Digital Disruption and the Future of Health and Wellness:

With all the technological advancements we’ve seen in the past five, ten, and twenty years, the future of the health and wellness industry is undoubtedly one that will be marked by groundbreaking discovery and relentless innovation. However, some of the changes that will continue to make the biggest impact one peoples’ health won’t involve surgical implements or clinical trials. Instead, digital disruption is making it easier than ever for people to connect with their medical professionals, meaning waiting rooms and White Coat Hypertension could become a thing of the past.

What would doctor's offices look like if you could video chat with your doctor beforehand to decide if you needed to come in?

What would doctor’s offices look like if you could video chat with your doctor beforehand to decide if you needed to come in?

Though an online patient portal or a smartphone app aren’t as exciting as the cure for cancer or ALS, they’re increasing in relevance by the day and can mean big things for improving patient’s care, relationships with their providers, and overall health. Let’s take a look at what the future of the health industry looks like and how digital disruption will play a role.

Online Patient Portals:

In the olden days (okay, until 2012) if you had a medical test like a biopsy or STD screening performed at your physician’s office, you would go home and wait anxiously until your doctor called to inform you of your results and if you needed to come in for a follow-up appointment. If you wanted a second opinion or to see a specialist, you had to request access to your medical chart you had to request it and have it mailed.

Now that many hospitals are transitioning to paperless systems and utilizing Electronic Health Records, this aspect of the health industry has been almost entirely streamlined in an attempt to lessen the lag time and become more patient-friendly. By creating an online account with the portal, patients can access all of their information, including test results, their full medical chart, a write-up of their previous visits, schedule appointments, and even send secure messages to their healthcare provider.

Monique Steel, a nurse practitioner at the University of Michigan Health Service said in an interview that she views online patient portals as the best of both worlds because they can help bridge the gap between patients and their healthcare professionals.

“A lot of people still want conversations with their doctors, but they also want to digest information at their own pace,” she said. “Electronic Health Records allow you to look at your full medical chart, which always a big hassle before, so it’s really putting people’s own information in their own hands.”

While many people use the online patient portals–hospitals all over the world are making the switch everyday–Steel said these technologies are particularly popular with millennial generation, especially college students.

“Students tend to really enjoy this service because there are no disruptions,” she said. “If they have a test done at the University Health Service, they’ll get a notification as soon as that information is available, so if they’re in class or busy they can check it really quickly on their phone or computer, as opposed to a phone call from a doctor or nurse that might be disruptive or go to voice mail if they’re in class.”

Steel added that she believes students appreciate the increased privacy and ability to digest their own medical information at their own pace, as well as the 24/7 reassurance. If test results are positive, for example, patients are prompted on the portal to schedule a follow up appointment for further treatment, and they can see a full list of all their interactions, follow-ups, and medications for future reference.

In 2012, the University of Michigan Health System began a rocky transition to an electronic records system, partnering with Epic, a software company tasked with streamlining patient information for maximum efficiency. (Today, Epic currently services 69% of Stage 7 U.S. Hospitals, 71% of children’s hospitals, and 91% of Stage 7 Clinics in the U.S. alone.)

The information system specific to UMHS is called MiChart, and it’s referred to as an online doctor’s office.

“MiChart is changing the way we create and access clinical information to care for our patients, conduct clinical research and secure payment across UMHS. MiChart also has introduced new ways for patients to take an active role in their health care, including the use of online ‘portals.'”

-UMHS press release, 2012

Through MiChart, found at myuofmhealth.org, students can log in an access a private server where they can:Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 3.12.54 AM

Steel said this feature is particularly important because students are often guilty of putting off doctor’s visits, even when they need them, because they’re worried about waiting around or wasting a lot of time. In fact, since transitioning to the portal system, Steel said patient satisfaction has risen from 70 percent to 90 percent in just three years.

In an interview with the Michigan Daily, UHS Medical Director Robert Ernst agreed that the change to MiChart was a major step for UHS, particularly because they were transitioning from paper charts to computers.

“It was a really major shift in our practice when we moved from paper records to an electronic record system,” Ernst said. “And I don’t think you can underestimate the disruption.”

