Medical Black Humor, that is Neither Funny nor Appropriate.

19 09 2011

Last week, I happened to see this Facebook post of the The Medical Registrar where she offends a GP, Anne Marie Cunningham*, who wrote a critical post about black medical humor at her blog “Wishful Thinking in Medical Education”. I couldn’t resist placing a likewise “funny” comment in this hostile environment where everyone seemed to agree (till then) and try to beat each other in levels of wittiness (“most naive child like GP ever” – “literally the most boring blog I have ever read”,  “someone hasn’t met many midwives in that ivory tower there.”, ~ insulting for a trout etc.):

“Makes no comment, other than anyone who uses terms like “humourless old trout” for a GP who raises a relevant point at her blog is an arrogant jerk and an unempathetic bastard, until proven otherwise…  No, seriously, from a patient’s viewpoint terms like “labia ward” are indeed derogatory and should be avoided on open social media platforms.”

I was angered, because it is so easy to attack someone personally instead of discussing the issues raised.

Perhaps you first want to read the post of Anne Marie yourself (and please pay attention to the comments too).

Social media, black humour and professionals…

Anne Marie mainly discusses her feelings after she came across a discussion between several male doctors on Twitter using slang like ‘labia ward’ and ‘birthing sheds’ for birth wards, “cabbage patch” to refer to the intensive care and madwives for midwives (midwitches is another one). She discussed it with the doctors in question, but only one of them admitted he had perhaps misjudged sending the tweet. After consulting other professionals privately, she writes a post on her blog without revealing the identity of the doctors involved. She also puts it in a wider context by referring to  the medical literature on professionalism and black humour quoting Berk (and others):

“Simply put, derogatory and cynical humour as displayed by medical personnel are forms of verbal abuse, disrespect and the dehumanisation of their patients and themselves. Those individuals who are the most vulnerable and powerless in the clinical environment – students, patients and patients’ families – have become the targets of the abuse. Such humour is indefensible, whether the target is within hearing range or not; it cannot be justified as a socially acceptable release valve or as a coping mechanism for stress and exhaustion.”

The doctors involved do not make any effort to explain what motivated them. But two female anesthetic registrars frankly comment to the post of Anne Marie (one of them having created the term “labia ward”, thereby disproving that this term is misogynic per se). Both explain that using such slang terms isn’t about insulting anyone and that they are still professionals caring for patients:

 It is about coping, and still caring, without either going insane or crying at work (try to avoid that – wait until I’m at home). Because we can’t fall apart. We have to be able to come out of resus, where we’ve just been unable to save a baby from cotdeath, and cope with being shouted and sworn at be someone cross at being kept waiting to be seen about a cut finger. To our patients we must be cool, calm professionals. But to our friends, and colleagues, we will joke about things that others would recoil from in horror. Because it beats rocking backwards and forwards in the country.

[Just a detail, but “Labia ward” is a simple play on words to portray that not all women in the “Labor Ward” are involved in labor. However, this too is misnomer.  Labia have little to do with severe pre-eclampsia, intra-uterine death or a late termination of pregnancy]

To a certain extent medical slang is understandable, but it should stay behind the doors of the ward or at least not be said in a context that could offend colleagues and patients or their carers. And that is the entire issue. The discussion here was on Twitter, which is an open platform. Tweets are not private and can be read by other doctors, midwives, the NHS and patients. Or as e-Patient Dave expresses so eloquently:

I say, one is responsible for one’s public statements. Cussing to one’s buddies on a tram is not the same as cussing in a corner booth at the pub. If you want to use venting vocabulary in a circle, use email with CC’s, or a Google+ Circle.
One may claim – ONCE – ignorance, as in, “Oh, others could see that??” It must, I say, then be accompanied by an earnest “Oh crap!!” Beyond that, it’s as rude as cussing in a streetcorner crowd.

Furthermore, it seemed the tweet served no other goal as to be satirical, sardonic, sarcastic and subversive (words in the bio of the anesthetist concerned). And sarcasm isn’t limited to this one or two tweets. Just the other day he was insulting to a medical student saying among other things:“I haven’t got anything against you. I don’t even know you. I can’t decide whether it’s paranoia, or narcissism, you have”. 

