Great Storytellers of Our Moral Decisions

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a medical research project.  In broad terms, the researchers developed a virtual tool to evaluate the skills of doctors on a particular procedure without performing on a real patient, and they needed people at various stages of proficiency to test the training program.  Since I was a total novice, it made me an ideal subject – I was expected to stumble and burn.  In fact, I was so clueless that I had to ask the experimenter to repeat the instructions for the simulation.  Then, through either sheer luck or innate talent (ha), I scored near the top of the chart.

Shortly after the study concluded, I was notified that after discussing with the co-researchers, the research team has decided to discard my data-point because “the instructions were given twice, which gave an unfair advantage over the other participants.”  I wanted to reply, “But if a complete novice can score like this without knowing how to do the actual procedure, doesn’t that say something about the quality of the virtual evaluation?”

More interestingly, if I had scored much lower than the average novice – making the results look even better – would the research team have thrown out my data-point all the same? Continue reading “Great Storytellers of Our Moral Decisions”

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Great Storytellers of Our Moral Decisions

On Habits, Good Ones and Bad

At work I routinely saw patients who suffered from substance addiction.  Addiction is a powerful motivator – it is heart-breaking to see patients forgo buying life-sustaining food, water, and medications to “save up” for the next cocaine fix.  Traditionally science has pinned the mechanism of addiction to biological molecules.  However, over the past few decades, scientific studies began to show that behavioral neuropsychology – the intermingling of biological molecules, behaviors, and how the brain ties everything together into an experience – is a far more complete way to think about addiction.  This intermingling of different fields also shed light on addiction as a disease of a general, even beneficial, motivation pathway. Continue reading “On Habits, Good Ones and Bad”

On Habits, Good Ones and Bad

On Choices, Decisions, and Happiness

The fable of Buridan’s donkey tells of a donkey who is profoundly hungry.  When put in the exact midpoint between a two identical piles of hay, the donkey was unable to choose which one it wanted and eventually dies of hunger.  Ironically, if the donkey had only one and not two piles of hay to choose from, its life would have been easier (and longer).  Obviously, people are smarter than Buridan’s donkey – are we?   Continue reading “On Choices, Decisions, and Happiness”

On Choices, Decisions, and Happiness

Why Can’t Hospitals Stop Over-Billing Us? (Part 2/2)

In a prior post, I read Steven Brill’s story on health care hospital bills and offered a brief analysis of the “average hospital” in contrast with MD Anderson.  The data show that average hospitals are low-margin organizations.

Below, I argue that although the data disagrees with the vilification of general hospitals in “Bitter Pill,” the article is spot-on in his assessment that medical bills are incredibly over-priced.  Then, I offer a hypothesis on why.
Continue reading “Why Can’t Hospitals Stop Over-Billing Us? (Part 2/2)”

Why Can’t Hospitals Stop Over-Billing Us? (Part 2/2)

Why Can’t Hospitals Stop Over-Billing Us? (Part 1/2)

In an article titled “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us,” Stephen Brill outlines a well-researched investigation on hospital over-billing.  In the article, Brill begins by highlighting the unreasonable mark-up MD Anderson places on every medication, service, and imaging that it provides.  He argues that this “hard-nosed approach pays off,” earning MD Anderson $531 million operating profit in 2010, and that this comprises a 26% operating margin.  $1.8 million of that went to the pockets of Ronald DePinho, the president of the cancer center.

Although Brill never outright states the connection, his implication is clear: general hospitals are the oft ignored mammoth in the health care debate, operating under the veil of legitimate non-profit business.  A general hospital funds its astounding operating income by making the uninsured and under-insured suffering patients an offer they cannot refuse.  It then funnels this unfairly earned profit into the pockets to the Godfather of the organization. Continue reading “Why Can’t Hospitals Stop Over-Billing Us? (Part 1/2)”

Why Can’t Hospitals Stop Over-Billing Us? (Part 1/2)

On Brainstorming and Group Work

[I]t was the curious power of electronic collaboration that contributed to the New Groupthink in the first place. What created Linux, or Wikipedia, if not a gigantic electronic brainstorming session? But we’re so impressed by the power of online collaboration that we’ve come to overvalue all group work at the expense of solo thought. We fail to realize that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude all its own.

Susan Cain, Author, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

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Take a Break, Make a Breakthrough

Most people realize that they tend to perform best when they’re feeling positive energy. What they find surprising is that they’re not able to perform well or to lead effectively when they’re feeling any other way.  Unfortunately, without intermittent recovery, we’re not physiologically capable of sustaining highly positive emotions for long periods.

Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy, Harvard Business Review, as cited.

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