What do sharks have to do with Tesla (valves)?

from wired.com

https://www.wired.com/story/3d-imaging-shows-shark-guts-work-like-nikola-tesla-water-valve/

I only know Nikola Tesla from his competition with Edison over electrification. However, Tesla, like Edison was an inveterate inventor. In this article, scientists recently deconstructed the gastrointestinal system of sharks, and found that they resemble Tesla valves.

What is that, you say? It has nothing to do with anything you think you know about Tesla. And it is a fascinating read. Here is a taste (video) of a Tesla valve system, illustrated with flames.

CMIO’s take? Super cool! But, what does this have to do with informatics, you say? I leave that for you to puzzle out. 🙂

Sepsis, Machine Learning and the Centaur (my SMILE conference talk)

Find out: What is a centaur and what does it have to do with healthcare? What are the criteria for a good machine learning project? What is the role of a virtual health center with predictive models? And most importantly: What ukulele song goes with machine learning?

Here are the slides for my talk given at SMILE (Symposium for Machine learning, ImpLementation and Evaluation). The slides are mostly self-explanatory. You can also watch my talk at YouTube. Here is a PDF of the entire deck.

Information Transparency with patients (Open Notes, Financial estimates) @UCHealth (EpicShare news)

“…at the end of the year, you will know exactly how bad an idea this was”
-physician naysayer

https://www.epicshare.org/perspectives/designing-a-patient-centric-approach-to-sharing-health-information

Thanks to Epic for writing about us! This briefly encapsulates our information transparency journey at UCHealth over the past couple decades, including our clinical and financial projects to show more to our patients, and the leadership lessons we learned on the way. Happy new year!

Smell receptors. Structural Biology. Amazing stuff you didn’t know (wired.com)

from Wired.com

https://www.wired.com/story/the-secret-workings-of-smell-receptors-revealed-at-last/

“…Olfaction might … be the least well understood of our senses, in part because of the complexity of the inputs it must reckon with…”

While we go on with our mundane lives, our scientific understanding of how ligands and receptors work is fundamentally changing, perhaps no more more dramatically than in these smell receptors. Read on.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”

https://www.wired.com/story/plaintext-time-to-talk-about-facebook-research/

This article above is a disturbing, quick take on Facebook research and the lack of transparency in what is being done, from a researcher who recently quit working there, and left this quote behind.

Chilling, the use of data by social media titans with a critical lack of oversight. The Cambridge Analytica – Facebook scandal, it seems, has not mitigated the giant’s appetite to turn their data about you, against you.

The other quote that disturbs me about this is: “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” I’m not sure how to attribute this quote, and some dispute the accuracy of its pithy claims, but it does make you stop and think.

And if you are as disturbed as I am, maybe you’ll make some changes in the way you use Facebook. For example, I have:

  • Removed the Facebook app from my phone. It is a power hog, and I am uncertain how much it tracks me and my activity. Instead, I the Safari browser to log in to Facebook when I want to and then quit the page when I’m done (unlike the app that can be on all the time in the background).
  • Cut back my personal posts by 95% or more to Facebook. Instead, I write wordpress.com blogs and cross-post them to various platforms.
  • Spend 95% less time browsing Facebook posts (and ads) by deciding to be more of a content creator than consumer (see above). I’m only browsing about once a week or so.
  • I considered deleting my Facebook account entirely, and I may still take that step, however, the network effects of connecting with so many family and friends, is, as all of you know, very seductive and difficult to sever.
  • Also, I now use DuckDuckGo as my default phone search engine, and as a plug-in to Google Chrome, so that it will purge my search history and so that Google, Facebook and others (when I use their website through DuckDuckGo’s filters and blockers) are prevented from placing and tracking cookies without my knowledge.

CMIO’s take? I’m certain I’m still leaking a data online, but I’m trying hard to throttle my bit-torrent down to a bit-drip. And I’ll keep looking for ways to take control back from the big guys (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple). What efforts are you making to protect your current and future privacy?

Greg LeMond and the Amazing Candy-Colored Dream Bike (wired)

From wired.com

https://www.wired.com/story/greg-lemond-amazing-candy-colored-dream-bike/

I idolized Greg Lemond, the only US champion of the Tour de France, growing up. I even got his autograph at a bike shop in Colorado a few years ago. Star-struck, I surprised myself by having no words other than a stupid grin and “thanks!”

Greg is still kicking and looking to revitalize carbon fiber and re-invent e-bikes into something that recreates the pure joy and freedom of cycling when you were young.

Is the EHR Inbasket a Hyperobject? And what are you going to do about it?