We are not talking about restriction of “free speech” here. Doctors just have to think twice before they say something, anything on Twitter and Facebook, especially when they are presenting themselves as MD.  Not only because it can be offensive to colleagues and patients, but also because they have a role model function for younger doctors and medical students.

Isolated tweets of one or two doctors using slang is not the biggest problem, in my opinion. What I found far more worrying, was the arrogant and insulting comment at Facebook and the massive support it got from other doctors and medical students. Apparently there are many “I-like-to-exhibit-my-dark-humor-skills-and-don’t-give-a-shit-what-you think-doctors” at Facebook (and Twitter) and they have a large like-minded medical audience: the “medical registrar page alone has 19,000 (!) “fans”.

Sadly there is a total lack of reflection and reason in many of the comments. What to think of:

“wow, really. The quasi-academic language and touchy-feely social social science bullshit aside, this woman makes very few points, valid or otherwise. Much like these pages, if you’re offended, fuck off and don’t follow them on Twitter, and cabbage patch to refer to ITU is probably one of the kinder phrases I’ve heard…”

and

“Oh my god. Didnt realise there were so many easily offended, left winging, fun sponging, life sucking, anti- fun, humourless people out there. Get a grip people. Are you telling me you never laughed at the revue’s at your medical schools?”

and

“It may be my view and my view alone but the people who complain about such exchanges, on the whole, tend to be the most insincere, narcissistic and odious little fuckers around with almost NO genuine empathy for the patient and the sole desire to make themselves look like the good guy rather than to serve anyone else.”

It seems these doctors and their fans don’t seem to possess the communicative and emphatic skills one would hope them to have.

One might object that it is *just* Facebook or that “#twitter is supposed to be fun, people!” (dr Fiona) 

I wouldn’t agree for 3 reasons:

  • Doctors are not teenagers anymore and need to act as grown-ups (or better: as professionals)
  • There is no reason to believe that people who make it their habit to offend others online behave very differently IRL
  • Seeing Twitter as “just for fun” is an underestimation of the real power of Twitter

Note: *It is purely coincidental that the previous post also involved Anne Marie.

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Expert Curators, WisdomCards & The True Wisdom of @organizedwisdom

9 11 2010

Note added 2010-11-12:  Anyone who wishes to can now email info@organizedwisdom.com to let his/her profile as expert curator removed from the site of Organized Wisdom (see comments by Unity Stoakes, Co-founder OrganizedWisdom)

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Twitter and other Social Media can be full of random rubbish, but can also contain useful information. Personally, I use Twitter for work-related tweets about 95 percent of the time, and I choose the people I follow carefully so that I’m not overwhelmed by a flood of tweets. As I’ve said before: people who I follow are my human filter to the Twitter Noise. And I hope that is vice versa.

Organized Wisdom (http://organizedwisdom.com and @organizedwisdom on Twitter) is a 3-4 year old company that uses a similar approach to filter useful health information out of the daily junk.

Or as Steve Krein, CEO of Organized Wisdom tells Matthew Holt of the Health Care Blog in an interview (video below)

Organized Wisdom has created a new way for people to use the internet to solve their health problems by using experts. We think experts are the missing gap between two worlds: heavily simplified health encyclopedias & dictionaries and complex stuff on the internet (where you are quickly overwhelmed by all the health stuff).

OrganizedWisdom® uses WisdomCards™ , a unique service which helps people easily discover great links, curated by experts and organized by topic.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In principle this is an excellent idea, and that is why I originally joined Organized Wisdom.

I have a badge on my blog and I’m a so-called expert curator and contributor for Medical Education and Medical Librarian (topics)

Profile now removed from Organized Wisdom (2010-11-11)

Profile now removed from Organized Wisdom (2010-11-11)

So far so good. Besides being a creator of content (which is nothing more than being a source for automatically created links present in my health-care related tweets), I’m also a “consumer”. Because I’m interested in Endocrinology I follow @EndocrinologyOW on Twitter. There are many other OW topics on Twitter, that you can follow.

Recently Organized Wisdom launched a new account @ActivityDigest, which -it won’t surprise you- gives an activity digest of the curators. Apparently to stimulate “engagement” (Oh wonderful CEO-terminologies).

