“A Social Network for Your Doctor, Pharmacist, and Insurer”

“A Social Network for Your Doctor, Pharmacist, and Insurer”
Washington Post, August 15, 2008

Trends in social networking are extending themselves beyond more traditional social realms and are making their way into the doctor patient relationship.  WellNet Healthcare is launching a beta version of Point to Point Healthcare, a “social network” for patients, their doctors, and other members of their health care team.   Microsoft, Google, and insurance companies are also investing resources towards increasing the popularity of online medical records.

“Imagine a virtual health clinic: Your lung doctor and heart specialist can pull up your online medical profile and chat, via instant messenger, about your medications. You schedule checkups online, create a wellness journal or even rate your general practitioner. ”

This virtual health clinic sounds intriguing and certainly better than a waiting room.  Consolidated and readily available medical records and fast feedback between patients, doctors, pharmacies, and insurance companies can potentially lead to more efficient and less expensive health care.  Well Net already provides data about patients and their use of their health care plans to employers so that employers can evaluate their health plan offerings.  This new online network may provide additional information that allows companies to better prioritize aspects of health care plans important to employees.  Point to Point Healthcare and similar technologies might also encourage individuals to be more proactive participants in their personal health care by better and more frequent interaction with health care providers.

However, despite the potential increase in efficiency and patient access to information, this medical social network raises some potential issues.
First, doctors generally like IT that is easy to use and increases efficiency or decreases work.  When technology requires a training and adjustment period, it can potentially lead to a short term degradation in patient care and higher stress levels for doctors as illustrated in the reading “Electronic Health Records: Just around the Corner?” .  Patients using the site may not be tech savvy either, so the site must be easy to use in order to ensure quality information.

Secondly, some patients might not be interested in managing their health care information to this extent .  They may choose to remain disengaged and continue to consider the management of their health care data as a service provided by doctors and insurance companies.  Additionally, despite the fact that the program is only in beta and isn’t required, the potential diversity of users should be considered up front.  A large portion of the population, particularly senior citizens, the portion of the population seeking the most medical care, aren’t comfortable or even aware of social networking sites.

Privacy is also an issue.  Point to Point Healthcare and other online records systems will need to meet privacy guidelines set out by HIPAA.  As pointed out in the Washington Post article, the ramifications around the theft of personal health information are greater than identity and financial information theft, both of which are painful, but resolvable.  Private health information is either private or it isn’t.  The damage can’t be undone.

I think there is a lot of interesting potential in a service that links patients, doctors, and the rest of their health care team, but only if it can provide the privacy patients are entitled to and lets doctors do what they do best, treat patients.

Relevant Lectures: 2. Issues and Context, 15. Personal Information Management,  19. User Interfaces, Social/Distributed Categorization

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The Chameleon

The Chameleon, David Grann, The New Yorker, August 2008

I found this piece in the New Yorker to be so interesting that I felt inspired to relate it to our 202 discussions somehow.  It was in this attempt that I gained a whole new appreciation of and perspective on the story and it’s characters.

The Chameleon is a true story about a Frenchman named Frederic Bourdin who, at the age of 16, runs away from home and wanders across Europe, taking on many different personas and fictional characters in search of the “perfect shelter.”  By the time he turns 18 and becomes a true adult Interpol has a growing record of his deceits, and he has attracted the attention of the European media.  These potential threats hardly affect his lifestyle as he continues to “insinuate himself into youth shelters, orphanages, foster homes, junior high schools, and children’s hospitals,” across 15 countries, generally posing as a desperate child in order to “win sympathy.”

His deceits escalate until he eventually hatches up a plan to impersonate a missing child named Nicholas Barclay who is said to have run away from his home outside of San Antonio, Texas three years earlier.  Not only is he able to convince Spanish and American Authorities, but also the missing child’s family.  The missing child’s older sister eventually meets Frederic at the American Embassy in Spain where he receives an American passport and is taken home to live with the family.  Without giving the whole story away, suffice it to say that there are quite a few additional twists.

So how does this relate to 202?  Well it made me think about misinformation, peoples’ varying perceptions of information, and how they determine the validity of information.  Do people believe what they see, what their instincts tell them, what their emotions or feelings make them want to believe, or what other people tell them to believe?  It also made me think about the sharing of information across institutions, how we manage and interpret personal identification information, and whether or not somebody could pull this off in today’s post 9/11 world.

Related Lectures

7 – Controlled Names and Vocabularies (9/22)

11 – Information Integration and Interoperability (10/6)

15 – Personal Information Management (10/20)

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Tracking Your Money

As more banking transactions occur online, it becomes more difficult to keep track of where your money is going—even for banks’ wealthiest clients. Over the course of 15 months, someone managed to siphon over $300,000 out of Guy Wyser-Pratte’s JPMorgan Chase account. When he discovered that the funds were missing, he expected the bank to rectify the situation, but they would only cover $50,000.

