Ransomware: At the Nexus of Medical Office Assistant Training and IT

An interesting story rests at the intersection of medical office assistant training and IT-centric activities like online medical billing.  According to news reports, MedStar, a health network of 10 Maryland hospitals, was  struck by a ransomware attack last week.  What’s ransomware?  If you’re soon to complete medical office assistant training or online medical billing classes, you’re on your way into career positions that require you to be knowledgeable almost as much about IT as medicine – ergo you MUST learn about ransomware so you can help keep it away from the computer systems in the offices where you’ll be employed.

Ransomware is a type of virus that is delivered via an email.  Typically, the email has what looks like a legitimate purpose, with a seemingly innocent subject line.  Many victims report the email subject says “Invoice Inside – Please Remit”.  Inside the email is an attachment that looks like the invoice.  When the diligent medical office assistant opens the attached invoice to process it, the virus is inserted into the computer.  The virus immediately shuts the use out of the computer and will not allow the user re-entry until a ransom is paid to the hackers.

This article from techie site ArsTechnica details the failure of MedStar IT personnel to properly guard against this form of cyberattack.   While MedStar was able to gain reentry to its entire network of infected computers without paying the hacker’s ransom, there was still a good deal of waste and headache caused by the event which idled the company’s workforce for a period of time while the issue was sorted out.  Obviously, this is something that any organization would rather avoid than figure out the hard way (like MedStar).

It pays for people like you taking medical office assistant training to educate yourself on computer systems and IT considerations like this.  You needn’t be a geeky propeller-head or a serious computer nerd.  But knowing about tricky virus scams like this – and how they’re communicated – can really be a lifesaver (no pun intended) when your office is confronted with attacks like this.  Be aware of emails with attachments from senders you’re not familiar with.  Don’t be afraid to show anything suspicious to IT team workers if you think there’s a chance it is a scam.  The life you save may be your computer’s.


Reducing Cable Bills for Online Medical Billing Classes

You’ve made the wise decision to study online medical billing classes with the Allen School.  You’re ready to embark on a path toward better job security and pay.  So why not take a few steps to protect your imminent earning power a bit more by lowering the cost of the cable internet subscription you’re using to study online medical billing classes?  Here’s how you can interact with the billing people at your cable provider to gain a discount on your monthly cable bill.

Step 1 – Review Your Current Package and Costs
Determine what cable services you’re paying for (it may also include TV and phone).  See if there are services you’re paying for that you aren’t using like certain movie channels for example.  Also, determine if you can purchase your own cable modem instead of renting theirs every month.  Perhaps you can do with a slower internet speed too if you’re only using it for web surfing and online medical billing classes.  If you’re not gaming, you may be able to save by purchasing a slower speed connection.

Step 2 – Be Ready for Your Call
Research what the competing cable providers in your area are offering for similar service.  Knowing what lower cost competitors may be in your neighborhood can be a powerful negotiation tool.  Also, if you’ve noticed a recent jump in your rate, make sure it wasn’t from the conclusion of a promotional rate you received when you first signed up.
Step 3 – Call Your Provider
Ask for the cable provider’s “retention department”.  They’re the ones authorized to negotiate.  Explain that you’re not able to continue to pay the high rate and that you’ve been talking to the competitor who offers similar service for a lower rate.  Just make sure not to make threats to the people in retention.  No one responds well to that.  Be nice and they’ll likely lower your rate to keep you as a customer.
Step 4 – Avoid the Upsell
The retention person may first try to avoid lowering your rate by instead offering you more services for the same rate you’re already paying.  A movie channel package or extra premium channels.  Stay focused.  You’re there to lower the bill, not accept more services.  Courteously decline any such offers and reiterate that you’re in need of a lower payment.
Step 5 – Be Diligent
If the first rep you speak to won’t help you out, thank them kindly and then call back later.  Speak to a different rep.  Chances are, you’ll be able to negotiate a lower rate with a different person.
It may take an hour or two to get it all done, but there’s nothing better than saving money on the tools you’re using to study your medical billing online classes. 

Job Security for Certified Nursing Assistants

In case you were worried about the job security that comes with a job as a certified nursing assistant, let us reassure you.  The world is full of people willing to take exceedingly stupid chances with their health and physical safety.  There’s absolutely no shortage of people who will need serious medical attention after doing all manner of moronic activities.  We sometimes like to share these potential Darwin Award winners as proof that there will always be plenty of work for certified nursing assistants.  From people trying to jump their motorcycle from rooftop to rooftop, to people trying to wrestle alligators, the world is full of folks with poor judgement and the injuries that almost always follow.