This is why I got this tweet in my twitter stream (I don’t follow @ActivityDigest, but I see its tweets once it mentions me).

I felt flattered: “recommended as an expert curator for Organized Wisdom“…. That sounds like any scientists could only dream of.

And before I realised it, I retweeted the message (repeated the message to my twitter stream).

Immediately I felt a bit uncomfortable. And this feeling grew as I saw almost everybody in my Twitter stream being labeled as an “Expert Curator”. … and everybody retweeting his/her “pat on the back” and congratulating each other….

I don’t have the original retweets, but a search for “Expert Curator” shows that last weeks “expert-curator”-retweets still continue

  1. American Heart Assoc
    American_Heart Thanks! RT @ActivityDigest @American_Heart was recommended as an Expert Curator for quality links, expertise. Congrats!…
  2. Rudi'sGlutenFree
    rudisglutenfree Cool! RT @ActivityDigest: @rudisglutenfree recommended as Expert Curator 4 quality links, expertise. http://bit.ly/9IOHME @OrganizedWisdom
  3. EndlessBeauty.com
    _EndlessBeauty Oh wow thank you @ActivityDigest!! We appreciate the recommendation for an Expert Curator 🙂 @organizedwisdom
  4. Michael Bermant, MD
    DrBermant Michael Bermant, MD – OrganizedWisdom Contributor Profile http://bit.ly/99hDES Learn why he is an Expert Curator, see links he has shared.
  5. shade gardener
    shadegardener @ActivityDigest Wow, I never heard of Expert Curator for quality links before, thanks for letting me know I was awarded! 🙂
  6. Bamboo Inspiration
    bambooinspired @ActivityDigest Hi and thanks for the Expert Curator for quality links mention! That’s really appreciated
  7. BMJ Group
    BMJ_Group Thanks :o) RT @ActivityDigest: @BMJ_Group was recommended as an Expert Curator for quality links, expertise. Congrats! http://bit.ly/an2Vio
  8. Imagine Nursing
    ImagineNursing Nursing Tweets: BMJ_Group: Thanks :o) RT @ActivityDigest: @BMJ_Group was recommended as an Expert Curator for qu… http://bit.ly/954uDQ

this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

Note (1) the real surprise of some people (Wow, I never heard of Expert Curator for quality links before) and (2) the chaff (endless beauty) between the wheat ((BMJ_GroupAmerican_Heart). I mean: if some of these accounts would start following me, I would probably block them and report them for spam! Really!

Activity Digest  continues its activities. Now everybody knows he or she is a curator,  it tweets what the curators have achieved this week. Probably OW is hoping curators retweet their achievements and spread the word for them. We are not only used as living filters, but even more so as “living ads”!

It made me frown, but the worst thing that struck me today is that the twittered information isn’t really filtered for quality. About a quarter is what I would call SCAM or at least CRAP.

Look on which WisdomCardI land on when I follow a tweet “Tired Of Fake Anti-aging Creams? (Try HGH Energizer”): rubbish by natural healers etc (spread by @EndocrinologyOW)
Similar cards are antiaging medicine that gets at the hormone causessupplements for diabetes support and what about the Type  2 Diabetes Natural Treatment-card. Cinnamon as treatment? Anyone? And of course there are also chiropractor WisdomCard™ cards where “expert curators share great links about chiropractor”.

Part of the problem may be that Organized Wisdom doesn’t only share links from “Health Centers”, but also from Wellness Centers (AgingDietExercise & Fitness etc) and Living Centers (BeautyCookingEnvironment). Apparently one card can have information for 2 or 3 centers (diabetes and multivitamins for example)

I feel used.

Organized Wisdom uses the credibility of me and other curators, including so-called “top expert curators” as Dr Pho (Kevin MD – blog), to cover up the incredibility of others, with the intention to lure users in.

Who doesn’t believe top curators like the ones below? Who doesn’t want to be considered one?

Going through the “expert curator” Twitter search, I saw (only) one very sensible man, EdBennett, who manages web sites for a large academic medical center and creates overviews of social media usage by hospitals. Friendly, he asked to be removed from the Expert Curator list.

