Do you know Stanford Medicine X?

Stanford Med X logo

Medicine X brings together patients, providers, researchers and technologists to move health care and emerging technologies forwardway forward.

Medicine X just held their 4th annual conference in September.  To get an idea of how diverse their program is, check out the schedule.  You’ll quickly see that the 2014 schedule is not just a list of speakers and abstracts, but a way to connect to the conference and the speakers even if you weren’t there.  Many of the contributors to Medicine X are ePatients (meaning expert patients)–some are also well-established bloggers, blogging about their illness or chronic disease.

The conference is styled very similarly to TED Talks–the stage is flashy, no podium, speakers are cool, casual and inspiring.


Image (YouTube) of Brit Johnson delivering a talk about her experience with autoimmune arthritis at a Medicine X Conference at Stanford University. You can follow her blog @hurtblogger.


There is a list of Medicine X’s selected talks made up of conference presentations and weekly LIVE discussions that are designed to be watched and followed on Twitter (#MedX) every Tuesday & Thursday.  (NOTE:  The site seems to be behind in their promotion of upcoming LIVE discussions, but there are plenty archived on their YouTube Channel.)

As mentioned before, patients play a big role at the conference, ePatient Scholarships applications can now be submitted for the 2015 conference.  If you are or know a good candidate, this looks like an amazing & fun opportunity!



Social Media and Foodborne Illness Surveillance

“Twitter epidemiology” is a hot topic among public health professionals, as they investigate social media as a means of gathering data on unfolding health threats in the community. Perhaps one of the best uses of this new means of data collection is in tracking foodborne illnesses. Since many people who experience food poisoning treat it at home rather than visit a doctor or hospital, the incidence of food poisoning has long been recognized as underreported (Noesie, 2014). Social media, including online food and entertainment review sites and Twitter, are seen as a way to address that underreporting by identifying comments by users and “tweets” that report symptoms of food poisoning.

Foodborne Chicago banner logo

A recent MMWR issue reported on a project by the Chicago Department of Public Health which used Twitter to identify possible food poisoning complaints and follow up on them. The “Foodborne Chicago” site URL was provided in response to these online complaints, through which 193 complaints were submitted by users. In turn the health department inspected 133 restaurants as a result of these complaints, about 40 percent of which revealed health and safety violations.

Foodborne Chicago online form

The use of social media and online technologies to identify public health threats seems promising. Previous research has focused on the use of Google search analytics to help identify disease outbreaks. As far as foodborne illness specifically, the research so far has been limited. Most projects, including the Foodborne Chicago pilot, found similar results in surveillance via social media as compared to other methods. With further research, perhaps social media can become a mainstream adjunct to traditional methods of surveillance and follow-up for food poisoning outbreaks.

How I Work: Dana Hettich

dana hettich

Location: Birmingham, AL
Current Gig: Librarian
One word that best describes how you work: Deliberately
Current mobile device: iPhone 4S

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why? 

  • Uniball micro pens (purple).
  • Foam earplugs.
  • Coffee.
  • Sleep.
  • Indoor track.
  • Calendar
  • Reminder app

What’s your workspace like?

I like to think of it as organized chaos.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut? 

Eating a lot of foods (fruit, vegetables, cheese) uncooked. I find it sounds fancier when I call it crudité.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? 

At this point I use three different tools. I use a binder that is broken down by week with one part containing the list of items that need to be done by week’s end and the other part giving space to what bubbles up on any given day. I also use an old fashioned desk calendar. It helps reinforce long term deadlines with a glance. And finally I use reminders in Outlook and on my iPhone.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? 

Does my coffee maker count?

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

I’m not sure I’m better than everyone at anything. I don’t think there’s anything I do better than everyone. Here are a few things that I do reasonably well:

1. Make coffee. I started drinking it black years ago, and I find that most people make brown water, not coffee.

2. Filter my reactions. I have found that I will feel like I was short and irritable and when I apologize later for it people invariably react with “you were?”

3. Dana-doodles – useless but entertaining drawings made in the effort to explain something. (I just found out that this has become a thing in the office.)

What do you listen to while you work?

I’m ADD so I have a hard time listening to anything when I need to focus. If I find things are too quiet (yes, quiet can also be distracting) I like to listen to the Ambient channel on Soma FM. EXPAND

What are you currently reading?

