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Skin in the Game

I recently read Skin in the Game: How Putting Yourself First Today Will Revolutionize Health Care Tomorrow by John Hammergren & Phil Harkins. I will give the disclaimer up front that I work for McKesson. Furthermore I will point out that I actually purchased this book with my own money – it was not given to me. The book is not really about McKesson – it's about us as Americans and the health care system we flow in and out of. Read on and I will explain.

There has been much talk, dating back to the early days of the Clinton white house, about health care reform. If you've been to the doctor's office lately, filled a prescription, or heaven forbid visited the emergency room, you have witnessed the need for systematic and behavioral changes first hand. I remember days in the E.R., intensive care, and later the neurological ward with my dad when we would answer the same questions over and over again. At the time I tried to look at it along the lines of police questioning where they interrogate you numerous ways to make sure you are giving the complete story. Over time I have come to realize that this was not the case. These different providers did not have an efficient way to communicate with one another. On the neuroscience floor, there was a huge (and I mean HUGE) chart that sat outside the patient's room that all the doctors and nurses would share, but even this was a paper system that stayed put. With all of the advances of modern technology there is surely a better way.

In 2001 I changed dentists and started visiting one near my home in Cumming, GA. When the assistant went to take my x-rays, there was a slight change. Instead of biting down on a piece of film, I bit down on a sensor with a cord coming out of it. The rest of the aparatus appeared the same (including the heavy lead blanket draped across me). The instant the button was pressed, an image of my teeth appeared on the screen. Instant x-rays – no developing required. This was awesome – but not pervasive. In 2007 I visited an orthopedist's office about a tracking issue with my knee. It was a new office – however the same OLD x-ray equipment. They had to take several pictures – but of course we did not know that until the first batches were developed. If only the orthopedist had the same x-ray apparatus in 2007 that my dentist had in 2001!

So what does this have to do with the book? Everything. Skin in the Game begins by giving some historical context of our system of healthcare starting in the 1800s. The media pundits are quick to talk about a crisis but do little to explain its origins – this book helps fill the gap. It then goes on to lay out ideas for ways to improve the delivery of healthcare and our access to it as consumers. Along the way you learn about innovative solutions that are already available in the marketplace to doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and clinics. Throughout the book Hammergren lays out the key to advancing health care in this country each one of us being the center of care and in control. This concept is very straightforward, but requires a fundamental shift from our present day way of thinking.

Overall I give the book 4 stars – meaning I liked it and would recommend it. It does an excellent job of framing the present state of affairs in America and provides thoughtful insight to drive conversations towards a positive change in our systems and behaviors. There are several pages of reference for further reading as well as an appendix filled with "resources, web sites, tips and guidelines."

P.S. If you are the kind of person that doesn't want to buy a book because you believe it further enriches CEOs – do not let that stop you from purchasing this book. All of the author's proceeds are donated to charity as noted in the foreward. Next week I'll review The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Vintage), a book whose author I am pretty sure spent all those profits on getting elected.

Automating Affinity

One of the key outcomes my project at work seeks is to assist employees in finding people and information relavant to their needs. One way that we are attempting to accomplish this is by bringing social search results onto the same page as our intranet search results. We will be displaying "Related People", "Related Communities" and "Related Bookmarks" in a right-hand panel. The relatedeness is based on the search term(s) the user entered.

This is a first step in the right direction, but in the minds of many might seem primitive. If you are a member of Facebook, you have no doubt seen the "People You Might Know" section towards the bottom right of the home screen. While cool, this is based on some simple factors – age, schools and employers seem to be the primary drivers (although I'm sure there's a little Friend-of-a-friend logic factored in as well). While on the surface this type of algorithm may seem like it fits the needs of the enteprise – it really does not. We are not trying to find "People you may know". The goal is to find people you SHOULD know in order to share knowledge, build a better product, or have a better workplace.

Is this possible? I have no doubt that it is. I also have no doubt that you need to have a base collection of artifacts, digital footprints if you will, in place to have enough evidence in place to make such a suggestion. In that regard, I believe we are approaching the problem domain correctly. Of course as with everything else I have done over the past year, I am sure that there are many more layers to this onion that will throw new wrinkles and challenges my way.

Sick as a Dog

My dogs would probably take offense to that remark, but I am sick nonetheless. Last week I started feeling run down Wednesday / Thursday and took it easy in terms of training. Saturday I thought I had simply eaten something that disagreed with me. But Sunday I went downhill and today I am not much better. I miss being in the office and I miss my training. Yesterday was supposed to be a 17 mile run, but obviously could not happen.

The good news in all this is that I am now under my goal race weight. Laughing That won't be the case once I am able to eat again, but easily dropping below my goal is a good sign that on March 28th I will be at or below my planned weight for the ING Georgia Marathon.

The plan for the next few days is to recover. Run 20 on Sunday. Ramp maintenance miles back into lunch beginning next week (weather should cooperate). Continue my focus on nutrition. This approach should get me through ING with a 'fun run' approach in good shape to hop on the road to triathlon season.

Finding Strength (continued) – Achiever, Responsibility

Today continues the weekly Best of Mike series with a post from August 16th, 2004. Enjoy!

Selective perception is a really funny thing. Now that I've started focusing more on my strengths and developing them further, I've picked up on people in my life reinforcing these aspects. No less than 3 times over the weekend I heard various people describe me as an 'achiever' and an 'action-oriented person' (activator). While one was my wife, the others were an old business acquaintance and someone from school. Of course, I paid the $20 on Amazon to buy this book – but whatever it takes to move forward, I'm willing to do. This is my next action.

I'm continuing to blog today about my 5 dominant strengths as highlighted by the StrengthsFinder. The 'Achiever' theme is next on the list. Boy – is this one a pain in the neck to tote around.

It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. It is the theme that keeps you moving.

Yes – that explains quite a bit. As the Summer winds down for me (this is the last week before the MBA program ramps up) I find myself as a thirsty sponge. I'm looking for books to read, roads to run, weights to lift, grass to mow, and challenges to overcome. Sitting idle for prolonged periods does not suit me well.

The other theme for the day is 'Responsibility'. Here is an excerpt…

This conscientiousness, this near obsession for doing things right, and your impeccable ethics, combine to create your reputation: utterly dependable. When assigning new responsibilities, people will look to you first because they know it will get done. When people come to you for help-and they soon will-you must be selective. Your willingness to volunteer may sometimes lead you to take on more than you should.

Another nail on the head. At least it feels like a good fit. As I mentioned before, there are 34 strengths that have been identified by the Gallup Organization and your 5 dominant strengths can be found using the StrengthsFinder. I highly recommend the book Now, Discover Your Strengths to help you identify your strengths and learn how to grow them, rather than focus solely on your weaknesses.

Untraceable

I watched Untraceable [Blu-ray] this past weekend and am still marvelled by the high quality that Blu-Ray discs combined with a 1080p television provide.

The movie itself was fairly disturbing. The story follows an FBI agent involved in investigating cyber crime who is presented with the case of an uber-smart lunatic who crowd sources killing. It was somewhat of a cross between The Net and Copycat with some new twists, turns and horror. The film is not too brutal visually, but your brain fills in the gaps – definitely not one to watch with the kids in the room. It will keep you engaged and isn't full of cheese – I'll give it 3.5 stars overall.

 

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