implement strategies to invest in new businesses and artistic ventures as well as finance the marketing efforts necessary to help them succeed. 

Could a Kickstarter campaign be a way of raising initial funding? It could. The Jennings Hotel in Joseph, Oregon, was funded via the Kickstarter platform. Are there low-interest, small-business loans available at a local bank or credit union? It will take money—private and public— to make money, but each community profiled in T+L are thriving and showing the world why a visit to their town is worth it.  
Is tourism a cure-all for what ails small-town America? Probably not because hospitality and tourism jobs tend to be lower paid than those in manufacturing and technology. However, tourism can be one tool in the rural community revitalization toolbox. 

For more information about the Perry County Hiking Club, visit their Facebook page.

Cross-posted at Evergreen Institute for Progressive Thought

Monday, December 18, 2017

2018: Working Toward a Better Tomorrow

Thomas E. Ricks wrote in a brief post on the Foreign Policy website on December 6:

"People stuck inside tragedies often make the mistake of thinking they are nearing the end when they are only in Act 1. And that is where I think we stand, still at the beginning of this long ride. All around us, the selfish and malevolent are thriving, flatterers are rising, and good people feel simply powerless.

What especially bothers me is this: For about a year now, I've feared for the future of our country, for the first time in my life. But lately, on top of that, I've begun to suspect that I won't live to see the final act."

Mr. Ricks accurately describes my feelings about the past year. I have become increasingly concerned that we are being led down a rabbit hole from which we will never dig out. Regressive and harmful policies are being championed, the truth is being obscured and denied, compassion is lacking, and political polarization is widening. I am filled with despair. 

I was filled with a different kind of despair fourteen years ago today when I was diagnosed with leukemia. December 18, 2003, was a terrifying day, but as scary as that experience was, I maneuvered through chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant over the next six plus months with much optimism because I've always been an optimistic person—it's who I am, or was, anyway. It saddens me that my optimism is being overshadowed by pessimism. I have become jaded and have engaged in behaviors detrimental to my well-being, trying to anesthetize myself from the ugliness and ignorance so prevalent nowadays—or so it seems. 

Yet, the world has always been afflicted with conflict, illness, and inequality. We are just more intensely aware of it because of the 24/7 news-media cycle. It's not only traditional media, but social media has made us all journalists and opinion writers. False information is easily spread and when it is proven to be a lie, retractions are rarely made, so the lie remains and becomes truth to many, which is toxic and destructive to a democratic society.

I am hardly alone, I know, as 2017 is coming to a close. I refuse to go through 2018 consumed with the anxiety and rage I've experienced this year. It is unhealthy and does nothing to help right the wrongs I see occurring in the world. Therefore, I have printed off Mr. Ricks' short post and will keep it with me as a reminder to not fall into the trap of despair, thinking nothing can be done and that our country is stuck heading in a direction I, and many others, find reprehensible.

Anger and anxiety will fuel my desire to fight harder to create a world in which I want to live: One that respects everyone's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; a world where more people vote and engage in their communities; a country where people have enough food, adequate healthcare, decent housing, and effective public schools that help all children thrive, especially in our rapidly changing world where automation and artificial intelligence will continue to replace the human workforce, presenting ever increasing challenges to people's financial well-being and thus, their quality of life; a world that cares about preserving wildlife, protecting the environment—land, air, and water—and yes, mitigating the negative impacts of climate change; a world that works together to tackle problems, not scapegoat others or narrow the field of opportunity to only the wealthy and well-connected.

That's a tall order. There will never be true equality; that is impossible. There must be incentives to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. I believe in capitalism, just not crony capitalism. I believe we must have robust competition. Competition is a quaint concept anymore as mega-mergers and consolidations in the fields of media, healthcare, air travel, and communication (to name a few) have squelched it, giving consumers less choice, not more. 