I think I will try the same, although (considering the answer of dr Ves), that may not be a sinecure.

Perhaps we can try a concerted action. You know, the power of the crowd….

  1. Ed Bennett
    EdBennett Dear @OrganizedWisdom – please remove me as an “Expert Curator” from your site. Thank you.
  2. Ves Dimov, M.D.
    DrVes @EdBennett I tried this several times but I don’t think it worked… 🙂
  3. Ed Bennett
    EdBennett @DrVes I like to start by asking nicely.

this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

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Added 2010-11-12: For more striking examples, please read the comments. (anti-quack people “recommending” homeopathy treatment of cancer; dr ves -true expert on asthma beaten by the author of slim-fit-health.info/newsletters/fat-loss-now/…..

Added 2010-11-12: I found a 2 year old post from TechCrunch called OrganizedWisdom, the “Mahalo For Health”, Raises $2.3 Million. Some of the commenters came to the same conclusions (why didn’t anybody pick this up? Vanity? Trust? Ignorance? -this also applies to me I must admit):

Like this one from @Holly (emphasis mine)

I am glad you brought up the “written by people who do not have a clue, let alone ANY medical training [of any kind] at all.” I have no experience with any kind of medical education, knowledge or even the slightest clue of a tenth of the topics covered on OW, yet for some reason they tried to recruit me to review cards there!?! That was my first impression of the company, if they have a bunch of people like me as the final word on their cards, the info will be so off base the site will give the big fail so quick. In my opinion, medical knowledge or advice is not something I would trust from any random joe, so why would I trust anything from random people who work there, considering they have absolutely no experience or knowledge? They advertise that a doctor reviews every card, personally I think that is a bunch of BS, considering neither me nor others that I know work higher up there have any training whatsoever, guess anyone can be a doctor now…

And Josh,

You are correct about some health sites’ contents written by people with limited or non-existent medical knowledge or training; the public at large do not know this. In fact, one of my neighbors, a “MA” or “Medical Assistant,” writes for OrganizedWisdom.com.





Friday Foolery #31 Waving goodbye… (or not?)

13 08 2010

WHEN THE SHIP SANK…

(it was August 4th,  I remember I was at home multitasking
(twittering, blogging, mailing, scratching my back, playing
patience, humming a tune and looking out of the window)

WHEN..


THE REASON BEHIND IT


WHAT’s NEXT?

HERE AT WORDSTREAM THEY THINK THE SAME.

THE GOOGLE FLOPS & FAILURE GRAVEYARD IS EXTENDING

(HT: @drves)

Google Flops & Failures – The Failed Google Graveyard

 Google Failures and Google Flops - A list of Google Mistakes

I still miss Google Notebook . AND Google Wave sure had great potential

To think that a year ago I told people in a workshop that Google Wave could make their live easy 😉


Google Wave had potential, especially as a collaboration tool….

See this post at Tip of the Iceberg (how appropriate) describing how Google Wave was used  to collaborate with students.

Since much of the Code is open sourceambitious developers may pick up where Google left.

But some people hope Google Wave may be saved. It might for instance be worth saving for health systems.

Want to Save the Wave”? ….. Then click on the following image and express your support.

click to sign the petition

Related articles by Zemanta (and me)





Health Care Reform 2010- Obama, USA, Bill, Dutch, Plan, Doctors, Letterman, Pills, $ & other Random Thoughts

30 03 2010

“I do believe the only way we can end all preventable deaths and the suffering of millions is to provide decent health care to all.”
Hilary Benn, 2006
———————

The next Grand Rounds will be hosted by Evan Falchuk at SEE FIRST (Insights into the Uncertain World of Healthcare).  Evan’s theme is Health Care Reform.

How will it affect your life, your medical practice, your experience as a patient, as an insured, an employer, an employee, someone without insurance?  What are your reactions to the politics, and what do you think will happen next?  I’m asking for your candid views on health care reform seen from whatever perspective you bring.  Medicine, politics, business, humor, left, right, center, up, down, you name it.

Health Care Reform has been a theme more than once in this Grand Rounds, i.e. February 10th at the Health Care Blog, and at Obama’s inauguration day (Ten Suggestions For Healthcare Reform) by Val Jones, MD.