Inbasket Hyperobject: hard to grasp, even harder to cut down in size.

https://www.wired.com/story/timothy-morton-hyperobjects-all-the-way-down/

This is a mind-blowing read. What is a hyper-object? It is a somewhat disturbing concept of something bigger than an object, something that transcends our understanding as a human. The concept’s inventor, Morton, defines it as: “phenomena too vast or fundamentally weird for humans to wrap their minds around.”

Okay. What?

Consider examples like “all the plastic in the world” or “climate change” or “a black hole” or “massive oil spills.”

Science fiction author Jeff VanderMeer has said “hyperobject” neatly describes the bizarre alien phenomenon he wrote about in Annihilation, his surreal novel turned 2018 movie.

Annihilation: Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1 | Books, Novels, Audio books
from Jeff Vandermeer

OK, now that’s disturbing, as I read the book and felt chills during a summer evening. That guy can write. This is as close to a jump-scare that I’ve ever had, reading a book. Even had to put it down for awhile to calm down.  =shiver=

Now, I’m thinking: the Epic electronic health record’s INBASKET is a hyperobject.

EHR Inbasket as Hyperobject?

Now, we’re talking. Something that is weird, difficult for humans to grasp, and alas, vast. To the uninitiated, the Epic EHR inbasket is a message center where much of our internal communication takes place: incoming phone calls from patients can be sent to inbasket for nurses, docs, assistants to help manage the request; incoming patient portal messages come here; prescription renewals from pharmacies, from patients; consultation reports from specialists, hospital discharge summaries; notifications that “you did not finish writing this note for this patient visit”; test results from blood tests, radiology studies, biopsy reports; nurse-doctor communications; provider-provider communications. Lots of things.

And, for our busy clinicians, some inbaskets have dozens, hundreds, and sometimes THOUSANDS of unread messages that can be weeks, months, YEARS old. Yikes.

Hyperobject.

Solving the Rubik’s (hyper)cube?

First, improve teamwork, huddles

Ok, but that is a future post. Aside from the idea that we need to improve our internal teamwork and fundamentally redesign how we use our internal tools, there are some simple changes we can start with.

Time to cut our hyperobject down to size. We know that incoming inbasket messages from patients has tripled (see previous post). We know that our healthcare professionals are suffering from burnout (see previous post). We (I) have been guilty of delivering automated messages to our docs that we originally thought were helpful. Maybe it is time for a re-think.

Our plan to re-size our Hyperobject:

  • Pick a date (in December 2021), a one time PURGE of all messages 6 months or older in our Inbaskets. This is 7 million messages. Seriously. Rationale: If the provider hasn’t handled this by now, either the patient has called or messaged again (a more recent message), already come for a visit, or perhaps even left the practice to go elsewhere; there is NO VALUE in keeping these.
  • In December, begin a 90-day expiration clock on all new incoming messages. If you haven’t addressed a concern or responded or read a message by 3 months, it will disappear. Yes, there are theoretical risks of deleting reminders to complete a task or respond to a patient. But, here we are in mid November; is it still relevant that a patient called for advice in August, before school started? Also it is theoretically possible that a provider will stop someday and spend a weekend reading and replying to thousands of messages, but this is not likely at all. We are aware of some inbaskets with messages that number in the thousands. Yes, we are not proud of it. Our current setting where we NEVER delete old messages, I consider a personal failure of bad EHR design and configuration on my part. Behold: the man who ruined healthcare. :(. But, we’ll fix it now.
  • We are discontinuing the delivery of automatic CC (carbon-copy) messages from consulting specialists back to the referring provider and PCP (primary care provider). In 2011, CT Lin and his merry band thought we were doing everyone a favor by CRUSHING the BLACK HOLE (a DIFFERENT HYPEROBJECT!) of the University docs who never remembered to send a consultation letter back to the referring doc. “Hey, we sent you a patient for this clinical question, and WE NEVER HEARD BACK FROM YOU.” We created a technical solution to AUTOMATICALLY send a specialist’s clinic note back to the referring doc AND the primary care doc (if different). In the beginning, this was a great idea! However, this rule now sends several HUNDRED THOUSAND messages a year to our 6000 internal and innumerable community providers. I am personally burying my colleagues. Asking one of my full time internal medicine colleagues, he tells me “I receive about 100 to 150 auto-CC notes per week. Every couple of weeks I take a Saturday and read through 200-300 messages of which about 5 are useful to me. But I can’t NOT read them, what if I miss something?” What an excellent, OCD (obsessive compulsive) physician. But also the way to burn out on patient care. You work 40-60 hours a week and then spend evenings and weekends “catching up” on the blizzard of messages and tasks in the EHR. We need to do Today’s work Today. By the way, specialists can always manually send an important note back to the referring doc or PCP “hey, calling your attention to this” with a single click. And, our specialists ALREADY do this, so I often receive the automated note AND a manually sent note for specific concerns.

