Archive | March 2008

Health is Wealth

De Los Santos-STI MegaClinic – The MegaCare Provider
by: Jerry Liao

If you reach my age, career takes a backseat. Family and health come first. So I took the Lenten break to have my annual checkup done. Little did I know that I could actually do two things at the same time. I took my family to SM MegaMall to do some R&R and I was surprised to see an Urgent Care and Walk-In Health Center in that mall – the De Los Santos – STI MegaClinic.

With over 2,000sqm of floor space, MegaClinic is vast, housing a wide array of state-of-the-art medical equipment, multi-specialty centers, diagnostic and surgical facilities. It boasts a team of more than 200 doctors and medical staff with diverse areas of specialization, responsible for taking care of the patients’ different varieties of medical needs. From pediatrics and dermatology to OB-gyne and internal medicine (and a wide-ranging list of other specializations), MegaClinic provides patients with the most comprehensive healthcare in just one destination.

MegaClinic features modern medical equipment to diagnose patients’ ills and treat them. It has this VISX S4 Refractive Laser Machine in the Cataract and Eye Refractive Laser Surgery Center. In the Artery and Vein Center, there is CoolTouch Endovenous Laser Treatment (ELVT) to treat and gently shrink varicose veins in a non-invasive way. It also has a 2D/4D Ultrasonography and CT Scan machine.

MegaClinic also has a Sports and Rehab Center catering to athletes and active persons who wish to be in tip-top shape and achieve their peak performance. For those interested in a holistic approach to healing, there is the Living Life Well Center, which covers integrative medicine and uses traditional Chinese methods such as acupuncture, acupressure and herbal medicine to complement Western medical science.

People seeking to enhance and improve their looks may come for botox, breast augmentation, mesoliposuction, diamond peel and other aesthetic procedures which utilize the most current machines imported from North America. MegaClinic brings the ELOS (Electro Optical Synergy) technology to the country, a complete aesthetic solution that provides ultraFast hair removal, skin rejuvenation/FotoFacial rf, ReFirme wrinkle reduction and skin tightening. The clinic also has as ThermaCool machine used in the thermage procedure. The procedure is clinically proved to tighten and gently lift skin to smooth out wrinkles and renew facial contours or, simply put, it does facelift without the surgery.

A summary of its services are as follows: General medicine and specialty consultations; comprehensive diagnostic services (clinical laboratory, x-ray, 2D-4D ultrasound, CT scan, ECG, 2D echo cardiogram, pulmonary function test, endoscopy); out-patient surgery; plastic and reconstructive surgery; comprehensive dental services; derma laser center; audiometry; sports medicine, orthopedic surgery, & rehabilitation surgery; renal care & dialysis center; cataract and refractive laser surgery; annual physical exams, pre-employment exams, & executive check-ups; integrative medicince (traditional Chinese medicine); artery and vein center; pharmacy and sugarNOT (health cafe).

And you know what’s the best part of it all? The fees are very reasonable. I inquired about its executive checkup package (which includes x-ray, blood test, urine and stool test, 2D Echo, ECG, treadmill/stress test, physical checkup, eye checkup and others), and believe it or not, the package price was what I paid for just a couple of tests last year (2007) from another hospital. By the way, it even has this membership card where it provides discounts and other amenities as if the current offering is’t enough.

How about the quality and reputation of the doctors? I found out the center has Dr Hector Santos, president of the Philippine Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, Dr Enrique Enriquez, STI MegaClinic’s chief of Clinics, Dr Gertrude Chan, president of the Philippine Dermatological Research and Testing Foundation, Dr Jaime Galvez Tan, former health secretary of the Philippines, among others. It even has a doctor specifically in charge of MegaClinic’s patient relations in the person of Dr Maripaz Montalvan-Rama.

The unique proposition of MegaClinic is that it takes away the hospital settings which I believe are feared by most people. By the mere mention of the word hospital, this gives you that sick feeling or that something is wrong with you. Since Megaclinic is located inside the mall, and the way it’s designed, the whole setting gives you the feeling you’re just visiting an establishment that happens to provide healthcare.

So the next time you visit SM Megamall, do drop by the De Los Santos–STI MegaClinic, a mega clinic inside a mega mall, and experience the mega care of your life.

Empowering the PWD’s

First National Conference on Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities
by: Jerry Liao

Did you know that people with disabilities are not and should not be called disabled persons? They are not disabled, they are very able, it’s just that they have some disabilities – and the proper term now is People with Disabilities (PWD).

