One of the things I’ve been proudest of in my work at Flatiron School is the podcast I created, Pursuing Mastery! Through it I’ve been able to interview a ton of interesting people and just basically geek out on educational theory and teaching. Check it out via the link above or just search for it wherever you get your podcasts!
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a cheap and easy way to protect your data. You should get one. If you’re convinced, go here to pick one. I am currently using NordVPN; I previously used PIA.
Not convinced yet? Read on.
In short, information does not go directly between your computer and your online destination. While in transit, your data hops between routers, servers, and network devices. Along those hops it can be captured.
Those free, open Wi-Fi zones at your nearby coffee shops? Unsecured. Airport Wi-Fi? Unsafe. The neighbor’s Wi-Fi that you use for free? Yeah, that one too.
A VPN creates a virtual “tunnel” of encryption for your data. Your information is obscured during every step of the journey. Someone could still capture it along the way, but with modern encryption technology it would take hundreds of years to decode it.
There’s another good reason for using a VPN: privacy. Without a VPN, your service provider can track how you use the internet. Websites and advertisers can track your IP address and trace it back to identifying information about you. Adding that secure tunnel prevents that sort of tracking.
Plus, it’s cheap. The best VPNs now cost around $3/month if you buy a year or two of service. And it’s easy to set up — just download and install on all your devices.
Yes, on all your devices. Phones, computers, tablets. Because you want all your information protected.
One caveat: a nefarious VPN provider could actually track your information. Look for one whose service policy clearly states that it keeps no stats or records of use. NordVPN and PIA both say this. You’ll never know for sure that they’re telling the truth, but PIA actually was subpoenaed and could not produce records of use by its clients.
Ready? Go get a VPN.
There’s really no way around it: you must back up your devices. It’s far too easy to lose or damage your phone or laptop, along with the wealth of information on it.
Luckily, backups are relatively easy to set up on any laptop, tablet, or smartphone you might own. Here’s how:
- Mac (using Time Machine)
- Windows (using Backup and Restore)
- iOS (using iCloud or iTunes)
- Android (using Backup & Reset)
But backups aren’t sufficient to protect you. You should also turn on encryption and protect your phone with a passcode so that your data is protected if your device is lost.
- Mac or Windows (encryption might be enabled already, but still check your settings; then follow these Mac and Windows security tips)
- iOS (a passcode isn’t the same as encryption, so check your settings and follow good security practices, and change your passcode if you have a common one)
- Android (allows encryption on every release since version 4 in 2012, but encryption isn’t turned on by default; for security tips, go here)
And finally, plan for a lost device before you lose it. Set up “Find My _____” today. That way, if you lose it, you can remotely lock or erase it. Here’s how:
- Mac (using Find My Mac)
- Windows (using Find My Device)
- iOS (using Find My iPhone)
- Android (using Find My Device)
Whew! That’s a lot of info. If you are able to follow it yourself, go for it. But remember that this is exactly the sort of thing I can help you with.
Cable TV remote.
Apple TV remote.
Lurking in a pile in a drawer.
Waiting for you to press the wrong button, jump to an incorrect source, and miss the first five minutes of your show.
There’s a better way! A universal remote will improve your digital life!
My current favorite is the Logitech Harmony Ultimate One remote. It has a customizable touch screen based on commonly-used actions, and it can make all your other remotes obsolete (ahem, mostly*).
Why use a universal remote? With the push of one button, you could turn on your cable TV box, turn on your TV, turn on your soundbar, set the source to cable, switch to a favorite channel, and set the sound to low. Pressing another button could turn off cable, turn on Apple TV, keep the soundbar on, and switch the source to HDMI. No more finding one remote to change the source, another to control the program, and a third to control the sound. Just one button labeled with the activity you want. Easy peasy.
Logitech’s universal remote is something you can set up by yourself. If you’d prefer an expert’s touch, I’d be happy to consult with you on building your best possible home theater experience.
*So why are your other remotes “mostly” obsolete? You will definitely, at some point, get your devices out of sync with your universal remote. For example, your remote might think it’s turning your TV on, but because your TV was ALREADY on it’s actually turning it off! If this happens, try pressing the universal’s “off” button a few times, with about 5 seconds in-between. That may get things back in sync. If not, Logitech’s mobile app has a “Fix” option that can get things back in order. But if all else fails, go find the original remotes. Those will always work.
HIPAA is a tricky subject for clinicians. It covers any digital transmission of personal healthcare information (PHI). It’s complex. And it’s easy to violate: sending a text message to a patient could violate HIPAA. So could an e-mail. Putting those disclaimer footers at the bottom of your e-mail? Nope, not sufficient to protect yourself.
Trust Liability Insurance recommends that all mental health professionals follow HIPAA guidelines, even in the very remote chance that you’re not bound by HIPAA. Trust’s FAQ is a good place to start building your understanding of these regulations.
The best course of action for anyone considering HIPAA is to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. I am not an attorney, don’t play one on TV, and cannot authoritatively advise you on how to follow HIPAA.
However, once you know more about it, I can help set up your HIPAA-compliant workflow. You don’t have to pay a ton of money for a “practice management” site — that’s a nice all-in-one option, but it’s not necessary to follow HIPAA. Using a paid Google Suite account gets you a ton of HIPAA-compliant apps (I can get you a discount on a new Google Suite account if you contact me via the form at bottom of this page); there are free secure text message services like OhMD; and HSS.gov has a page with model NPP forms that you can customize for your practice. Whatever you do, make sure any HIPAA-compliant service you want to use can provide you a Business Agreement, and check their privacy practices carefully to ensure patient information will remain secure.