The question is which health care reform? Because after all, this is an international Grand Round with bloggers from the US, Europe, Africa, Australia & Asia.
Probably, just as Google.nl (Dutch) already suggests the theme is meant to be about the USA health care bill of Obama, the future plan, and its costs (see Google Fig).

Since I’m from the Netherlands my non-US readers probably need an introduction first:

Recently  the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (known as the “Senate bill”) became law on March 23, 2010 and was shortly thereafter amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 and passed by both houses on March 25 without any support from republicans (source: Wikipedia).  Please see Reuters and CNN for an overview of the March 2010 reforms and the year in which they take effect  and the New York Times [1] for the effect per types of household (i.e. Fig. at the right)

The legislation will tighten regulation of insurance companies and is expected to extend medical coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans. As explained by Barack Obama in the CNN-video [2] below, it will take 4 years to implement fully may of these reforms, but some desperately needed reforms will take effect right away.  For instance, having a child with a pre-existing medical condition will no longer be the basis for denial of coverage or higher premiums in the old system.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Health Care:What happens when”, posted with vodpod

As a Dutch citizen, I simply can’t imagine that an insurance would be refused because my girl has asthma and I would to have pay a lot more because I happen to have a chronic disease. I can’t imagine that so many people (from a rich country) are uninsured.

As of January 2006 Our Dutch Health Care has been reformed as well. (Officially) there is no longer a fragmented system with compulsory social insurance for the majority and private health care insurance for people with a higher income. Now there is a standard insurance for all, where the insurers have to accept all patients, with no difference in premium, and no surcharges. Children up to the age of 18 years are insured for free.
Both employer and  government will contribute to the Health Insurance fund, and the insured will pay a nominal premium for their standard insurance directly to the health insurer. People with a low income can apply for a care allowance.
To avoid that health insurers seek to avoid less healthy clients, insurers are entitled to compensation for expensive customers. Although not as ideal as conveyed by the Dutch Government in their commercial-like video [3] (a too central role for the insurers, considerably less covered by the basic health insurance) it still is a pretty good and affordable health care system.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “MinVWS | The new health care system i…“, posted with vodpod [press T for English translation]

It is often difficult to imagine how things work in another country unless you’ve been there or hear it through somebody else.

A Dutch correspondent in the US, Tom-Jan Meeus wrote a eye-opening article in the Dutch NRC newspaper [4] about the US health care.

When Meeus collected his first prescriptions from a US pharmacy, he had to pay six times as much for the same pills (same brand, logo, packing) as in the Netherlands. And he was even more surprised that the prices were negotiable. But he got used to the US health care system: he gets an expensive check-up each 2 months instead of the once yearly (when needed) doctor visit back in Holland. In this way his doctor safeguards himself against health insurance claims. Furthermore, his doctor “has to keep the pot boiling too”.
This man knows many influential people and has valuable inside information, i.e. about the health status (botox, psychoses) of some of the key players in the health care system. In addition, he was one of the doctors who thwarted Clintons Health Reform: his glory years. This friendly conservative doctor wants freedom of choice, for himself and his patients. When Meeus objects that this freedom of choice becomes a little expensive, the doctor argues that top health care costs a little (US doctors know they are “the best in the world”)  and continues: “do you really think the health care becomes any cheaper when Obama subsidizes 30 million people to get insured? Hanky Panky, that is what it is.” But he knows a way to circumvent the rules. He cut the ties with two insurance companies that reimburse too little. “Perhaps, we can’t stop Obama, but we can undermine him. Why should we help people when we don’t make money out of it…”.

Hopefully not all the doctors think this way (I’m sure the blogging doctors that I know, don’t), but lets give a moments thought to two statements: That the US Healthcare is “the best” (as it is) and that the new health care system costs too much.

We first have to find out whether the money was well spend before the health care renewal.

I’ve shown the figures before (see [5] and [6]), but here are some other representations.

1. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the US spent 15.3 percent of its GDP on health care in 2006 and this number is rising. As you can see this is far more than the other countries spend.

This trend was already visible in the early eighties: the last 10-20 years the US spend far more money on health care than other rich countries..