Case in point:  The woman in the video below drops her hat accidentally into the tiger’s cage at her local zoo.  Typically, the large cats are kept well-fed and mostly docile.  But in this video, it is clear that the zookeeper had yet to feed the Bengal tiger and this woman almost became the tiger’s lunch, all over an easily replaceable ball cap.  You can hear the voices of astonished spectators who had some choice words for this foolhardy woman.  She should take consolation in knowing the words cannot hurt her.  Although a giant cat would’ve inflicted serious bodily harm upon her had she been caught before she could bound over the fence.

The moral of the story is, if you’re seeking a career opportunity in a field where it is unlikely for economic shifts to negatively impact your employment, you should definitely consider taking the courses so many certified nursing assistants have already taken to embark on a new, stable and secure career.  Folks like the woman in this video basically guarantee there’ll always be work available.

tigers make work for certified nursing assistants


Eat This Before Medical Assistant Studies Exams

Its a well-known medical fact that different foods have positive or negative impacts on cognitive abilities.  According to nutritionists, these are the best kinds of foods and drinks to consume before taking exams that tax your thought processes.  Medical assistant studies can be rigorous and demanding of one’s brain power.  So here are some things we recommend chowing down on before you take your next medical assistant studies exams.

According to test prep expert, Kelly Roell in an article at About.com, the following foods/beverages are best for test takers.

Brain Food #1: Green tea

Key Ingredient: Polyphenols
Test Help: Brain protection and mood enhancement

According to Psychology Today, polyphenols, the bitter-tasting substance in green tea, can actually protect the brain from wear and tear. Plus, it helps dopamine production, which is key to a positive mental state. And really, when you’re going to take a test, you absolutely must have a positive attitude about it, or you’ll doom yourself to second-guessing, worry, and fear, which do not good scores make.

Brain Food #2: Eggs

Key Ingredient: Choline
Test Help: Memory improvement

Choline, the “B-vitamin”-like substance our bodies need, can help your brain do something it’s good at: remember stuff. Some studies have found that increasing choline intake can improve memory, and egg yolks are among the richest and easiest natural sources of choline. So scramble them up a few months before testing day to see if it helps you remember how to fill in an oval.

Brain Food #3: Wild Salmon

Key Ingredient: Omega-3-fatty acids
Test Help: Brain function improvement

The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is the major polyunsaturated fatty acid found in the brain. Eating food rich in omega-3’s, like wild-caught salmon, can improve brain function and mood. And improved brain function (reasoning, listening, responding, etc.) can lead to a higher test score. Allergic to fish? Try walnuts. Squirrels can’t have all the fun.

Brain Food #4: Dark chocolate

Key Ingredient: Flavonoids and Caffeine
Test Help: Focus and Concentration

We’ve all heard for a while now that in small quantities, 75% cacao content or higher dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and cholesterol because of its powerful antioxidant properties from the flavonoids. But one of the best uses of dark chocolate comes from its natural stimulant: caffeine. Why? It can help you focus your energy. Beware, though. Too much caffeine will send you through the roof and can actually work against you when you sit down to test. So eat the dark chocolate in isolation.

Brain Food #5: Acai berries

Key Ingredients: Antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids
Test Help: Brain Function and Mood

Acai has become so popular, that it seems cliché to want to consume it. For test-takers, though, the incredibly high antioxidant levels can help blood flow to the brain, which means in short, it’ll work better. And, since the acai berry has a ton of omega-3’s, it works on your mood, too, so you’ll be more confident of your abilities as you’re working your way through complex math problems.

So, on test day, why not try a cup of green tea, some scrambled eggs mixed with smoked wild-caught salmon, and an Acai smoothie followed by a piece of dark chocolate? Worst case scenario? You’ve had a healthy breakfast. Best case scenario? You improve your testing score.


How Market Leaders Got their Names

Do you know how market leading technology organizations like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Apple, Samsung and others got their names?  Just like the Allen School Online for medical billing and coding classes online, the reasons behind some of these well-known brand names are often interesting stories.

Apple got its name because Steve Jobs liked apples and suggested the name for the fledgling company after returning from a trip to an orchard.  He also liked it because it put his company before his former employer (Atari) in the phone book.

Google was chosen as the way most people would likely spell the word “googol”.  Googol is an immense number (1 with 100 zeroes after it) that Google’s founders likened to the vast amount of information their search engine would give access to.