This is a lot to digest, and so much more could be written. However, I leave it here for now: There are solutions out there, and they are where my focus is going to be in 2018. As for my anxiety and anger, it's time to start meditating again. I found this practice to be effective during my cancer treatment period. In fact, I did it so regularly that even amid the fear and uncertainty of that time, it was the most calm and centered I've ever been—before or since. Maybe it's time to reread Rebirth and remind myself of all the strategies I used to heal myself, especially emotionally, which is what I most need now.

So, I will breathe slowly, in and out, focusing on my breath, calming down, and appreciating all I have this holiday season. I am grateful for my friends and family, especially having watched my nieces and nephews grow from babies to the amazing young people they are today. Both my parents are alive, which is another blessing. Their presence in my life is never taken for granted. This cancerversary, I commit to making changes that will contribute to better health, physically and emotionally. I leave you with this from Rebirth (2nd edition):

"Perspective is the most important lesson learned during my cancer experience. I may still lose control from time to time, but I manage to eventually put it into the right context. For example, a few years post-transplant when I was back in the work world, while walking up Park Avenue to the office, sheets of rain flooded the streets and sidewalks. I was gritting my teeth and growling under my breath because a frigid temperature and harrowing winds were compounding my misery. Overwhelmed by these external and internal dramas, my irritation intensifying, I forced myself to stop—literally stopped in the middle of the sidewalk (a major faux pas in New York City, by the way)—take a deep breath and ask myself: Would you rather be out in this crappy weather or in a hospital bed receiving chemotherapy? (Yes, I actually used the word "crappy.")

The answer was a no-brainer. My mind-set swiftly shifted and a smile formed on my face as I unsuccessfully leapt over an expansive, ankle-deep puddle, soaking my feet in the process. I was out in the world living my life. It was exhilarating and wonderful, despite my cold, wet feet." 

Have a wonderful holiday season.


Monday, November 06, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow

The daily round-up of positive articles, interesting ideas, and inspiration will be taking a break until 2018. Thank you to those who have visited this site over the past several months.

The goal is to post a few pieces of original writing on various topics over the coming nine to ten weeks as the year winds down and restart the daily round-up in the New Year. In the meantime, please go back and review some of the amazing stories and compelling ideas for a better tomorrow that we've shared here over the past many months.

Thank you and enjoy the upcoming holiday season. Cheers, to a better tomorrow!

Friday, November 03, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - November 3 Edition

Global Health, Fraud

"There are a several reasons why fraud and waste are rife in the global health sector. Donors tend to send money to ministries of health and other organizations in large tranches, mostly because making smaller grants involves higher transfer fees and bigger administrative burdens. This creates surpluses and easy targets for graft. What’s more, supply chains in low- and middle-income countries are often weak and opaque, sometimes involving dozens of changes in custodianship before goods reach their destinations. Medicines and equipment can easily go missing or expire–as 1.3 million doses of pentavalent vaccine (a kind of vaccine that protects against five diseases) did in Pakistan in 2015. The cost of identifying the breakdowns in supply chains often outstrips the value of the goods that are lost.

 Many international organizations are trying to deal with these problems. Since July 2011, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and several others have blacklisted 368 individuals and firms involved in corruption. But such scrutiny takes money and time. The World Bank employs 417 people to monitor compliance with its financial and procurement standards, and in a single investigation in the case of Mali in 2010, the Global Fund reviewed some 59,000 documents. Worse, auditors can only identify fraud that has already occurred. They cannot track and stop problems as they develop. The result is that donors catch only a fraction of transgressions, months or years after they have happened. And when donors respond by suspending aid, patients suffer.

This is where blockchain comes in. Commonly referred to as a distributed-ledger technology, blockchain creates secure digital records of transactions that can be accessed by approved users across a wide network. Every transaction validated by the network adds a new “block” to the “chain,” creating an indelible record that can be accessed in real time. A number of multinational corporations—from Walmart and IBM to the mining giant BHP Billiton—are already using the technology to manage supply chains, following goods as they move around the world."