And although the U.S. Medicare coverage of prescription drugs began in 2006, most patented prescription drugs are more costly in the U.S. than in most other countries. Factors involved are the absence of government price controls (Wikipedia).

Perhaps, surprisingly, the higher health expenditure hasn’t lead o a higher life expectancy. (78 years in the US versus 82 years in Japan in 2007). The differences are huge if one plots health spending per capita against life expectancy at birth.

Just like the international comparison, higher health care expenditures in different parts of America don’t result in a better health care for all this extra spending. Miami spends 3 times as much money per person health care than Salem (Oregon). Many doctors in Miami, for instance, perform a bunch of tests, like ECG’s, after chest complaints, because they have the necessary devices, not because all these tests have proven useful. Despite all expensive tests and treatments, Miami (and comparable great spenders)  has the worst death rate following a heart attack.* [ source, video in ref 5 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Health Data 2009 site.]

And this is how the US health care works:  simply more treatments and tests are available, but the incentives are wrong: physicians are paid for the quantity of care not the quality.

Just like the doctor of Tom-Jan Meeus, who did a two-monthly unnecessary check-up.

Or as the internist Lisa Bernstein suggests in the New York Times [7]:

For instance, if an asymptomatic, otherwise healthy, patient comes to me wanting a whole-body CT scan to make sure they do not have something bad hiding inside of them, I would decline and educate him or her that there is no data to show that this test has any significant benefit to offset the potential radiation or other harm and the major medical societies do not recommend this test.”

Mind you this is the situation before the current health care reform.

But there is another thing not yet addressed: the expectations of the US-citizens. Americans (and more and more Europeans too) want those check-ups and screenings, because it gives them a (false) feeling of security and because they feel they have the right. That is why it is so difficult for people to give up unnecessary CT-scans, PSA-screening and mammograms.

One reason why Americans have a higher risk for certain diseases (diabetes, overweight, cardiovascular diseases) might be their lifestyle. And lifestyle is something you can change to a certain extent and can have great effects on your health. Lifestyle is also something you can learn. You can learn to enjoy good food, you can avoid the 3 times daily coca cola  and it can be fun to do some exercise or for children to play outside. But still some people rather have a pill to stay healthy or  undergo all kind of (poor performing) tests to see how they’re doing.

Am I exaggerating?

No. This is reality. A few days ago. I saw Letterman in his show [8] telling Jamie Oliver (on his crusade to change the US diet habits) that “he believed diet pills were the only successful way to lose weight in the U.S. and that he expected humans to ‘evolve to the point where 1,000 years from now we all weigh 500-600lbs and it will be OK’ and that “If you would go to doctor they would be happy to give you as many pills as you need and you weight 80 pounds”

Do I fail to see Lettermans warped sense of humor?

Does he really belief this? And, more important, does the majority of Americans believe this?

For here is much to gain, both in health and health care costs.

* As far as I can tell these are only associations; other possible reasons are not taken into consideration: busy live in a metropolis or the population composition might also play a role.

Main References (all accessed 29 March 2010)

  1. NY-Times (2010/03/24) How Different Types of People Will Be Affected by the Health Care Overhaul.
  2. CNN.com (2010/03/23) Health care timeline (including video)
  3. Ministerie van VWS: The new health care system in the Netherlands
  4. NRC (2010/03/20) Tom-Jan Meeus: Mijn dokter won ook van Clinton (Dutch; subscription required).
  5. Laika’s MedLibLog (2009/09/10) Visualization of  paradoxes behind US Health Care.
  6. Laika’s MedLibLog (2009/09/25) Friday Foolery [4]: Maps & Mapping.
  7. NY Times.com (2010/03/27) health/27patient.html?src=twt&twt=nytimeshealth.
  8. The dail Mail UK (Last updated 210-03-25). Simon Cable. Don’t cry Jamie! Now David Letterman lectures Oliver and says his healthy eating crusade won’t work in America

Photo Credits

This map shows the ability of the health service of each territory to provide good basic health care to a number of people. The health service quality score for 1997 was applied to the population. The world average score for health service quality was 72 out of 100. This means that the equivalent of 4.5 billion people had access to good basic health care.The populations with the poorest health care provision live in Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic. The Sierra Leonean health system scored 36 out of 100 – that is half the world average score. Note that only the most basic care is measured here.
“I do believe the only way we can end all preventable deaths and the suffering of millions is to provide decent health care to all.” Hilary Benn, 2006 Territory size shows the proportion of people worldwide who receive good basic health care that live there.