Yahoo! was simply an acronym for, “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”.

You can read about the origins of many more tech company names at this nifty article from Yahoo! Tech.

Here’s some information on the origins of the Allen School and Allen School Online for medical billing and coding classes online.

Allen School for Physicians’ Aides (the original name of the institution) was first incorporated in December, 1961 for the purpose of providing residents of the Jamaica, Queen’s area with a quality professional institution offering Allied Health Programs. The first graduating class was in June, 1962. Loretta Teich, purchased the institution on January 31st, 1980. Mrs. Teich owned an employment agency and found that applicants were not properly prepared for careers and lacked the appropriate skills necessary to enter the workforce. She decided to explore the possibility of being involved in skills based training to enhance the ability level of the applicants with whom her agency serviced. The Allen School was purchased.

Read the whole Allen School origin story here.


News Medical Office Assistant Training Can Use

You want to be as well-versed as you can be on current events emanating from the medical field if you’re to be a successful medical office assistant.  Even if you’re still taking your medical office assistant training, it pays to keep one eye on the health and wellness headlines.  This way, you’ll be knowledgeable about the latest and greatest ideas, advances and news that affects your patients once you’re done with medical office assistant training and working in a medical office somewhere.

Today’s installment comes to us via the Cleveland Clinic which has released research proving what many doctors had believed was a myth.  For people battling high cholesterol, Statins are the doctor’s go-to treatment.  These widely used drugs are known to reduce bad cholesterol in the bloodstream.  Yet for years, doctors had been dismissing complaints by some patients taking statins who reported increased levels of muscle spasms that began after they had taken their statin meds.

From the CBS Evening News:

Dr. Steven Nissen is the lead researcher of the Cleveland Clinic study. “We’ve confirmed that this is a problem and it’s real and we’ve given them an alternative,” he said.

Dr. Nissen said problems including muscle pain and weakness effect up to 10 percent of people on statins or three to four million Americans.

The study looked at more than 500 patients who reported side effects and are considered “statin intolerant.”

This latest research proves the veracity of the claims made by a not insignificant number of statin users and has led to the development of alternative treatments for high cholesterol among those who exhibit this side effect to the statins.  This is a good piece of information for you to have in your back pocket once you’ve completed medical office assistant training and get out there into the job world.  Your employer will be impressed if a high cholesterol patient taking statins complains of muscle cramping and you respond with this information from Dr. Nissen at the Cleveland Clinic.


Secret Windows 10 Features for Medical Billing Online Students

Well, its official.  Over the weekend, Microsoft updated my operating system from Windows 7 which I loved and didn’t want to change to Windows 10 which I did not want or authorize.  But this is the world we live in and I guess I have to accept a forced upgrade or spend who knows how many hours uninstalling it.  To my surprise, Windows 10 is a great operating system.  I hated Windows 8 and that’s why I was not keen on Microsoft’s next experiment (where consumers play the role of guinea pig).  Alas medical billing online students, if the computer you use for online medical billing and coding studies is forced to upgrade as mine was, let me tell you, it ain’t all bad!

Here are some of the nifty new hidden features contained in the Windows 10 system.

There are lots of useful keyboard shortcuts including nifty new virtual desktops (like having multiple monitors), easy access to news and even activation of Cortana, Windows’s new voice recognition AI assistant:

  • Windows Key-Tab (Task View)
  • Windows Key-Right-Up (moves app to top right quadrant; you can use different directions to position windows where desired)
  • Windows Key-Up and Down (snap apps to top or bottom of screen or maximizes)
  • Windows Key-Ctrl-Left or Right (scrolls between virtual desktops)
  • Windows Key-Ctrl-D (creates a new virtual desktop)
  • Windows Key-Ctrl-F4 (closes virtual desktop)
  • Windows Key-Ctrl-C (Cortana listening)
  • Windows Key-S (Daily Glance for weather, news, sports)

Another cool secret feature is the return of the “Start” menu.  You may recall Windows 8 did away with the super useful menu to much wailing and gnashing of teeth among users.  Well, its back and in Windows 10 you can get to it by simply keying “Windows Key + x” for instant access to task manager, command prompt and other system tools.

Read all about the cool, new, hidden features in Windows 10 at the Cheat Sheet, and make your experience as a medical billing online student all the more efficient.


