Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sharing our Knowledge

A great quote "We are now witnessing a global societal struggle to assure universal delivery of our know-how." from a medical school commencement called Cowboys and Pit Crews at

It talks about how medicine has changed and in many ways for the better, in some for the worse. It’s an interesting look at costs, and how they don’t often equate to better care. That’s a problem, I think, in our system. We’ve raised costs, partially because we have more options and ways to treat things, partially because of inefficiencies, and partially because of profit, which I think is bad.

Profit isn’t bad, but profiting at the expense of denying care is bad. We have to find a way to better mix these goals, and I am actually hoping that Generation Y, with an emphasis on things in their lives other than profit (to a large extent) will make changes as they mature.

There are also synergies that we are missing in our society, mostly because they are buried and not reported as widely. This quote: “Reports show that every dollar added to school budgets over the past decade for smaller class sizes and better teacher pay was diverted to covering rising health-care costs.

That’s sad, but it also shows that we have interconnections that are problematic. We spend more on schools, but we’re not spending on schools. We’re spending more hidden costs on health care. At the school board meeting a few months ago, I went and heard that next year our teachers will get a high deductible plan, meaning a $2k/individual/$4k family deductable every year. If a teacher’s family is sick, based on what they earn ($30-60k), $4k is a significant cost. No wonder we lose good teachers more and more. It’s not that money is everything, but that kind of loss, or the fear of that loss, could dramatically impact a teacher’s life. It certainly might make them think that a job paying $10-20k more a year gives security. Maybe a larger scale public health plan is a good idea at least for public employees? I don’t know.

The author of this piece, Atul Gawande, wrote a great book: The Checklist Manifesto, that I really enjoyed reading. It made me think that my own field, that of data, could benefit from some re-thinking and re-tooling to standardize and prevent the simple mistakes. I recommend it and it’s worth the read.

And because I’m a data guy, I like this one that is in there as well: “People in effective systems become interested in data.

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