Despite the learning curve, portals have proven to be successful wiScreen Shot 2015-04-14 at 2.31.33 AMth patients and health-related technology is expected to continue working to improve the patient experience by providing easier access to information and streamlining administrative matters.

Health: There’s an App for that 

While the increased prevalence of EHR’s focuses on increasing available information from a clinical perspective, another vital aspect of digital disruption and the future of the health and wellness industry is probably sitting in your pocket, on the table next to you, or maybe even in your hand. I’m talking of course about your smartphone and the 40,000+ results that come up if you search for a health related app within Apple’s App Store. From recipe finders to training regiments, and pedometers to period trackers, it can seem like there’s nothing your phone can’t help you do, including live a healthier life.

apps

The most important part of using a health or fitness app is just that, and while downloads of fitness-related apps have increased 49% in the last year, usage in daily has increased 62% in the same time, according to Flurry.com’s analytics.

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Graphic I created to illustrate what an increasingly important part of our culture health and fitness apps are becoming.

 While statistics may look convincing and everyone from Cosmopolitan to Business Insider wants to tell you which apps are the best, it’s important to consult a medical professional before undergoing any major lifestyle changes, especially if you’re using an app to test your blood glucose levels, which you can do now.

Though she acknowledges there are positive and negative aspects of using an app to maintain or better your health, Steel said she sees their value in modern society and recommends some of them to her patients.

For example, she said dietary apps that have calorie trackers can be great for newbies looking to become aware about their daily food intake, but warns that apps like MyFitnessPal can encourage dieters to lose too much weight, as well as exacerbate disordered behaviors and eating habits if the counting gets out of control. Steel believes that exercise apps can have the same potential, and advises patients to start slowly, listen to their bodies, and practice moderation.

As a women’s health professional, Steel particularly emphasized the plethora of apps geared towards helping women manage their reproductive health. This includes apps designed to remind you to take your birth control pills everyday, track your monthly cycle and ovulation patterns, and much more.

“A lot of people find that traditional calendars are less efficient and if you’re not keeping track with something it becomes really easy to not know where you’re at or what you should expect,” she said. “Obviously these apps are a great help, but you have to be proactive. It doesn’t do you any good to have an alarm on your phone if your pills are at home.”

Of course, I’d be remiss to discuss interactive, web-based applications without a nod to the one that started it all: the infamous WebMD, which is now free at the App Store. That’s right, now you can convince yourself that your cough is actually throat cancer from virtually anywhere, and the jury is still out on whether or not that’s a good thing.

Though Steel said she believes patients can become overly concerned after visiting these types of sites, she appreciates the opportunity for increased access to information.

“Even if people are known to behave a little hypochondriacally after using these apps, a lot of people will find information and it will prompt them to seek medical attention, which often ends up being a good thing,” she said. “A lot of times the apps will suggest you try over-the-counter remedies initially, but then advise you to see a medical professional if your symptoms worsen which is helpful.”

While she again advocates for patients to be more informed, Steel couldn’t confidently say that there’s “no detriment” to prioritizing a computer’s advice over that of a living, breathing doctor or nurse. She cautioned that patients also have to be “discerning readers” and have the responsibility to seek out good sources and quality information. 

Increased Communication: 

In addition to the plethora of options patients have to renew prescriptions, schedule appointments, and familiarize themselves with their records, Steel said she believes an increase in doctor/patient communication is going to be a staple of the future of health and wellness, again made possible because of technological resources and advancements.

In this case, some doctors are now encouraging their patients to reach out to them by e-mail for non-emergent medical situations. Though most practices reserve the right to a “three day response window” Steel said people tend to feel more comfortable communicating with medical professionals this way because they use e-mail so often at work and school. She said it’s also becoming increasingly common for people to send their doctors pictures for a more comprehensive online assessment.

“Let’s say you have a rash, you might send a picture of it to your doctor and they can reply and tell you if you need to come in right away, or if you should wait a while or they might suggest an over-the-counter remedy,” she said.

Though this method of communication is familiar, convenient, and unconventional, Steel warns patients to only relay medical information over a secure network (meaning your umich account or a private e-mail won’t cut it.) It’s also not the fastest way to get answers about your health, but Steel adds that if you have reservations or anxiety, this might be a positive aspect of digital disruption.