In the area of technology, technology companies have taken into consideration how PWDs can take advantage of their products and services. For visually impaired individuals, we have the text-to-speech technology. The same is being used for mobile phones; technology will read the text message (SMS). There is also a voice-recognition program that will allow people who cannot move to navigate and use technologies via their voice. The list can go on and on. PWDs should be given the same opportunity to experience the power of technology.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said on the transportation sector and / on public establishments. Not all buildings are equipped with handicap ramps for those who are using wheelchairs. Not all public establishments are equipped with parking slots for PWDs. Not all public establishments provide rest rooms / powder rooms for PWDs. More so, public transportation does not provide the proper infrastructure to accommodate the PWD passengers.

Public Utility Jeeps (PUJs) do not have seats for PWDs. Public Utility Buses (PUB) do not have seats as well. PUBs don’t even have automatic ramp to be lowered for wheelchairs. SO without these things in place, how do we expect our PWDs to travel comfortably? Do we ask all of them to buy their own cars? The answer is NO. And the Philippine government is fully aware of these needs.

The Department of Transportation and Communication and the Office of the Assistance Secretary for Planning and Project Development are spearheading the First National Conference on Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities to be held at the Great Eastern Hotel, Quezon City on March 27 and March 28, 2008.

The two day conference aims to promote transport accessibility as an entry point to building a non-handicapping environment for PWDs. At the end of the conference, the participants shall have:

– developed common inter-sectoral understanding and dialogue on public transport and accessibility issues.

– linked the call for accessible transportation to efforts on creating non-handicapping public transport facilities and physical environments.

– identified the consideration needed for drawing an intervention plan for increasing inter-sectoral partnership for transport and accessibility issues.
– recommend measures to address the identified gaps and issues in the public transportation system that limits the mobility of persons with disabilities resulted from the regional transport summits held in 2007.

– drawn formulated a National Plan of Action for an accessible public transportation system for persons with disabilities in the country.

Did you know that we have Republic Act No. 7277 – Magna Carta for People with Disabilities and its implementing rules and regulations? An act providing rehabilitation, self-development and self-reliance of people with disabilities and their integration into the mainstream of society and for other purposes.

Just to show you how serious this project is, CBM International is supporting the conference. CBM is an international Christian development organization whose primary purpose is to improve the quality of life of the world’s poorest persons with disabilities and those at risk of disability, who live in the most disadvantaged societies. Their aim is to serve persons with visual impairment as well as people with other disabilities in developing countries—regardless of their nationality, sex, or religion.

CBM’s fields of work cover not only the prevention and cure of blindness, but also the education and rehabilitation of people with physical, mental, or intellectual disabilities. CBM implements its programs through local partners. The financial resources, know-how, and staff-support enable partners in developing countries to gradually become independent of foreign aid.

Overall aims of CBM’s overseas work are to:

– Enable CBM’s partners to deliver services in cooperation with disabled people’s interest groups,
– Give people with disability the support they wish,
– Promote their inclusion, and
– Raise awareness for their needs

I do hope that this conference will be the start of seeing to it that Republic Act No. 7277 is properly implemented. It’s long overdue.

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

AOL Buys No. 3 Social Networking Site Bebo
by: Jerry Liao

When it comes to web domination, it has become a 3 cornered fight between Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. The three companies are battling it out for web supremacy by coming out with new services and of course acquisitions to further enhance their offerings. Little do we give attention to another contender who is making waves on its own right – America OnLine (AOL)

AOL announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Bebo (http://www.bebo.com), a leading global social media network. Together with its AIM and ICQ personal communications network, the acquisition will give AOL a premier position in the fast growing world of social media with a network of approximately 80 million unique users.

With a total membership of more than 40 million worldwide, Bebo is a global social media network which combines community, self-expression and entertainment to enable its users to consume, create, discover and share content. Bebo is one of the leading social networks in the UK, and is ranked number one in Ireland and New Zealand, and number three in the U.S. in terms of engagement. Its users are heavily engaged and view an average of 78 pages per usage day. Bebo has approximately 100 employees operating in offices in the UK, San Francisco and Austin, TX.

Under the terms of the agreement, AOL will acquire Bebo for $850 million in cash.

“Bebo is the perfect complement to AOL’s personal communications network and puts us in a leading position in social media,” said Randy Falco, Chairman and CEO, AOL. “What drew us to Bebo was its substantial and fast-growing worldwide user-base, its vision of a truly social web, and the monetization opportunities that leverage Platform-A across our combined global audience. This positions us to offer advertisers even greater reach and marketers significant insights into the desires and needs of consumers.”

