Telehealth helps better serve rural Veterans

The US Department for Veteran Affairs reports…

Approximately a quarter of all Veterans in the United States live in rural areas. Air Force Veteran Bill Nelson is one of them. As the survivor of three heart attacks, he’s a big fan of one particular VA office and their telehealth program.

The job of VA’s Office of Rural Health (ORH) is to increase access to care for the nearly three million Veterans living in rural communities who rely on VA for health care. As VA’s lead advocate for rural Veterans, ORH works to see that America’s Veterans thrive in rural communities.

Nelson benefits from ORH’s remote home-based delivery of cardiac rehabilitation which uses telehealth to eliminate the need for rural Veterans to travel multiple times a week to a rehabilitation facility. It lets Veterans tailor the location and schedule of their rehab session from their home.

Nelson lives in Maple Grove, which may not be the most rural town I mention this week, but it would be a long drive to the VA hospital in the Cities. It would easily save him an hour drive each remote visit…

In addition to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, he had a separated shoulder surgically repaired in Okinawa. He is 100 percent disabled due to his service-connected injuries.

Nelson suffered his first heart attack in 1999 which required having stents implanted. He joined VA for healthcare after retirement in 2014. His second heart attack occurred in 2008 which required having more stints implanted. His had his third heart attack in 2018 and had even more stints implanted.

Today, ORH enables Veteran patients like Nelson to first meet in-person with a specialist to safely learn rehabilitation exercises, with subsequent sessions conducted at home.

Regularly scheduled phone calls with the rehabilitation specialist are used to review risk factors, such as smoking cessation and proper nutrition. Other discussions include exercise, medication adherence, and stress management


Election cybersecurity legislative hearing HF14 – nothing decided

Today the Conference Committee hearing on  HF14 (SF93), a bill to authorize the Secretary of State to spend federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding on election cybersecurity, heard from Noah Praetz, Former Director of Cook County Elections in Illinois and an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University College College of Law teaching Election Law. He testified on his experience with Cook County when the Illinois voter registration database was breached by the Russian government.

It was interesting to hear about the risks of online voting. Minnesota was one of four states that experienced an attempted attack in 2016. And Minnesota is the only state that hasn’t spent any of the allotted HAVA funds.

It doesn’t relate to broadband infrastructure but it does relate to innovation, smart cities (counties, states, country), digital equity and use of technology and policy.

You can watch the video

Or read my rough notes below… Continue reading

Government Experience Awards 2019 Call for Entries – Deadline May 2

It would be fun to see Minnesota sweep the awards…

The Center for Digital Government invites nominations for its Government Experience Awards, taking digital government awards to the next level, where we will celebrate achievements and learn best practices from jurisdictions and organizations that have gone to the web and beyond to radically improve upon the experience of government, and push the boundaries of how services are delivered!

Award information and Nomination Form:
Click Here or visit

Submission Deadline: Thursday, May 2, 2019

All U.S. governments, agencies and departments are invited to nominate their overall user experience as well as single-focus projects/initiatives (free of charge).

Overall Experience Awards
All U.S. state, county and city governments, and U.S. federal agencies/departments may nominate their jurisdictions’ user experience for the Overall Experience Awards.

Award categories:
State Government
County Government
City Government

Project Experience Awards
U.S. state, local, and federal government individual agencies and departments may nominate their projects for the Project Experience Awards.

Award categories:

Entries may be submitted for the following areas (multiple areas per submission are allowed this year):


If you have any questions, please contact Janet Grenslitt, Director of Surveys and Awards,

SF93 Help America Vote Act & cyber security info session MN Senate meeting

Technology touches everything we do – learn, earn, stay healthy, entertain ourselves and vote. Tonight we are listening to the importance of increasing security for voting. The state realized there were attempts in 2016 to compromise our elections. They were unsuccessful but we were one of 21 states with issues. (Two states were compromised.) We were able with the help of the Democracy Fund and Microsoft to secure voting for the 2018 elections. But now we need to work for a long term solution.

We have had a Task Force. We have been working with various vendors. Next step will be a proof of concept – to test run any potential solution. We need to know funding is available before we go too far with that.

Now there is a bill (SF93) looking for almost $7 million to improve the security of the elections.

Here are the handouts:
The committee recessed at 2:40 pm, and reconvened at pm.
S.F. 93
Help America Vote Act transfers and appropriations.