With that being said, she doesn’t think we’ll, as a society, ever get to the point of using Snapchat or Vine in a clinical context, nor does she think this trend means we’ll be tagging our doctors in Instagram posts, though she has heard of doctors allowing patients to contact them over text.

In fact, this trend is so prevalent that HIPAA has tightened its regulations regarding privacy settings so patients’ rights are protected, even over text.

Shifting the Focus to Prevention: 

When asked about the clinical advancements expected in the next five or ten years, Steel said the possibilities are basically endless because the medical field is constantly changing.

With the onset of new technological advances, Steel thinks there’s going to be a highlighted focus on genetic testing and screening, as well as the importance of genetic counseling, where doctors determine what to test for and what treatments to consider if the patient does have the gene.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 5.36.45 AM

This graphic I made illustrates the affect the media can have on peoples’ perceptions, as well as their ability to educate people about health-related issues, if they choose to.

This procedure made headlines in the past year after actress Angelina Jolie underwent genetic counseling and testing, ultimately finding that she carried the BRCA1 gene, putting her at an 80% risk for developing breast cancer and catalyzing her decision t  have a double mastectomy.

Advocating for more education related to women’s health issues and preventative care, Steel said that peoples’ knowledge is often based off prior experiences and perceptions that may be out of date.

“We’re continually seeing changes in cervical cancer detection and breast cancer screening, as well as HPV screening,” she said. “Adding Gaurdasil, for example, has resulted in a lot fewer abnormal pap smears over the past several years, so now the recommendation is to have a test every five years instead of every year.”

“Prevention should be woven into all aspects of our lives, including where and how we live, learn, work and play. Everyone—government, businesses, educators, health care institutions, communities and every single American—has a role in creating a healthier nation.”

-cdc.org on preventative care

 Doctors agree that early detection is a key factor in favorable prognoses, but preventative care isn’t limited to oncology. According to the CDC, preventative care means young children stay home sick from school less often, adults can be more productive at work, and seniors can retain more of their independence. I firmly believe that we have the tools and resources at our disposal to really make prevention a priority and that maintaining a healthy lifestyle will be a main part of the future of health and wellness.

Utilizing the Media: 

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we have a life-changing online portal, smartphone app, vaccination, or technological advance if people aren’t educated and informed enough to use it or ask for it. Doctors are a valuable primary source of information regarding the advancements in your field, but if a patient is only going to the office once or twice a year, they’re not going to be getting that expertise, especially on timely issues.

That is why my last prediction is that the media becomes and even more important tool for educating and informing people about their opportunities and options when it comes to their health. Throughout this class, we’ve learned of countless waysScreen Shot 2015-04-14 at 5.58.57 AM to get news, from legacy media outlets, to radio broadcasts, podcasts, and even your Facebook feed. If these news agencies are able to work together and ensure quality, comprehensive coverage, people will know what their options are, from apps to vaccines, and I believe they will pursue them.

According to data from the Pew Research Center, people are still getting their news from a diverse array of mediums, but online (especially mobile) surfing is taking precedence. In fact, increased time spent online means Americans are consuming news more than ever before. The average viewer sees about 950 impressions online per day … Imagine if even a fraction of those were substantive content related to health and wellness?

Conclusion:

The fact that all these gadgets and gizmos exist (and continue to be created at such a rate) indicate that people are indeed interested in health and wellness and leading healthier lives. For this reason, I feel that the future of health and wellness will be marked by even further innovation and integration into our daily lives, and that digital disruption will continue to be a double-edged sword. While it’s important that people have options and can find a workout, health-related app, preventative procedure, or online platform that works for them, the constant contact can de-sensitize people and make them forget that their health is of the utmost importance and not on the same wavelength as an Instagram post of a game of Angry Birds.Ultimately, having a handheld personal trainer or physician on speed dial won’t do much good if people aren’t educated, motivated, and committed to being healthier and changing their lives.

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Stupid and Sick: Facebook’s Effect on Health and Wellness

While there are undoubtedly benefits to having a Facebook account,  the addictive nature and effects it can have on people of all ages can't be ignored any longer.

While there are undoubtedly benefits to having a Facebook account, the addictive nature and effects it can have on people of all ages can’t be ignored any longer.