“AOL understands the shifting dynamics of the Web and has clearly demonstrated its commitment to leveraging the ever-increasing power of social networks,” said Bebo President, Joanna Shields. “With one and the same vision in this area, it was a natural progression for Bebo to join AOL, and we look forward to working together to continue to expand the online social experience globally.”

Upon closing the transaction, current President Joanna Shields will continue to run Bebo and will report to Ron Grant.

Analyst eMarketer predicts that by 2011, $4.1 billion will be spent worldwide for social network advertising – a dramatic increase from the $480 million spent in 2006. In 2008 alone, global ad spend in the social networking arena is expected to increase 75% year over year, amounting to $2.1 billion (eMarketer, Social Network Marketing: Ad Spending and Usage, December 2007).

As part of its international growth plans, AOL has launched 17 international web sites over the last year and has plans to expand to 30 countries outside the U.S. by the end of 2008. In addition, AOL teamed up with HP last September to include localized versions of the AOL.com portal and other AOL services as the default setting on HP computers shipped in the United States and around the world. Bebo, which has announced plans to launch in five countries this year, will be featured prominently in AOL’s international expansion efforts after the deal is closed.

Since its inception, Bebo has established a radical new vision for online media and engagement marketing, combining community, self-expression and entertainment, enabling its members to consume, create, discover, curate and share digital content in entirely new ways. Bebo global users have high engagement levels spending an average of 33 minutes a day on the site. Its groundbreaking Open Media platform ushered in a new way for Bebo users to experience content online, while giving global media companies like MTV, CBS, BBC and more than 400 others, a new way to promote, distribute and monetize their programming. “Engagement Marketing,” is Bebo’s initiative for brands to build long-term relationships with their target audience. Today, brands from Apple to Nike use Bebo as a platform to establish ongoing conversations with consumers.

The big three (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) should watch out for AOL and Bebo. Not that they can kill, but surely they can sting.

Virtual Reality

Organizations Should Carefully Consider Deployments of Virtual Environments – Gartner
by: Jerry Liao

Technology is really fast becoming a vital part of every company’s operations. One can’t imagine running a business with the help of information technology. But companies are very use to having the physical infrastructure like PCs, storage, servers and others. How about virtual environments? Will it work? What advantages will it bring? and What issues are involved?

Organizations need to think carefully before they deploy virtual environments such as Second Life, because of issues with access and use, according to Gartner Inc. Gartner said that the allure of environments such as Linden Lab’s Second Life can be intoxicating for users and, in some cases, for organizations, but IT managers need to exercise caution and consider other options.

“Second Life is acceptable for pilots and prototypes” said James Lundy, managing vice president at Gartner. “However, current technical issues would have a significant impact on any organisation that wanted to use it in a production environment, and we are advising companies to evaluate alternatives”

Gartner has identified three key challenges that organizations face in using Second Life and offered the following advice to businesses considering deploying virtual environments:

Challenge One – Graphics Card Issues
One of Second Life’s issues is desktop support. Second Life widely supports NVIDIA graphics cards and now certain ATI cards (but not all). This circumstance puts severe pressure on IT departments when a business unit decides that it wants to use Second Life. Not all business users will have access to a PC that is considered “gaming class” Gartner said that even in the same PC model from the same manufacturer, graphics cards can differ, and organizations need to examine this reality, especially as user experiences become more graphics-intensive.

Challenge Two – Downtime
While Second Life now notifies users in advance of planned downtime via a Google shared calendar, that calendar has been found to be somewhat out of date with limited warning of future planned outages or rolling restarts. Although casual users of Second Life have become used to this downtime dilemma, any organization that wishes to use it for business purposes, such as running training sessions, may have to delay or reschedule those sessions if loss of service occurs during these rolling restarts. These issues are usually intolerable for enterprises that expect 24/7 access, scalability and reliable, bug-free operation from their virtual environments.

Challenge Three – Other Platforms Emerge
Gartner expects that other, more scalable virtual environments will emerge to challenge Second Life in the consumer-facing segment and that Sony’s forthcoming Home could be one of these challengers. By the end of 2009, Gartner predicts that because of continued technical issues, consumers and consumer-facing businesses will seek other virtual environments as alternatives to Second Life.

“Second Life is a positive tool for learning, and as a pioneer in the market it deserves credit for that” said Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “However, we urge organisations to look beyond marketing hype when evaluating virtual environments. Platform uptime is a critical success factor, and Second Life has a questionable track record in this metric”.

The hard and fast rule of I.T. deployment is always to consider all angles (pros and cons) before taking the plunge. Better be sure than sorry.

