Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A lesson in healthcare from the game Balderdash(TM)

I was fascinated to learn something new by playing the game Balderdash. In case you've not played the game before, you are basically given a word from a card and need to guess what it means from amongst a selection of options provided by other players and the real answer from the card. I was challenged with Question 4 from the card below:
Frankly, I had no idea.  I was shocked, given my line of work, to hear the answer:
Who would have thought it?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

IMT decisions back in the hands of the hospitals

The rules of the game have changed. Since the inception of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in 2005, the responsibility for specifying, procuring, configuring and deploying major hospital systems has been centralised and the role of local management had become one largely characterised as facilitation. Now though, following a Department of Health review and the announcement in a ministerial statement that the NPfIT is “no longer required”, executive decisions regarding the full breadth of Information Management & Technology (IMT) need to be back on the agenda of board meetings up and down the NHS in England and Wales.
The announcement is that the centralised approach of NPfIT is no longer relevant and IMT decisions should be local, with more modular systems being selected from a plural system of supply. What is more, the tone set in the white paper is continued- that healthcare provision needs to improve, yet the costs need reduce. So providers quickly need to pick up the mantle and take control of how IMT will enable their organisation to deliver this objective.
This new onus on Trust boards brings the need for them to be more tech savvy than they have previously needed to be. Not only are the decisions and responsibility for system delivery back with them, but a plural market requires significantly more expertise, not only in system selection, but also in architecting how more modular systems will be orchestrated to deliver their digital platform. As the Operating Framework for the NHS in England puts it, the approach is about “connecting all” rather than “replacing all”. Integration is the name of the game and the challenge of making a handful of interoperable systems drive an organisation is exponentially more demanding than merely multiplying up the effort of making a single system work.

Futura font, Passendale cheese and Walter Mossberg, courtesy of Hunch

I arrived at the Hunch.com site with excitement, having read an interview with the founder, Caterina Fake, where she promised to personalise the internet for me. On choosing to sign up using my Facebook account (which saves loads of time and avoids having to remember yet more account details), you are immediately faced with the fairly startling truth that Hunch will only be able to personalise the internet by having access to some very personal information. At least they challenge this head on and you know where they are coming from, and why.
I was then asked to answer a series of question so Hunch can learn more about me. Some of the multiple choice questions were tricky to answer as my life often falls into the "none of the above" category. However, I pressed on and even found myself choosing to answer more questions than considered essential. It was fun and I was optimistic.
So, at the end of the process I was provided with a set of "top 5" recommendations for lots of (seemingly endless) categories- from books to magazines and cars to credit cards. Whilst I found this mildly intriguing it didn't pop up any surprises and, to be really honest, had a slight whiff of product placement (4 Apple product recommendations even though I answered a question saying I was more of a PC user); stating the blooming obvious (who doesn't like "The Wire"?) and simple wrong calls (the site is heavily biased to East Coast US even though my Facebook profile clearly says I'm British and live in the UK). That said, I will be trying Futura font, Passendale cheese and Walter Mossberg (tech writer) at the next available opportunity. The proof of the pudding will be in whether I like these things.
Hopefully in time the dataset being used to drive the collaborative filtering will become richer and provide more insightful suggestions. The range of suggestions needs to grow and become more localised too. However, for that to work they need to encourage me back. To my mind there isn't a sticky enough element to the offering to compel me... but know they now so much about me, I'm sure they'll find a way.