While my team was preparing for our debate, I learned that Facebook has 890 million active daily users, and that the average user spends approximately 51 minutes on the site per day, with teens and 20somethings logging even more time on the site.

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In fact, people admit to spending more time perusing Facebook than they do with their pets, which is upsetting because Facebook is a website that can make you narcissistic, anti-social, and depressed, whereas your pets are soft, cuddly, living, breathing creatures who love you.

Maybe if I spent less time on Facebook my dog wouldn't feel obligated to bond with a raw potato?

Maybe if I spent less time on Facebook my dog wouldn’t feel obligated to bond with a raw potato?

 Facebook has become an integral part of our culture, and there are more ways to poke, like, and check-in than ever before, but maybe that’s part of the problem. Technology is enabling us and we don’t know when to stop. In fact, Facebook is not only punctuating our regularly scheduled lives, it’s making us sick and stupid, as increased usage is linked to both lower grades and exam scores, as well as a host of mental illnesses, which can be exacerbated by Facebook behaviors. The aforementioned mental health disorders are just some examples of the toll excess time spent on social media can take on your health, not only because you’re physically sedentary while you’re online, but because prolonged over-exposure to things posted on Facebook can contribute to jealousy, social anxiety, and Friendly World Syndrome, colloquially known as FOMO.

fb_1I’m not saying that we should all delete our Facebook profiles, because there are undeniable benefits to having a social network that allows you to document your life and share it with others, keep in touch with friends and family, and spread news and your personal message with others worldwide. The problem is that Facebook has become so much more than that, and it’s not going away anytime soon. There has to be a time where you get off of social networks and go back to just plain socializing, and maybe when your physical and mental health is being compromised, it’s a good time to do that.

Making the Change

Every so often, amidst the student government meetings, seminars, and city council schisms, you’ll unearth a story that you know is special. That’s probably the thing I love most about journalism; your ability,responsibility, and privilege to tell the stories worth telling. Often when you least expect it, an interview will take a turn and you know that people need to hear this story.

For ages, editors have told reporters: “This is someone’s life you’re writing about … try not to [mess] it up.” I’d heeded those words a thousand times before, but I’d never felt the pressure when putting together an article that I did with this piece. During our two hour interview, Lisa sat on the couch and opened up to me and I wanted to do her story justice; I didn’t want to mess it up.

What was supposed to be a story about making healthy choices in college transformed into a dialogue about the complexities of identity, social conventions, getting out of your comfort zone, and changing your life. It wasn’t all pretty, but today, Lisa exemplifies what it means to be healthy and well, both physically and mentally. I decided to tell her story in a multimedia format because it seemed too dynamic to be told simply through print.

During her sophomore year of college, LSA senior Lisa Schlosberg got serious about being healthy for the first time--and lost over 150 pounds.

During her sophomore year of college, LSA senior Lisa Schlosberg got serious about being healthy for the first time  — and lost over 150 pounds.

Whether Lisa’s story is familiar to you at all or is reminiscent of your own journey, she’s living proof that when you’re ready–and not a minute before–you can change your life.

*Photos courtesy of Lisa Schlosberg.

**Both a PDF and an online link to my digital story have been included for convenience purposes. Pick whatever works for you.

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Gadgets & Gizmos

With the seemingly endless array of apps, watches, and fitness trackers, it’s easier than ever to find technology that will complement your routine and aide you on your fitness journey. Whether you want to count calories, Become Beyonce, or manage your lifestyle more holistically, there’s an application, video, or accessory to help you do so.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 4.21.03 AM

While most people are familiar with the Fitbit and MyFitnessPal, I wanted to branch out and see what’s new at the intersection of technology and fitness. Last month, The New York Times published an article comparing the efficiency of fitness apps against personal trainers, and as expected, both have pros and cons. It basically comes down to personal preferences, though experts find many don’t have the discipline to workout regularly without the motivation of an actual human.

“People tend to continue exercise if they feel it’s approved by other people who are meaningful to them,” — sports psychologist Jen Gapin.