The Hidden Truth

Credit Card Woes
by: Jerry Liao

I have been hearing stories about people experiencing nightmares in dealing with their credit card providers. I also attended some symposiums about how credit cards are earning their money and why credit card owners should pay on time or face the high interest. In case you’re wondering why I am telling you this, it is because I had my own share of bad experiences in dealing with these credit card companies.

My first two problems involves the credit card of my wife who passed away 2006. She had an Equitable credit card and a Citibank card. One of the very first tasks we did after her interment was to make sure that her credit cards be discontinued and fix all her financial obligations and banking records. We inform both Equitable and Citibank regarding my wife’s demise. They said we need to submit her death certificate for record purposes which we did.

The problem started when we receive a P 40,000.00+ bill from Equitable card. I personally called their customer service number and was able to talk to a certain Rochelle. I told Rochelle about the problem and Rochelle asks me to wait for awhile. After a minute or so, Rochelle came back and said she saw transactions made even after my wife pass away. Transactions that were made in the province. I told Rochelle that it is impossible because we’ve never been there and we already submitted her death certificate so her card should have been cut. Rochelle acknowledges the situation and said she will fix the problem and added that someone have been using my wife’s card.

I thought the problem was over after the conversation – I was wrong. A month after, we got another billing and this time the amount is already P 50,000+.

The same situation happens with Citibank. my sister informed them of my wife’s demise, they ask for her death certificate which we submitted. After a few weeks, we got a billing statement; my daughter settled the account thinking that maybe my wife indeed bought something before her death. But to our surprise, after a few months, we got another billing. I called their customer service again and the person on the other line keeps on insisting that my wife still has some unpaid bills. I told the lady on the other line if we can have a detailed statement, they said they sent it to us already. I told her we never received any except the last one in question which does not contain any detailed transaction but just a total. The lady said they cannot send a detailed transaction since it was sent out already. I told them that I will only pay if I get to know what I am paying for.

A few months after, their third party collectors called introducing themselves as lawyers of Citibank, threatening us of lawsuits unless we settle the account. I reiterated my request of a detailed billing which was turn down again. Months after, we got a letter telling us that we just need to pay P 4,000+ from our balance of P 12,000+ as part of a promo? WHAT?

My third nightmare involves my Metrobank credit card. The card was issued 2006 and after two years of using it, the card’s back cover which contains the black bar that contains the code was peeled off. I called Metrobank’s customer service and I was able to talk to a certain “Jam”. I requested a new card and this Jam told me that they will be charging me with a P 400+ for the new card. Why charge a P 400+ fee? Is it my fault if the card was made with inferior materials that couldn’t last for three years? The card’s expiration date is 2009. Jam suggested that I allow them to charge the P 400+ fee, then for me to call them after and request for a refund, but she cannot guarantee that the request will be granted since it has to go through certain approvals. WHAT?

I have nothing against having credit cards. Actually, it helped me a lot during my wife’s treatment. But I am having second thoughts now after the experiences I am getting. What kind of security and customer services are these banks giving their customers? Cards that can be used by other people. Collectors that are harassing clients. And a bank that is dead serious in charging P 400.00 for a new card?

Banks are considered the most computerized sector of our industry given the nature of their business, and yet loopholes like these are still happening. Security lapses that are blamed and passed on to their clients. To all my readers who are experiencing problems with their credit cards, email me your stories and I will write about it so that these banks can improve their services.

Making Changes

Increase Revenues By Improving B2B Capabilities – AMR
by: Jerry Liao

One of the hardest thing a company will go through is change, actually not just for companies but for all. Change is something people are afraid of because of its uncertainty – what’s going to happen? Will it be good? Or will it be bad?

For a company who is doing well, a minor and a calculated change might be acceptable especially if the change will bring more profit to the company. To comapnies who are having second thoughts in adding e-commerce to its corporate strategies, here’s a study that might help convince you to get into the B2B business:

AMR Research reported that 61 percent of consumer products companies increased revenue as a result of improved B2B initiatives. The survey established strong agreement among respondents on the importance of B2B capabilities in growing relationships with key retailer accounts. According to the study:

– 90 percent of average respondents cited that the strength of their B2B programme enables differentiation from their competitors;
– 95 percent of average respondents cited that the flexibility of their B2B programme is important to delivering a customised shopper experience;
– 93 percent of average respondents cited that the strength of their B2B programme is an important factor in getting more shelf space and new products on the shelf at key accounts; and
– 98 percent of average respondents cited that the flexibility of their B2B programme demonstrates to retailers the ease of doing business with them.

