Latest Blog Posts & Articles


On Improving Communication

john durham peters

“The mistake is to think that communications will solve the problems of communication, that better wiring will eliminate the ghosts.”

—John Durham Peters

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Insurance Woes

A great cartoon from the Kaiser Health News website that pithily captures the “wonders” of the American health insurance system.

insurance woes

 

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If Costs Are Unknown, Can Doctors Still Talk About Them?

don't talk about moneyI have been writing a bit lately on the need for healthcare providers to talk with their patients about healthcare costs, if for no other reason than to enable patients to determine whether they can afford to pay for the healthcare that their doctors are recommending them to receive.  I have been criticized for this position, on the grounds that I am rationing care from people with less money and connections than I have, a criticism that I have explained as being misguided.

But I have faced another more reasonable criticism too, one I want to write about today.  I have been reminded that doctors and other healthcare providers cannot easily discuss healthcare costs with patients because those costs are often unknown. Lisa Rosenbaum made this point in an excellent New Yorker essay:

“The first problem with financial disclosure from doctor to patient is a practical one. Doctors rarely know how much their patients actually pay. Patients are covered by a variety of insurers, all of whom offer several plans, for which any individual patient has a different copayment and deductible, which he may or may not have met.”

In this post, I will lay out a fuller version of this criticism and then explain why I still think doctors need to hold these conversations, and also why I think these conversations will become much more common in the near future… (Read more and view comments)

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Winner of the Most Naïve Idea Award: Eric Schmidt, CEO Google

Eric SchmidtSchmidt once said:

“In the future, people will spend less time trying to get technology to work … because it will just be seamless. It will just be there. The Web will be everything, and it will also be nothing. It will be like electricity. … If we get this right, I believe we can fix all the world’s problems.”

Sadly, he is far from alone in this idea. So much brain power heading to Silicon Valley to “solve” the world’s problems through apps.

Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

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Obamacare Chipping Away at Uninsured Numbers

With all the hype and controversy over Obamacare, once in a while it’s nice to look at the facts. And here are recent numbers – on the percent of Americans who lack health insurance, a figure that has dropped significantly in recent months with the expansion of Medicaid and the opening of the health insurance exchanges:

percent uninsured

These numbers should improve even more the next few years, barring some new roadblocks to this law. At some point, we might not even lag the rest of the developed world in access to affordable healthcare. Okay – I’m getting carried away.

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On Education

pamela hieronymi“Education is not the transmission of information or ideas. Education is the training needed to make use of information and ideas. As information breaks loose from bookstores and libraries and floods onto computers and mobile devices, that training becomes more important, not less.”

 - Pamela Hieronymi, professor of philosophy at UCLA

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More on Revolution from Clay Shirky

clay shirky2“If it’s a revolution it can’t be predictable. And if it’s predictable it can’t be a revolution.”

-Clay Shirky

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Can Circular Reasoning Make You Rich?

circular reasoningWe Americans are notoriously bad at saving money.  While people in Germany, Sweden and even France save about 10% of the money they make, folks in the U.S. save closer to 3 or 4% of their earnings.  With so little money saved, Americans face difficulty absorbing economic shocks like recessions and layoffs, and also find themselves with too little money in the bank when they retire.

What will it take to get Americans to save more money?  According to a study in Psychological Science, it will require a shift in our thinking.  But to which way of thinking? …(Read more and view comments at Forbes)

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Revolutionary Thought

clay shirky

“It’s not a revolution if nobody loses.”

-Clay Shirky

 

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Interesting Take on Why We Often Perceive Handsome Men to Be Jerks

I just came across an interesting article in Slate contending that we often perceive handsome men to be jerks because examples of jerky handsome men come more easily to mind than examples of jerky plain men. In the case of single women, the “acceptable” men that they consider entering into relationships with tend to be better than average looking, meaning that the majority of jerks they encounter are good looking. That’s represented in the illustration that accompanied the Slate article:

looks vs. niceness

I don’t know that there’s any actual evidence to back this up, but it is a plausible idea. And as someone trained in behavioral economics, it conjures two famous ideas of Kahneman and Tversky – of the availability heuristic, which causes us to over represent the likelihood of things that come more easily to mind, and the representativeness heuristic, which causes us to overstate the probability of attributes that fit together when we think they should.

Everywhere you look – behavioral economics and decision psychology!

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