Health Tweeder. A Neat Visual Tool… But is it Useful?

9 02 2010

First seen on ScienceRoll (February 1st) and later throughout the Twitterverse & Blogosphere: Health Tweeder (http://www.pixelsandpills.com/tweeder/), a tool launched by Pixels and Pills.

Health Tweeder is a  neat visual tool meant to aggregate tweets (Twitter messages) on specific health areas.

The Landing page consist of petri dishes, each corresponding to a specific medical discipline or disease. The size of the petri dish, and the number of cells in it, reflect the number of captured tweets. The health categories are also shown at the left, ranked by number of tweets. For instance, the second-largest category Pediatrics (in Orange) corresponds to the orange petri-dish of 170 tweets (accessed February 9th).

In Pixels and Pills own words:

The underlying idea was to build a visual tool so that people could review the dialog in specific areas in an interesting way. Using petri dishes to culture cells of dialog, each cell in a petri dish represents a distinct tweet that has been gathered using a range of search terms, hashtags, and people we’ve identified to follow. The cells grow and shrink based on the volume of content at any one time. In totality, they provide a dynamic view of the healthcare dialog on Twitter.

If you click on the orange petri-dish you see individual “cells” or Tweets. Moving the mouse over a particular cell [1] will show the corresponding tweet at the right. You can also search by page [2].

Health Tweeder looks pretty kewl. I love visual tools. They have a user-friendly, intuitive interface and it is fun to play with.  The concept of Health Tweeder –“cells of dialog cultured in petri dishes”– is also original. Perhaps it would have even be more consistent with the petri-dishes concept if each spot didn’t represent a tweet (cell) but a twitter person (cell clone or colony). But then, few clones would be present: the number of sources is very limited. There are only a few per health category. It looks as if the search criteria consist of very specific hashtags used by a very select group of people.

In the Pediatrics petri-dish there were mainly tweets seeded of Autism_Today, TannersDad, PeterBrownPsy, ADHD_News and MDLinx. The tweets didn’t seem extraordinary useful to me. The emphasis is on topics related to autism and ADHD, and incidentally on allergy or H1N1. Pediatrics must cover more than this?!

The same is true for other topics. Furthermore I can’t see any dialogs, as the makers of Health Tweeder suggest. Just one-way-tweets.

That made me wonder as to the real value of this tool.

For me, as a reasonable experienced Twitter user, searches for hashtags (sort of keywords), Twitter directories and Twitter Lists seem much more useful.

Possibly, this tool is suitable for less experienced Twitter users who prefer a narrow choice of Tweets on his/her area of interest. Still it seems rather cumbersome to follow tweets this way. Suppose I want to stay up-to-date on a particular topic. How do I know which tweets are new and which aren’t (if I merely use the petri-dish)?

The petri-dish is nice for stumbling upon, not for quick browsing, and certainly not for keeping up-to-date.

I searched on the Internet for other reviews of this tool, and without exception they were very positive.

Only at Andrew Spong’s blog STewM I found a comment of Sally Chuch, expressing a similar contrarian view. She was rather disappointed after checking out ‘cancer’ (her expertise).

What criteria is the tool using to search on? Are only certain Twitter handles defined as ‘kosher’ and used to select from their tweets?

In ‘cancer’ it includes mainly a couple of news outlets and one of two physicians, for example. There’s a lot more out there! (…)

Also, searching on ‘cancer’ will give you mainly solid tumours and not hematologic malignancies such as leukemias, lymphomas, myelodysplastic syndrome etc,

Andrew answered that he was more looking at the tool from the perspective of ‘what it could be’, not from the perspective of ‘what it actually is’. Andrew:

As we all head into the cloud and anticipate a time when much of the data we actually end up reviewing will be filtered according to our evolving preferences, it’s nice to begin to conceptualize a time when visualization tools will be added into the search mix.