The AMR Research survey also found that by improving their B2B programmes, 67 percent of respondents experienced a reduction in costs; 61 percent reduced the costs to serve customers; and 59 percent improved cash-to-cash efficiency. Other findings addressed the proliferation and growth of B2B outsourcing among consumer products companies and the growing use of electronic B2B with small to mid-sized trading partners. For example, more than half of the companies surveyed plan to increase spending on B2B outsourcing initiatives by an average of 23 percent in 2008.

Lora Cecere of AMR Research said, “Often B2B initiatives are relegated to the IT department with a mantra of reducing costs. Based on this data, we feel that it is time for Line-of-Business managers to take more ownership of these programmes and take them more seriously in the building of demand networks that serve their key customers.”

Overall, the revenue growth and operational efficiencies attained through B2B e-commerce are driving increased levels of internal and external spending. According to AMR Research, 59 percent of the survey respondents plan to increase spending on B2B initiatives by an average of 21 percent in 2008. In addition, nearly half, 49 percent, of consumer product suppliers are trading electronically with their small to mid-sized retailers, with that number expected to increase to 53 percent over the next 18 months. The use of B2B e-commerce among consumer products companies is strong in the demand chain as well; 48 percent are exchanging electronic orders and invoices with direct materials suppliers, with that number expected to increase 5 percentage points in the next 18 months.

Today’s consumer products market is changing more rapidly than ever before. Retailers are demanding that suppliers accommodate their increasingly divergent business processes; consumers are demanding more frequent new product introductions and shareholders are demanding faster international expansion to capitalise on overseas growth markets. Even the largest consumer products companies are struggling to keep pace with the velocity of changes being thrust upon them. To address these demands, consumer products companies will be making significant investments in B2B spending and B2B outsourcing in 2008, giving them new capabilities, greater geographical reach and faster time to market for their products.

The 150 companies that participated in the survey range in size from approximately $250 million in revenue to more than $10 billion. They represent a variety of industry segments including apparel, media/consumer electronics, consumer packaged goods and food and beverage. The study was commissioned by GXS, a leading provider of business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce solutions.

The Knowledge of Ignorance

Mobile users do not take security precautions
by: Jerry Liao

What do you call a person who knows a danger or a threat is existing but decided not to do anything about it? Can you call it ignorance? Or…

F-Secure Corporation announced mobile security results from its Online Wellbeing survey. Over three quarters of mobile phone users are aware that malware can infect a mobile device via Bluetooth – but fail to have security software installed, according to this survey.

Independent research* commissioned by F-Secure questioned web users aged 20 to 40 across the US, Canada, UK, France and Germany about their knowledge of online and mobile security issues.

On average, 28 per cent of all respondents said they use their mobile device to access the Internet. A large majority, 86 per cent admitted to having no mobile security. Out of all the countries questioned, the UK had the highest percentage (47%) of users accessing the Internet through their mobile device, while at the same time being the least likely to have a security product installed on their mobile phone. Most users are aware of the security risks involved with using the connectivity features on their phone: only 21 percent regarded Bluetooth connections safe, and a mere 15 per cent were under the impression WiFi connections are safe.

Over half of those questioned felt it was up to the individual user to ensure their phone was protected. A third expected this to be taken care of by their mobile phone carrier, with the US putting the greater emphasis on third-party responsibility. Only 11 per cent of Germans believed their mobile phone provider should be in charge of security, compared with over 32 per cent in France.

“While the mobile threat is low at present, it’s only a matter of time before Internet criminals start utilizing the growing potential that smartphone usage presents to them,” warned Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure. “So far there have been about 400 mobile viruses detected, but as smartphones replace PC’s as the dominant Internet platform, we can expect this figure to rise.”

Geographically the sources of mobile threats are spread around the globe with activity originating for instance in South-East Asia, Russia and South America. While the threat from mobile viruses remains low, there has been increasing activity with spyware applications for mobile phones. Such applications make it possible to get covert access to all the functions of the affected phone, including recording of phone calls, access to messages and switching on the phone’s microphone for listening.

The low amount of security software installed on smartphones coupled with the rapidly increasing volume of these devices make them a very vulnerable target for hackers.

*The survey was carried out by a third party in January 2008 across 1,169 Internet users aged 20-40 across the US (225 respondents), Canada (228 respondents), the UK (227 respondents), France (256 respondents) and Germany (224 respondents). F-Secure asked respondents a series of basic online security questions and, using a Likert scale, asked them to rate the extent to which they were confident in the security of given online activities.

My advice to all users of digital products – Be Proactive than being Reactive.