Fall Travel, Italy

"For many travelers — both those who have had the chance to visit in person and those who dream of it — a trip to Italy is often envisioned in the summer, when they can stroll the piazzas eating gelato or take a dip in Lake Como.

But Italy, much like gelato, is something to be enjoyed year-round, and one of the best times to go is November.

Sandwiched between the peak seasons of summer and the winter holidays, November is a time when museum lines are shorter, restaurants are less crowded, and even airfare dips. But those aren't the only reasons to book your trip now.

Aid groups could similarly use the technology to oversee medical supplies as they travel from factory to patient. As a shipment of vaccines approaches its destination, for instance, each of its handlers—from the crew unloading the shipment at the airport to the courier bringing it by motorcycle to a village clinic—could use a smartphone to tag it with a permanent, real-time record of where it has been, when it was there, and who has dealt with it. All these details would become part of the shipment’s digital identity, creating a record of its custody and making it impossible for goods to be stolen or replaced with counterfeits without the network being notified."

Immunotherapy, Cancer, HIV

"Immunotherapies, and checkpoint inhibitors in particular, were the first type of therapy that could truly transform cancer patients into long-term survivors. While other therapies, including chemotherapy, prolonged survival a couple of months, a certain percentage of patients treated with checkpoint inhibitors, in the order of 10-20%, live on for years.

Now, the next step is: how would you increase the number of patients that benefit from it? And the answer was quite clear. Everybody is trying to combine immunotherapy treatments to enhance the effect, and it works. Currently, there are hundreds of combination trials ongoing worldwide.

Then, if you look at the complexity of the immune system, there are so many targets that you can trigger. Many are still there to be explored. And the whole medical community is learning so much about how to treat cancer, how to tackle it. With every year, we are coming closer and closer to making many cancer indications manageable diseases. The number of patients that survive cancer today is much, much bigger than compared to the past."

Artificial Intelligence

"It wasn't so long ago that artificial intelligence was reserved to the realm of science fiction according to the public. Skip ahead to 1997 and IBM's Deep Blue brought real artificial intelligence into the public eye when it bested Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 2 matches(though losing the series 4-2). Fast-forward to last year and AI has beat the masters in virtually every game you can think of, including Go(which is both older and more difficult than Chess). From mastering games to contemplating the meaning of life, AI has made major strides in recent years.

A fully developed, self-teaching AI unit is no longer a dream, it has transitioned into an inevitability with the only real question being "who will get their first?" There have been so many artificial intelligence breakthroughs in recent years, it can be difficult to imagine what's next.

So, in the hopes of shedding some light on that subject, here's a list of 5 AI trends to watch in 2018."

Feel Good Story, Animal Rescue

"Zeus the dog was on a sailboat whose motor supposedly failed. The USS Ashland came to the rescue."

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - November 1 Edition

Affordable Care Act, Open Enrollment

ACA Open Enrollment: If You Buy Coverage in the Individual Market 

“If you buy your health plan on your own (rather than getting coverage through an employer), you may purchase a 2018 plan either through your state’s health insurance marketplace or off-exchange. If you are low-income, you may be eligible for Medicaid coverage. If you don’t have health coverage in 2018, you may be subject to a tax penalty.


All plans in the individual market must be comprehensive, covering doctor visits, hospitalization, prescription drugs and maternity care without restrictions for physical or mental illnesses or conditions that existed before coverage began. Preventive services like immunizations, screenings and birth control, are covered with no additional out-of-pocket cost. Insurers cannot charge you more based on your medical history or because you are a woman. Insurers can only vary premiums based on your age, the number of the people in your family covered by the policy, and whether you use tobacco.