So we will wait and see how this tool evolves…

The looks are great, the idea is original, but Love needs a little bit more.

video made by Andrew Spong
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The 2009 Medical Weblog Awards: it is time to nominate your favorite blogs

16 01 2010

The 2009 Medical Blog AwardsThe 2009 Medical Weblog Awards are here again!

MedGadget is asking for nominations for the best of medical blogs.  This is the sixth year of the competition and these awards are designed to showcase the best medblogs, and to highlight the exciting and useful role that the medical blogosphere plays in medicine and society.

You can make your nominations here by leaving a comment with your choice. Nominations will be accepted until Sunday, January 24, 2010. The finalists will be announced the next day.

The categories for this year’s awards are:

— Best Medical Weblog

— Best New Medical Weblog (established in 2009)

— Best Literary Medical Weblog

— Best Clinical Sciences Weblog

— Best Health Policies/Ethics Weblog

— Best Medical Technologies/Informatics Weblog

— Best Patient’s Blog

Perhaps you remember that this blog made it to the finals last year in the category “Best New Medical Weblog“, but was -of course- beaten by Life In The Fast Lane, the blog that is nominated at least 20 times in the current contest.

Since you obviously can’t be nominated for Best New Medical Weblog (2008) twice, I didn’t expected this blog to be nominated again. Considering the competition, I was very surprised (and certainly honored) that Laika’s MedLibLog was nominated in the section Medical Technologies/Informatics Weblog, i.e. by Chris Nickson (precordialthump on Twitter), saying:

# Best Medical Technologies/Informatics Weblog: Laika’s MedLibLog – https://laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com/ A brilliant guide to the art and science of discovering the medical information you need.

By the way, I was alerted to the nomination by Novoseek on Twitter.

Many of my favorite blogs have already been nominated, like Life In The Fast Lane, ScienceRoll,  Bitingthedust , other things amanzi, Clinical Cases and Images, Respectful Insolence and Found In Cache. Below are my nominations. I gave preference to those blogs that have not yet been nominated, but certainly deserve a place among the other nominees.

  • Best Medical Weblog : Dr Shock MD PhD, a beautiful lay-out, frequently updated, a mix of web 2.0 & medical subjects brought in an easy-to-digest way.
  • Best New Medical Weblog (established in 2009) Body in Mind, excellent new blog that fulfills its promise: “both interesting and accurate.”
  • Best Literary Medical Weblog: Other things amanziLove to read the stories. Real, rough (surgeon & South Africa) and beautifully written. (of equal quality is Bitingthedust -both already nominated)
  • Best Clinical Sciences Weblog: Sutures for a living Blog of a plastic surgeon with a lot of noteworthy information on many different subjects including surgery and quilting.
  • Best Health Policies/Ethics Weblog: The Skeptical OB writes skeptic research posts as well as  interesting stories about patients.
  • Best Medical Technologies/Informatics Weblog: The Palmdoc Chronicles. The source to consult to keep updated with the latest Medical PDA News and Updates.
  • Best Patient’s Blog :  Survive the Journey. I ‘m a real fan of this blog, written by a patient with Cushing’s Disease. It contains real life stories and researchblogging. Robin has recently started another blog  “365 days with Cushing. I almost nominated this blog, but realized in time it just started this year.

By the way it is very difficult to fit some blogs in. It would be nice to include other categories, like “Medical Education”, Evidenced Based Medicine (Science Based Medicine/Theoretical Medicine) and “Medical Student, Nurses & other health care workers”. And what about microblogs?

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My Little Golden Llama

23 11 2009

Doctor Rob send me
A little golden Llama
Prestigious Price

I did not earn it
by spitting acid musings*
Just wrote this haiku:

Dark when he leaves home,
Dark when he returns from work.
Resident Life.**

Introduced by Rob of Musings of a Distractible Mind as follows:

The final haiku I’m presenting
That Limpens gal who’s unrelenting
She wrote a whole post
But what touched me most
The hours of a life residenting
(5)

Want to read dr Rob’s entire Llamerick  and the haikus of the other price winners, then read this post.

The entire golden pre-selection is mentioned here.

* I now understand this has two meanings 😉
** As indicated in the original post the abovementioned haiku was I
nspired by a tweet by Scott Greenberg, MD

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