We Stand With Belgium

It is getting to be too frequently that we’re compelled to write posts such as this one.  As an organization that trains people to be care givers, healers and enablers of the healing process, we’re highly attuned to human suffering.  We all wish nothing more than to provide comfort to all those afflicted and to salve the wounds both physical and emotional.  So today, rather than our typical content on all things related to studies at the Allen School, we’d just like to send our thoughts, prayers and well-wishes to our stricken brothers and sisters in Brussels.  Stay strong and know that we’re behind you every step of the way.  Perhaps one day the world won’t witness so much hatred, killing and fear.  Peace.


Nurse Assistant Trainees, Enjoy a Taste of Summer in NYC (in March)

You’re busy studying away all winter long to earn your certification through nurse assistant training with the Allen School.  Typically, this time of the year would be perfect to stay all tucked away in a warm classroom, out of the elements and filling your head with the knowledge you’ll need for your exciting new career as a CNA.  But for whatever reason – whether it was the prognostications of Punxatawney Phil or the Gods of Summer – we’ve been blessed here in the New York City region with near 80 degree warmth, weeks before the calendar end of winter.

So with the next few days forecast to be an ongoing taste of a summer that isn’t due to arrive for nearly half a year, enjoy this brief, abridged list of 10 great outdoor places to visit in NYC distilled from this excellent post at the Gothamist.  Do yourself a favor and after the end of your nurse assistant training classes over the next few days, pop outside.  Get some vitamin D going with the sunshine on your exposed skin.  Pretend it is July!  Here’s some awesome local places to dig outside in March.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Trails for hiking, sunset tours, boat trips, woods, water ponds, horseshoe crabs, turtles, butterflies and dozens of other animals and reptiles you probably don’t get to hang out with in the urban jungle.

Muscota Marsh
All the way at the northern tip of Manhattan in the Inwood district sits this lovely space, located on an acre by the Harlem River, with its beautiful walking paths, wetlands, marshland and, as winter thaws temporarily, perhaps a bevy of animal life the likes of snowy egrets and harbor seals. There’s also a dock for kayaks and canoes (though you’ll have to bring your own, sadly), picnic areas, and views of Spuyten Duyvil and the Palisades.

Carl Schurz Park: This park has some of the best dog runs in the city, lovely gardens, green lawns and walking path; an East River promenade for pedestrians and bikers that affords great views of Queens and beyond; plus a statue of Peter Pan, pine trees and plenty more pretty sights.

Read the entire lists for waterfalls, piers, quiet lawns and wooded areas all over the boroughs.  Take a little time to enjoy this wonderful respite from the winter.


Faster WiFi Tips for Medical Billing Online Classes

Taking medical billing online classes with the Allen School?  Chances are you’ve got a sweet internet set up at your home enabling you to study in any room of your home; wherever you’re most comfortable throughout the day.  At the heart of your system is the wireless router that beams sweet internet signal to all corners of your abode.  Chances are also good that there are places where your home wireless network functions better than others.

Do you often say to yourself, “The Internet is slow in the bedroom”?  Or, “Videos seem to freeze or stutter in the the kitchen”?  These are common WiFi problems encountered by all users of wireless networks, not just those studying medical billing online classes.  And the good news is, there are solutions to these commonly occurring problems.

Patrick Norton at Digital Trends offers some suggestions for ways to speed up your wireless network.  His first (and perhaps most obvious) recommendation for those in need of greater Internet speed is to avoid wireless connections altogether.  For high bandwidth operations like running HD video, Norton notes that the ethernet, or “wired” connection cannot be beat in terms of speed and stability of signal.  Plus, it has the added benefit of superior security since none of the data will be broadcast “over the air” to the wireless router.

“But, I like to study my medical billing online classes from my comfy couch in the family room while wearing my feetie pajamas”, you may be saying.  (I know that’s what I’d be saying!)  So if going “hard wired” sounds like a drag, consider the physical location of your wireless router.  It may be situated in a location in your home that is less than optimal.  Norton says,

“All too often routers are stuffed in a closet in some far corner of your house. If this sounds like your home, do yourself a favor, and try to get it out in the open, as high as possible, with as few walls between it and the rest of the house. Also try pointing one antenna vertically and one horizontally, if it has a couple of external antennas.”

Another method for tweaking your WiFi for better speed involves changing the frequency/band it is using to beam signal around your home.  For example, if your router is set to run on the 802.11n frequency, you might want to try connecting via 802.11.g.  Most routers’ administrative panel permits users to change the bandwidth in this way.  There are also a good number of video tutorials available that show step by step instructions for making this fairly simple change.

Don’t suffer with slow or spotty WiFi.  Take these few steps and improve your online study experience dramatically!