With that in mind, I set out to find a gadget aimed at remedying this dilemma, and stumbled upon RunKeeper, an app encouraging runners of all types to go “beyond the miles” by providing motivation, workouts, racing opportunities, and a community of fellow athletes, all on your smartphone.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 4.30.48 AM

RunKeeper prides itself on being a “lifestyle” and encourages runners to share their accomplishments in real time with their friends and competitors in order to foster a little healthy competition and promote more intense workouts. While RunKeeper is just an online application, they’ve added human elements in an attempt to increase motivation that can often lack when workouts are devoid of other humans, especially in solitary sports like running.

The RunKeeper blog also offers advice on all aspects of running, from racing to workouts, in a refreshing, casual format.Titles range from packing for out-of-state races to “taking the perfect ‘run-fie.'” It seems like the blog’s content really pertains to runners of all levels interests and could definitely be an asset for seasoned athletes and newbies alike.

For those looking for even more personal encouragement, the Community section of RunKeeper’s website allows followers to post their stories and testimonials in order to share their progress and inspire others, which is also helpful with motivation.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 4.38.08 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 4.38.23 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 4.38.31 AM

Overall, if you’ve got access to a smartphone or the Internet and you’re passionate about getting into better shape, the sky is virtually the limit. The key is to sample several different apps or gadgets until you find the one that works best for you — and since many of them are free there’s no harm in shopping around. Whether you’re looking for a community, a teacher, or a cute bracelet to let everyone know you work out, there’s a technological fitness aid ready to help you do so.

Photo-journey: Life out of the fast-lane

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As a health and wellness reporter and enthusiast, it’s embarrassing to admit that fitness has kind of been on the back burner for me this past year, especially because it was such an important part of my life up until this point. Since I’ve been athletic all my life, I never knew what it was like to get tired walking to class or to not be an asset during a flag football game. While it’s definitely been frustrating and still a work in progress, stepping away from fitness helped me quell some of my obsessive tendencies; I used to get anxious or beat myself up if I missed a workout, and I wasn’t great at listening to my body when it wanted a break. I also feel like I better understand why many people are hesitant to get in better shape: it’s really difficult and it’s really scary. I always assumed that everyone could love fitness if they gave it a shot, but I’ve realized that it’s also kind of a drag until you find something you love, which I’m still working on doing.

5 Things I learned about the tobacco industry by watching “Last Week Tonight” for 15 minutes

1. For the past 50 years, American laws have strictly limited the tobacco industry’s behavior, including the prohibition of television advertisements and inclusion of warnings on packaging.

2. Philip Morris International owns seven of the top 15 highest grossing tobacco brands, including Marlboro, and they regularly file or threaten legal action against whole countries’ public health legislation, like removing labels or adding their own disclaimers.

3. The smoking rate in America has decreased from 43% in 1968 to 18% today, but the tobacco industry is currently at its most profitable because other nations are consuming cigarettes at record highs, including the infamous Smoking Baby.

via the New York Post. This Indonesian child gained notoriety when it was revealed he started smoking as an infant and was up to 40 cigarettes per day.

via the New York Post. This Indonesian child gained notoriety when it was revealed he started smoking as an infant and was up to 40 cigarettes per day.

4. At least four of the actors in the Marlboro Man commercials have died of smoking-related illnesses.

"Four dead actors?" Oliver said. "it's like there was a gas leak on 'Whose Line is it Anyway!'"

“Four dead actors?” Oliver said. “it’s like there was a gas leak on ‘Whose Line is it Anyway!'”

5. When Uruguay wanted to put graphics on cigarette packaging in lieu of a written disclaimer–because 40% of their adult population is illiterate–PMI sued them for loss of intellectual property, and cited a case they’d previously lost against the Australian government.

Though there are certainly more graphic options, this is just one of many packages you can choose from if you buy cigarettes in Australia.

Though there are certainly more graphic options, this is just one of many packages you can choose from if you buy cigarettes in Australia.

John Oliver’s segment is different from straight news because he gets to hyperbolize and connect more deeply with the viewer. His tone may start of lighter and the 18 minute sketch is peppered with humor, but his message is ultimately clear: tobacco companies are ridiculous and we shouldn’t be supporting them. He also has the freedom to editorialize in a way that a reputable, standard news outlet does not, so he can emphasize the strongest parts of his message, which further enables him to effectively reach his audience. For more timely segments more knowledge may be expected from the viewer, but by selecting such a controversial yet universal truth, Oliver’s message is resonating with anyone who’s made the choice not to smoke.