The source of Wyser-Pratte’s woe is a combination of antiquated banking laws and the explosion of online transactions. Existing regulations require that bank customers notify the bank of suspicious activity within 60 days of the activity occurring, but with online services like automated bill pay and recurring transactions keeping track of every dollar is a Sisyphean task. Furthermore, many transactions are inscrutable even if detected. Companies bill from unexpected locations and use unannounced bill processing providers, so that classifying a transaction as erroneous is a non-trivial task.

As data overload, and our inability to deal with it using traditional tools and practices, proliferates, its effects will be felt in all sectors and by all members of society. While high fees and unsympathetic bankers used to be solely the purview of the unwashed masses, they now seem poised to strike at even the wealthiest and most privileged in society. While consumers and their advocates have been railing against outdated regulations and anti-consumer policies for years, the recent addition of more influential victims might aid their cause.


Source: The New York Times, Published: August 29, 2008


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How many licenses for one song do you need?

Copyright Office, EFF wrestle with Kafkaesque royalty issue

If you’ve followed the travails of the digital music market, even casually, you’ve probably picked up at least a passing sense that the whole process of licensing music copyrights can be… complicated. But you probably thought that, like many jobs, it’s all quite routine if that’s what you do for a living. Sadly, it’s not, as illustrated by an ongoing, seven-year bureaucratic proceeding of the kind that might seem familiar to Kafka.

The Copyright Office has been trying since 2001 to sort out issues surrounding the compulsory licensing of music. “What issues are those,” you ask, “and how could they possibly take seven years to sort out?” That’s a good question.

The issues involved with this deceptively simple process are legion: if your store streams on-demand songs, do you need a performance license or a reproduction license? Do the copies made in RAM on the server side count as “copies” in the sense that they need to be licensed? What about RAM copies on the client side? Et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam.


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Define ‘It’…

In the August 27 post of Good Morning Silicon Valley, John Murrell analyzes
the “Battle of the Bans” surrounding Apple for the day. This includes both a
ban from the British regulatory agency Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
on an Apple ad regarding the legal interpretation of “all” and a ban from
Apple on an iPhone app, Comic Reader, for a violent comic strip packaged
into the application.

To summarize, Apple ran an ad that states: “You never know which part of the
Internet you’ll need… which is why all the parts of the Internet are on the
iPhone.” The ASA argues that the ad misleads consumers to believe that all
functions of any website are available on the iPhone. Apple counters that
clearly “‘all parts of the Internet’ referred to Internet site

Apple regulators, on the other hand, have removed iPhone application Comic
Reader due to an app included in the comic called “Murderdrome” that Apple
considered overly violent. Apple must now determine what defines an app as
“too violent” or “too sexual.”

http://blogs.siliconvalley.com/gmsv/2008/08/apple-finds-itself-on-both-sides-in-battle-of-the-bans.html#respond for the full story.

This post relates primarily to Lessons 7 (Controlled Names & Vocabularies)
and 8 (Classification) from the i202 syllabus.

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Redefining the Kilogram


Who knew that the kilogram was defined by a piece of platinum-iridium stored in a vault in France? Well, not me. I just took for granted that a kilogram was 1kg on a scale and never thought about the core of the definition. Apparently “Le Grand K” has been losing weight and now scientists are looking for a more constant and accurate way to define the kilogram, such as counting the number of atoms in a silicon crystal (duh). They claim that the kilogram as we know it will remain the same (don’t panic!), it is just the definition that is changing to ensure more accuracy.


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Changing accounting standards in the U.S.

U.S. Moves Toward International Accounting Rules

The New York Times reported today that the S.E.C. is moving toward requiring U.S. companies to follow international accounting standards. It has proposed a roadmap that allows some large businesses to begin using the international standards in 2009 and will require all companies to use them by 2016. Embracing the international standards will make it easier to compare the financial performances of U.S. companies with those of foreign companies, and it will make it easier for businesses to make money across international borders. There are concerns, however, that the standards of the International Accounting Standards Board are less rigorous than the current U.S. rules and that some countries may adopt them more fully than others.

Relevant lectures: 11, Information Integration & Interoperability (10/6) and 12, Enterprise / Institutional Categorization & Standards (10/8).

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(De)Classifying Wine

The New York Times: Classified Matters

The controversy currently affecting the French town of St. Emilion is a great example of how politically charged (and economically important) the development and application of classifications can be. Bordeaux’s wine classification, dating from the initial Classification of 1855, serves as a key indication of quality for the wines produced in the region, and vineyards who can put the “Grand Cru Classé” label on their bottles can command much higher prices that those who can’t. The interesting thing here is what’s being classified – is it the history and geographic location of the vineyard , the quality of the wine, how well it conforms to a certain style or character, the historical fair market value of the wine, or something else entirely? And who gets to decide? The answers to these questions have very real consequences for the vineyard owners, especially those whose wine has been declassified, and has led to a nasty lawsuit that’s thrown the entire classification system into disarray.

Relevant lecture:  8. Classification (9/24)

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