And notes from the session – but to following along with the video I might look at the detailed EAC Letter (PDF) above:

  • We will also look at issues surrounding RFP, which could take a couple of months. But there may be a vendor that already has a contract with the state.
  • Can’t we borrow from other states? Or do we need a unique application? There are some similarities and some differences.
  • Several state have funded a position (cyber navigator) to help counties and local governments work on their local security.
  • What’s really important here is that we have a holistic solution that is more than catching intruders but prevention and greater knowledge of our systems is important.

Testifiers: Sen Howe

  • I ran for Sec of State because MN hasn’t done a good job with elections
  • We need to make sure that ineligible people can’t vote (and eligible people can)
  • Also there should be greater access to voter datasets

Digital equity stands in the way of Medicaid in Arkansas

I know this story is about Arkansas, not Minnesota but I know Minnesota was looking at a similar law last year. And sometimes it’s nice to learn from the sidelines. The Washington Post reports…

This summer, Arkansas became the first state to require poor people to prove they’re employed to receive Medicaid.

Specifically, recipients need to work 80 hours a month to get Medicaid…

More than 12,000 have been purged from the state Medicaid rolls since September — and not necessarily because they’re actually failing to work 80 hours a month, as the state requires.

The article tells the story of two recipients who lost their insurance because they didn’t have access and/or understanding of technology required to report hours and the rules behind the measure…

The state made reporting online-only to avoid hiring more staff. (It also didn’t allocate any additional dollars to help enrollees find work.) Officials did this even though Arkansas has the lowest level of household Internet access in the country, and the online portal doesn’t work well on smartphones. Once, when I tried it, I got an error message saying my phone’s browser was “not compatible.” The next day, it was mysteriously compatible again.

Most indefensibly, the website shuts down every single night  between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. for “scheduled maintenance.”

No wonder 80 percent of those required to report work hours or exemptions each month are reporting nothing at all.

It reminds me of working on the library reference desk when Government Docs moved most of their documents online. It saved a lot of money in terms of printing for Government Docs but it suddenly meant most people had to go to the library to access these documents. It made a lot more work for the library and even more so the users of users of the info.

Broadband and technology can be a great way to cut costs but only when everyone has access to it and skills to use it.

Blockchain voting tested with West Virginians abroad

I thought this was fascinating. The Washington Post reports…

Nearly 140 West Virginians living abroad in 29 countries have cast their election ballots in an unprecedented pilot project that involves voting remotely by mobile device, according to state officials.

Here’s how it works…

The Voatz app has been used on a limited basis in a number of other settings, such as student council races and West Virginia’s May primary. But Election Day represents the company’s biggest test yet.

To cast a ballot, voters must first register through the app by uploading an image of their driver’s license or other photo identification. Then the app instructs them to submit a short video of their own face. Facial recognition technology supplied by a voter’s iPhone or Android device matches the video against the photo ID, and the personal information on the ID is matched to West Virginia’s voter registration database. Once the verification is complete, voters can make their selections and confirm their ballot by fingerprint or facial recognition.

Hilary Braseth, Voatz’s director of product design, said that in addition to using technology for verification, the company also has human workers manually reviewing the submitted information. The company does not store the personal data once a voter’s identity has been confirmed, she said.

Votes are stored on a private blockchain — essentially a database where records are secured using complex computational algorithms — and unlocked by county clerks when the polls close.

“When they take the votes from the blockchain, it will immediately print onto a paper ballot — just like the same look and feel of what voters are physically voting with on Election Day,” Braseth said. “And then those paper ballots will be fed into the tabulating machines on the ground at the state level.”

Overseas voters who used Voatz will receive an anonymized copy of the ballot that they submitted remotely; another copy will be made available to Warner’s office for auditing purposes.

Robocop drones making arrests in California

This isn’t from Minnesota, but I thought it was so interesting. GovTech reports on how the police are using drones in Chula Vista…

The Chula Vista Police Department this week began using drones to respond to 911 calls.

Since Monday, drones responded to 30 emergency calls and led to three arrests, including one for felony domestic violence.

In the domestic violence case, the drone hovered above a red tent in a canyon where a homeless man suspected of stabbing a woman with a knife was hiding out. The drone broadcast live footage to police officers’ cell phones who maneuvered over brush and difficult terrain to get to the tent.

The drone’s camera captured the suspect exiting the tent without a knife and police officers made an arrest without incident.