CMS: Open Thyself.

Look at what the Guardian has done with data (thanks, Noah Brier):

We have compiled our top sets of publicly-available data for you to use free. Explore the links below, visualise and mash them together. Then, let us know what you’ve done.

They even have worldwide health care spending data for all to enjoy.

Now take a gander at how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shares its data.  There’s no reproducable text worth sharing here.  However, this is what’s important: it’s confusing and it’s not free.

Freely available data allows people to do marvelous stuff.  The mashing phenomenon has been around for awhile now; the fruits of its collective labor have produced some cool things.  The same goes for data visualization.  The Guardian has created its Open Platform to encourage participation.

CMS should do the same.

Annnnnnnnd. You’re done.

Wowza.  Enough said:

A Dean Health System manager removed a nurse from a minor surgical procedure last week — in violation of medical protocol — in order to lay her off, a spokesman for the company confirmed Monday.

The abrupt removal, which spokesman Paul Pitas said posed no danger to the patient, came after the Madison-based health care provider announced Wednesday that it planned to “immediately” lay off 90 employees.

Pitas, director of corporate communications, labeled the action “clearly … an error in judgment on the part of the manager conducting the layoff.” He declined to name the manager but described her as “an otherwise good employe with more than 30 years of nursing experience who made a regrettable decision.”

Via HLM.

Nurse: You forgot to take your pill this morning

This is interesting, from The Daily Mail (UK):

Microchips in pills could soon allow doctors to find out whether a patient has taken their medication.

The digestible sensors, just 1mm wide, would mean GPs and surgeons could monitor patients outside the hospital or surgery.

The ‘intelligent’ medicine works by activating a harmless electric charge when drugs are digested by the stomach.

This charge is picked up by a sensing patch on the patients’ stomach or back, which records the time and date that the pill is digested. It also measures heart rate, motion and breathing patterns.

The information is transmitted to a patient’s mobile phone and then to the internet using wireless technology, to give a complete picture of their health and the impact of their drugs.

Doctors and carers can view this information on secure web pages or have the information sent to their mobile phones.

There’s an obvious privacy discussion here.  Furious Seasons takes a shot:

On one level, this kind of technology is fascinating and interesting for all the usual dorky techie reasons (wow, telemetry has gotten that advanced and so have transmission technologies–it’s all so very sci-fi and high tech triumphant), but on another more important level it’s downright frightening. That’s because I see this “intelligent medicine” technology as a potentially massive intrusion on individual freedom and privacy.

This example is indicative of the debate territory we are beginning to enter.  The balance between life-improving-medical-innovation and privacy is becoming more difficult to strike (well, I suppose that depends on your definition of privacy).

Via Seed.

August 22, 2009

Gary Schwitzer at the Schwitzer health news blog calls for the end of Twittering surgeries:

What mysteries of surgery will be revealed? And the worry of surgery? Maybe patients SHOULD be worried about surgery being done while TV and Twitter are going on in the background.

And regarding the “new way to keep patients’ families informed” — no thanks. Good old fashioned face-to-face talking about risks and benefits, about evidence, and about alternatives is good enough for me. Better for me than “dialogue” 140 characters at a time.

Let’s stop the live Twitter marketing, er, surgery.

I don’t want to hear details of a prostatectomy via Twitter. I don’t want to to hear about laser toenail fungus removal via Twitter.

I do want to hear more discussion about the need for real and meaningful health care reform.

The Tweets from the operating room do have a gimicky marketing feel.  But it’s a new technology and health care organizations are just starting to explore its opportunities.  Will it serve a useful purpose in the future?

Maybe.  But it’s hard to argue when at current growth rates “everyone in the US will have a Twitter account by August 22 of this year,” writes Ross Dawson at Trends in the Living Networks.

This comScore data, tracking unique U.S. visitors to Twitter, is astounding:

Twitter Trend Report

As for the health reform discussion, there are some meaningful health care reform conversations happening on Twitter.  Smart individuals who likely would have a reduced voice on the matter without such a platform are sharing their insights daily.  Start here.

One in eight workers in the U.S. work in health care

The Wall Street Journal had a story yesterday on how the recession is hitting health care.  In a departure from the norm during recessionary periods: some health care organizations are struggling.

Growth possibilities in the industry remain high; but, the (new) value conscious customer/consumer/patient will have a flattening effect on that growth.

Interesting; from this:

More than 16 million people — one in eight workers on U.S. payrolls — work in health care today, up from just 1% of the work force 50 years ago.

Wow! To this:

She [Kim King] and her ex-husband, a corrections officer, “used to joke that we had the most secure jobs out there, because people always need health care and prisons. It’s not true anymore,” she says. “I’ve never seen it so bad. It’s the one thing you would think wouldn’t be affected by the recession.”

To this:

“It’s a long-term shift reflecting changes in technology and what consumers want,” says Robert Fogel, a Nobel laureate and professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. “Health care is the growth industry of the 21st century.”

Because we present data (lots…)


While modern designers keep inventing more and more creative visualizations, the true frontiers this year may be much more modest?—?learning the limitations of graphics, and using perception-informed design and interactive techniques to make the most of the forms that already exist. The pie chart, which has borne the scorn of perceptual psychologists for decades, may fail in some respects, but modern visualization has in many ways failed to learn from its mistakes. Above all, we should remember that throwing data into a chart is not always the route to greater understanding.

In: The importance of failure

Tony Chapman, CEO of Capital C, in Toronto’s Globe and Mail:

The only way you’re going to grow your business is innovation.  If you’re going to have an innovative culture, you must understand that that comes with the acceptance of failure. Innovation comes with a lot of mistakes.

Anybody who’s in the business of inventing the future has to be more tolerant of risk and failure because the future hasn’t been created yet.  If you’re in the business of creativity or innovation, software, technology or ideas, you have to be tolerant of experimentation and creativity. (emphasis added)

Much more (worth your time) here.

Patient Experience Rundown

This post at Matter/Anti-Matter sums up nicely the poor patient experience often on display in health care settings:

  • First problem: Lack of efficient communication.
  • Second problem: Lack of personal touch.
  • Third problem: Bad office systems and technology.
  • Fourth problem: No advice.
  • Fifth problem: No prevention.

Here’s what happened:

About four weeks ago, I went for an annual physical and had standard blood work done. I was told to call back in a week, and of course I forgot. Today I had a message that said: “Hello, this is Dr. XX’s office, please call us back at xxx-xxx-xxxx.” That was it–the person didn’t identify herself and also didn’t say what the call was for. When I dialed the number, I was expecting to be told that I owed them money. But actually, the woman on the phone had no idea why she had called me. So I sat on hold, and finally she came back with my blood test results and rattled off a bunch of acronyms and numbers. I’m happy to report the results were good (at least that’s what she said), except my cholesterol was at 201 and it should be less than 200. Then the call ended.

That was it.

Broad generalization here: we’re capable of so much better.