I usually have a two or three of books going. Right now I am reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. It’s my lunch book. I just finished Decisions, the freshman discussion book at UAB.  And today I picked up Think Like a Freak. Also, I’ve made a habit of reading comics at bedtime. So right now I’m working my way through a collection of Calvin and Hobbes.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I would say that I’m a self-conscious extrovert.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I have always been an 8 hour girl. So now, since I get up a little after 5 a.m., I try to be in bed a little after 9, which gets me close to 8. Thankfully, I do much better with less sleep than I used to.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions. 

Neil Gaiman

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’m not sure it’s the best advice I’ve ever received, but I have recently been told to “lighten up.” I like it so much that I have it on a sticky note in my office and have added it to my Thoughtback list.




“62,804 top doctors. No waiting room.” Sounds pretty interesting, huh? HealthTap has been around in a free form for several years, but I just recently heard about it on a tech segment of the local news. Via the HealthTap website, a healthcare consumer can enter a health topic and quickly access a list of patient questions with doctor-provided answers, as well as links to tips and topic information pages. For example, a search on multiple sclerosis (MS) brings back doctors’ answers to questions such as, Can I catch MS? If I have MS, how can I reduce the effects of an attack? What are the signs of MS?

HealthTap Consult AskThe HealthTap app requires you to create a personal account. To “personalize your experience,” you are guided through a series of pages to provide information about yourself: gender, location, three health topics of interest to you, etc. After that you can:

  • view a feed of targeted health information, much like a health-focused Facebook feed;
  • search by condition, symptoms, doctors, medications, or procedures;
  • enter a question, at which point you’re given the option to (a) (for a fee) consult a live doctor via video, phone, or chat, or (b) (for free) email a doctor anonymously if none of the provided links sufficiently answer your question; or
  • find doctor-created checklists.

The fee-based features of HealthTap were launched just last month as HealthTap Prime, which gives users (for a $99/month fee) access to unlimited medical advice via live video conference with participating physicians.

HealthTap also markets heavily to physicians, highlighting numerous benefits for doctors to offer services through the site and app. In fact, there is a separate HealthTap for U.S. Doctors app that allows physicians to, as one reviewer put it, “help people in [their] spare time.”

It’s no doubt the website and app are slick and user-friendly and the convenience of being able to video conference with a physician at any moment is enticing. I believe this company is onto something exciting. However, I can’t help but feel a bit skeptical of the service. I saw several typos in my browsing of physician answers, so I question the quality control and review process of the information provided. (I couldn’t find a description of their editorial process.) On their Additional Information page, they do address one of my initial concerns about the service by pointing out that virtual consults with HealthTap Prime physicians should not replace regular visits to primary care doctors. Which makes sense: your primary doctor knows your history and has access to your health records. Personally, based on what I saw on their website and app, I’m not yet ready to take a $99/month plunge. But what do you think?

How I Work: Cathy Beadlecomb

How I work: Cathy Beadlecomb

Location: Lister Hill Library, Content Management

Current gig: Library Associate II

Current Mobile Devices: iPad 4 and my flip phone (does that count? it is mobile and has a screen)

One word that best describes how you work:

Creatively (i.e. chaotically). I’m always torn between my perfectionistic desire to focus on the details of the work at hand and my opposite more creative tendency to solve problems, plan projects and analyze everything going on around me.

What apps/software/tools you can’t live without?

I still miss my candy bar phone, so I’m obviously retro and don’t use many apps or tools. My most important organizational tools are Excel and email. I often send myself or others (they love that) emails just so the information contained will be searchable. Fortunately, I was one of the first people at the library to get two monitors (in order to catalog electronic resources more efficiently) and it’s great to have two screens! I’d be lost without those.

What is your workspace like?IMG_20140808_101516509_HDR

My area is extremely clean and neat at least twice a year (after I rearrange the furniture). Normally though, my desk is covered with overlapping and irregularly placed stacks of paper, files and post-it notes. I also have a multitude of icons on my computer desktop, but I can’t figure out how to make those quite as messy.

What is your favorite to-do list manager?

Paper and pen. I make lots of To Do lists on a variously colored notepads. I rarely return to these lists to mark anything off. I just start a new list instead. This sounds futile, but when I run across a previous To Do list, somehow the important tasks listed have magically been completed.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Definitely, the printer is my most favorite “gadget.” If I had to work without easy access to a fast printer I’d be in trouble.

What is your best life hack?

Just thinking about going to the Botanical Gardens can be stress relieving for me. I’ve gone to the Japanese Gardens all my adult life and now I have a favorite swing where I read (usually a cozy mystery) and watch people. I’m always bummed though if someone is in MY swing.Birmingham_Botanical_Gardens_-_Japanese_Garden_Torii

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

I’m definitely an introvert though few seem to believe it. Most people would more easily believe that the “Chatty Cathy” doll I had in the 1960s was named after me.