Plans both in and out of state marketplaces come in four levels – bronze, silver, gold and platinum.  The metal levels signify differences in the amount of deductibles and other-out-of-of pocket costs they require for covered benefits. In general, bronze plans tend to have the highest deductibles and lowest premiums, while gold plans generally have lower deductibles but charge higher monthly premiums. All plans are required to have an annual out-of-pocket limit on your cost sharing for covered services in-network. That limit can be no higher than $7,350 per person in 2018 ($14,700 in a family policy.) If you are under 30, you may be able to get a “catastrophic” insurance plan that charges the highest possible deductible ($7,350), with monthly premiums that are even lower than under bronze plans.”

Childhood Obesity, Education

“As childhood obesity soars among low-income communities with limited access to fresh produce, some educators in Colorado are combating the problem by joining the farm-to-preschool movement. Now these preschoolers are learning their ABCs while picking veggies from the school garden and preparing healthy meals. Special correspondent Cat Wise reports.

Social Media, Regulation, Monopolies

“Three of the most recognized companies in the world—Google, Facebook, and Twitter—served as target practice Tuesday as executives submitted to two hours of questioning from a Senate subcommittee on terrorism about how exactly Kremlin-backed operatives used their platforms to hurt Hillary Clinton’s prospects of winning the presidency, spread disinformation, and stoke social unrest to American voters before and after the 2016 election

But that was only the beginning. On Wednesday, general counsel from all three companies have two more hearings to sit through with the House and Senate intelligence committees.

At Tuesday’s hearing, senators came armed with display boards pasted with printouts of
Russian-backed content that appeared engineered to rile the far edges of America’s deeply polarized electorate. And while many of the senators who submitted questions aren’t as fluent in social media as a YouTube star or a Twitter-addled journalist, the power of social media to influence, deceive, and manipulate voters wasn’t lost on anyone. Nor was the fact that these massive internet platforms have, in a sense, grown out of control.

…Facebook admitted that it is unable to know whom it’s doing business with, which is exactly how Russian-backed actors posing as faux activist groups and nonprofits were able to buy ads and create inauthentic pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Russian agents were even able to organize over 60 real-life events from coast to coast across the United States before and after the election, at least 22 of which drew American attendees according to a Monday report in the Wall Street Journal.”

Leadership, Gratitude

“A few years ago, I made my first gratitude list, naming those who bring out the best in me. They include:

  • My dad, who showed me how to live and lead.
  • My mom, who made me feel loved every day of my life and taught me to pass on that love to others.
  • My wife, Margaret, who fills my life with joy.
  • Elmer Towns, Theologian, who sparked my dream of building a great church.
  • John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, who encouraged me to make every day my masterpiece.
  • My workplace team, who inspire me to keep reaching, turn visions into reality, and rein me in when I am out of control.
I wrote for 30 minutes straight that day, filling line after line. I could have written for three hours and still not included everyone who has touched my life. That’s why I add to it periodically—sometimes in writing but more often in simple reflection. It’s my way of acknowledging the gifts people offer me daily, from those who inspire my wildest dreams to the server who takes a minute to deliver a kind word with my cup of coffee.

This reflection time allows me to see that gratitude is the antidote to the three deadly diseases that can ruin a leader: pride, isolation and selfishness. When your name graces a company, it’s easy to develop an inflated sense of self-importance. How quickly we forget the many hands that contribute to our success. Such arrogance drives us away from people. The resulting isolation blinds us to the needs of others. From such a cauldron, selfishness percolates and ultimately spills over into every decision we make.

Gratitude counteracts those tendencies. When we thank people, we’re reminded of our dependence on them and inspired to serve their needs instead of insisting they meet ours.”


"When your cat gets stuck, who you gonna call?

In the US state of Washington, there are some incredibly tall trees that can reach up to 30 metres high. So when cats climb into them, they often find they can't get down again.

Shaun Sears and Tom Otto are professional tree climbers and they realised there was a cat problem. So they decided to do something about it - and so Canopy Cat Rescue was born."

Click here to watch the video.