While I’m a big fan of satirical television for its entertainment value, I’m always surprised by how many legitimate facts I learn while watching them, and how engaging they can be. If this information had been part of a regular news broadcast, I can’t say I would have been as excited to watch it, and people in my demographic are much more likely to watch John, Jon, or Stephen than a traditional news program.

While I wouldn’t feel comfortable making them my primary news source, satirical shows have a place in modern media because they’re allowed to push the envelope and say what everyone’s thinking, and often catalyze change, like Oliver did with the Jeff t-shirts in the video, and in several other segments. By combining humor, research, and that incredulous look he can pull off like no other, John Oliver is not only able to move his audiences to laughter, but most often to more forward ways of thinking, which makes his show (and others like it) truly unlike anything else.

John oliver looking incredulous

Kenneth the Page and my return to television news

One day when I was around six years old, I declared to my parents that I intended to watch the news with them every night from here on out. Despite their varying interests and schedules, my parents watched the evening news together every night, so in my mind it was something that all smart, mature people did.

Everyone's favorite NBC page Kenneth Parcell might be the only person more passionate about tv news.

Everyone’s favorite NBC page Kenneth Parcell might be the only person more passionate about tv news.

Though I believe it’s important to be informed, like most college students, watching TV news doesn’t often fit into my hectic schedule. I generally opt for print/online media and social networking sites because of their convenience; I can get updates on local, national, and international news while doing virtually anything else.

This is what happens when you don't regularly consume some type of news...

This is what happens when you don’t regularly consume some type of news…

Because I’m a big 30 Rock fan, I decided to rejoin the tv-sphere by tuning into NBC’s nightly news program. I immediately felt more mature and worldly, though I’m fairly confident that was a placebo effect.

The lead was a story regarding the terror threat at the popular Mall of America in Minnesota. The story detailed the specific incident, but also the fine line the government must walk when determining the credibility of public arenas and the decisions they must make when peoples’ lives could be in danger. They treated this story very seriously, which seemed fitting because it’s a serious issue that would affect millions of people. They had experts and law enforcement officials weigh in, as well as shoppers present at the mall. Overall, I thought it was a really well written and interesting story, and definitely something I was glad to know about.

Gee, Kenneth ... That's a good question.

Gee, Kenneth … That’s a good question.

Fittingly, the story that followed detailed the impending shut down of the US Department of Homeland Security, should Congress fail to approve a budget in the next 10 days, despite the recent terror threats. The story featured a speech from President Obama on the affects a shut down would have on the economy and nation, as well as infographics and sound bites from other prominent officials. Likewise, this story was treated seriously and meant to inform, and the writing and reporting was consistent with that of a leading national news outlet.

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Predictably, the next story was about something most people are acutely aware of (at least in this area) the painfully cold weather. While it’s obviously an issue that affects millions of people daily, we’re all experiencing the weather as it happens, so an in-depth story seemed a little redundant, though news outlets do these stories for every weather pattern, so there must be a reason. I personally think NBC treated this story a little too seriously, especially with regards to its length, language, and place in the program. From couple being interviewed while walking their dog, to the infographics tracking record snowfall and temperatures, and ending with yet another “snowstorm baby” the story was pleasant enough, but seemed tired and not particularly informative.

Basically NBC could have run this meme instead of the story and I think it would have resonated.

Basically NBC could have run this meme instead of the story and I think it would have resonated.

Overall, I really enjoyed watching these stories as well as the others displayed during the rest of the Nightly News program, including this heartbreaking interview with the family of Kayla Mueller, the American journalist recently killed by ISIS. If you have the time, I think watching the news is more enjoyable and easier than consuming almost any other type of media because of the combination of audio and visual components. It’s also helpful that all of the networks put their videos online if you just have time for a quick snippet. (A sign of the times…)

Whether you’re Kenneth Parcell or generally consume news in countless other ways, I would encourage you to find a program that suits your needs and tune in whenever possible.

30 Rock fans know Kenneth is a true TV junkie. Are you?

30 Rock fans know Kenneth is a true TV junkie. Are you?