What is your sleep routine like?

For me, sleep consists of naps punctuated with philosophical thought (i.e worries) and eventual Netflix watching on the iPad so that I can fall asleep again for a few more hours.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Life is not fair. Get over it! This wisdom comes from a friend I’ve known for about 35 years. She keeps saying this to me, so it must not be sinking in, but still it IS good advice.

The Emojli Network :) or :(

You’re either going to love this or really hate it.

A couple of guys from London, Matt Gray & Tom Scott, are getting ready to launch an all emoji social network for iOS called Emojli, which will make exclusive use of the emjoi keyboard on your mobile device.

All the posts will be made up of emoji–only emoji.  Even your username.

It’s certainly not Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and not intended to be.  For those who get bent out of shape in thinking that texting and tweeting have ruined our ability to communicate in writing, Emojli isn’t that serious.

Emojli is like the Monty Python of Social Networks.  It will be silly.

They hope to make it available on iPhone sometime this month, and for Android soon after.

To reserve your username and watch their promo, click the image below.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 10.35.31 AM

FYI: Before you enter in a username, be sure that you’re comfortable with it.  If you try a username and it hasn’t been taken, it’s yours.  And with over 250,000 two-image combinations still available, you can also waste, I mean spend, a lot of time trying to come up with something clever.

If you do decide to be a part of the big Emojli joke, look me up.  I’m timebomb


To add the Emoji keyboard to your iPhone or iPad, follow these steps.


Saving in Facebook

Perhaps you already know about this but it was new to me so I thought I would share.  I have lots of librarian colleagues on Facebook and they often share interesting articles that I don’t have time to read during the workday. Sometimes, if they look interesting enough I will open them and clip to Evernote or Pocket but I don’t often bother.  But now there is an option to Save them in Facebook.

HIN FB save


















Just click on the tiny down arrow in the top right corner of the post to open the menu pictured above.  Click on Save “name of the post” and the content is saved for future enjoyment!

home saved


To get back to the stuff you’ve saved, just look at the top left on the home screen under your profile.  You can see a list of what you saved, when you saved it, who posted it and where it is online.  You can even go back and share the link if you decide the content is worthwhile.  If you click on the “via NPR” by the article it takes you back to the post so you can see the comment and discussion.

saved in FB

I think this is a great feature!  Now I have another place to save articles that I’ll never have time to read!

Two Day Natural Family Planning App


Contraception continues to be controversial politically it seems, judging from recent news. However, there are quieter revolutions in reproductive health occurring somewhat surprisingly in the field of natural family planning. The Georgetown University Institute for Reproductive Health recently announced the availability of a free app for the Two Day Method of natural family planning, which focuses on raising women’s awareness of their cervical secretions surrounding their most fertile periods. This simple, inexpensive method of family planning does not involve contraceptives except for the possible use of condoms during fertile days. It can be used by women with varying cycle lengths. It is not necessary for a woman to be able to distinguish between types and consistency of secretions, only to be alert to their existence during her cycle. (The instructions do provide information about those types of secretions that indicate infection, however.)

When used correctly the Two Day Method is 96% effective, with typical use it is around 86% effective. That means that no more than 5-14 per 100 women using this method will get pregnant if avoiding pregnancy is the goal. (It can also be used by couples hoping to conceive a child.) Although there are some obvious benefits to the Two Day Method, including its ease of use and the ability to avoid hormonal contraceptives or other types of contraception, there are some disadvantages as well. First, the woman has to remember to check her secretions regularly. She must also have a partner willing to abstain from sex during her fertile days or use condoms. The method by itself provides no protection against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.


The new 2Day Method app is available for free download to iPhones at the App Store. The results of the clinical trial on the method at Georgetown University were first published in Fertility and Sterility in 20004.

How I Work: Heather Martin
















Location: UAB Sterne Library

Current gig: Reference Librarian for Arts and Humanities and Associate Librarian

Current mobile devices: iPhone 5s, iPad 2, 4th gen iPod touch (kept in car for audiobook listening)

Current computer: Dell desktop PC (work) and ASUS netbook (home)

One word that best describes how you work:  Mindfully. That can be positive (taking time to think of the best way to complete a project) or negative (working something out from beginning to end in my mind before getting it down on “paper” and starting).  Early drafts and revision aren’t my strong suits.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Evernote. Evernote. Evernote.  I can collect and organize notes in all formats (e-mail, webpages, photos, audio, video, pdf) and everything is searchable.  I use it for work (e.g., saving information about books and other material to order for the library) and home (e.g., saving recipes and knitting patterns). Evernote also helps me cut down on the amount of paper I use.  I started using the Dolphin browser on my iPhone and iPad because it has the Evernote Web Clipper built in. And yes, I’m drafting this post in Evernote.













In second place (maybe tied for first) is Lastpass.  There’s no way I could remember the passwords for all the websites I access for work and personal use.

What is your workspace like?

It’s stack city on my desk. I do most of my work on computer or iPad, so my desk space is mostly storage.  I don’t think I’ve ever put up family photos at any of my jobs, but I have library-related swag and gifts from coworkers on my desk and shelves.

What is your best life hack?

Working in a few minutes to sit with my eyes closed.  I don’t meditate, but it’s relaxing to take a break from all the screens we deal with everyday.

What is your favorite to-do list manager?

You’d think I’d use Evernote, but that hasn’t worked for me as a daily task manager.  I keep track of deadlines and appointments in Outlook and use Wunderlist.  My daily and weekly to-do lists at work still end up on a notepad.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

I guess my iPad.  I use it daily at home and at work.

What do you listen to while you work?

I listen to Spotify or Pandora, usually on my iPad.  I just discovered Spotify’s “Focus” playlists and started using them as background music while reading.  When I’m writing, I listen to Spotify playlists of 80s hits or jazz.  I created playlists of songs from my old cassettes (which I no longer have) and CDs (that I rarely play) and love listening to those for a memory lane pick-me-up.  Sometimes I listen to podcasts on Stitcher.

What are you currently reading?

My Goodreads profile says I’m reading The Best of McSweeney’s Internet TendencyHalf of a Yellow SunThe Ring in Yellow and Other Horror StoriesDevil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New AmericaA Song of Ice and FirePictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of a New Hollywood, and World War Z.  I started reading all of those, but I’ve read some books in between.  I just finished listening to Devil in the Grove as an mp3 audiobook.  May I give a shout-out to the Jefferson County Library Cooperative (JCLC) for their mp3 audiobook collection?  I guess I just did.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

Introvert.  Small groups are fine, but I need time alone to re-energize after being in large crowds.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I average six hours a night.  I’m still working on powering down an hour before bedtime, but the screens are winning.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Learn when to say no.”  It helps me from becoming overextended and focus on projects that are most important.

Finding Fido & Sylvester Too

We love our pets! We modify our cars and homes for their comfort. We take them to doggie daycare and doggie parks and pet spas. We rearrange our schedules all to make sure they are happy. There is no shortage of gadgets either. You can get an automatic feeder, a treat machine that treats and beeps when you press a button, glowing collars, life jackets, and orthopedic beds. You can even get your dog’s DNA and intelligence tested (Dognition).

So it should come as no surprise that we harness the power of technology to try and keep our pets safe. One of the best things that can keep your pets is our friend RFID (see my RFID post). A pet microchip is just a biocompatible RFID tag with a number written to it. Here is how it works: a vet using a hypodermic needle injects the rice size capsule under your furry pal’s skin. The vet then uses an RFD scanner to read the tag’s number. That number which is now linked to your pet is entered into a database with your contact information. Now if you pup or kitty gets lost and taken to a shelter or vet they should be scanned for a chip which greatly increases the odds of you and your pal being reunited.


The pros are pretty strong. Since an RFID tag doesn’t need a power source the tag should be good for the life of your pet. This is unlike GPS products like Whistle and Tagg because they need power. It isn’t any more painful than getting a shot and they are relatively cheap running from about 25 to 60 dollars. Further, since the chip lives actually IN your dog the chances of it getting lost are pretty slim unlike the GPS products above that usually attach to a collar.

There are some cons too. Getting your pet chipped isn’t a guarantee. First you have to register your pet in a database. Just getting the chip isn’t enough and you have to remember to change your contact information if you move or get a new phone. There are also some proprietary issues and competition between companies that provide the chips and scanners. In other words not all scanners can always read all available chip types. So make sure you get the most standardized chip available. There are also some concerns from some that implanting a chip is bad for the animal and may cause illness ever cancer. But that research is not definitive as of this writing.

The bottom line is that little RFID chip can greatly increase your chances of getting your baby back and with the deluge of animals in shelters there is not unlimited space. So if you have a known escape artist on your hands you may want to consider getting GPS AND an RFID chip!

For more on GPS using Whistle (and other stuff Whistle does) check out this cute video:

For more info check out How Pet Microchipping Works on Howstuffworks.