Thus, I feel pretty good about stopping the automation. How often do you read that sentence from a CMIO?

Clearly insane CMIO

To be clear, we have “internal” providers who use our Epic EHR and can look up the consultant specialist’s notes the next time they see the patient. These are the folks who will benefit. ON THE OTHER HAND, we have “external” providers in our communities who do NOT have access to our Epic EHR, they use a different EHR or perhaps are still using paper: We plan to continue to eFax or otherwise deliver these notes UNCHANGED. Thus, still addressing the community need for information and stopping the internal clogging of our own pipes.

Whew! That was a lot more long-winded than I intended, but this is a big deal, a big movement, that has already generated a lot of heat, a lot of concern about “why are you moving my cheese?” So far, in our internal provider discussions, we are hearing 90% support and 10% anxiety from our colleagues. We plan on moving forward and creating innovative solutions for those who do not see this as an improvement.

CMIO’s take? Hang on everybody. This Inbasket Hyperobject is getting resized. We have lots more plans for reducing the burden of inbasket messaging, this is just phase 1 of 4 major phases to come. Stay tuned!

Thanksgiving #2 During Pandemic: giving thanks

Dear Reader. This is an email I sent to my Large PIG (physician Informatics Group) this week. I wish you all a restful holiday. CT

Dear Provider Informatics Group members: My General Medicine Division Chair sent this today, and it makes me reflect about Thanksgiving. I wanted to pass this along to you. It has been 20 months of chaos, emergency changes and emotionally draining life at work and outside work.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Martin Luther King

It is a reminder that in our day-to-day, all we see are boulders and rockslides in our path. In the long run we are bending the path to reduce burnout, improve connection and improve care. Our work affects 6000 providers, 15,000 nurses, and a couple million patients. 

I am thankful to be on this journey with you. I hope you can take some time this week with family and loved ones. CT

—–

From: Earnest, Mark
Subject: Giving thanks 

Dear GIM Colleagues,

Ms. Sutton, my third grade teacher, taught me to start letters that way – with the word “dear.”  

Since leaving her classroom, I’ve not really given the word much thought.  Aside from placing it at the start of letters, or employing it generically as a term of endearment for my wife, I haven’t used it much.  I use it even less now since “hi” or just a stand-alone first name have become de rigueur for email greetings.  Using it less, I think, is a mistake.   According to Google, “dear” means “regarded with deep affection; cherished by someone.”

Today, I want to use the word with intention. 

So, let me start again.

Dear GIM Colleagues,

We are approaching the one day in our calendar each year that we set aside for thanks.  I’ll confess that after 20 months of the pandemic and all the associated fire-drills, chaos, and public acrimony, I’m much more facile at bringing to mind the things I’m not thankful for.  That may be the most compelling reason to devote my attention this week to its intended purpose – focusing on the things in my life that I cherish and regard with deep affection. 

I’ll not bother you with my gratitude list in its entirety other than to say how much I look forward to a house that is again filled with its full complement of family.  I do want to reflect for a moment on work.

As a young man, choosing a career path, I was clear about one thing.  I didn’t want a job.  I wanted a purpose.  I was fortunate to find that calling in medicine and ultimately in GIM.  I chose well.  I have always loved caring for patients.  Along the way, I’ve found other, related opportunities for growth and points of purpose: teaching, mentoring, helping others find and actualize their purpose…  In all honesty, work for me has been a great source of joy and satisfaction.  A wonderful side effect to finding my purpose, has been the privilege of working alongside other purpose-driven people.  If I could start from scratch and hand-pick a group of people to take this journey with, I could do no better than you – my dear GIM colleagues.  It is a profound privilege to be part of such a caring, committed, selfless group of people. 

Now – after twenty long months and in the midst of a surge – is almost certainly not the easiest time for any of us to hold our work dear.  It has been hard.  Nevertheless, it is possible to be tired, even exhausted, and thankful at the same time (ask any marathoner at the finish line).   Unfortunately, we are not yet at the finish line.  We have a challenging winter ahead of us.  That in and of itself should be reason to pause and reflect. 

I hope this week that each of you can find a moment to consider our common purpose(s) and find the space to be thankful for it.  Doing so need not deny the challenges we’ve faced or the sacrifices made.  Each day, in ways big and small, you have all made our world a little better.   Because of your work, each day there is a little less suffering, a little more hope and a little more knowledge and understanding.  Surely that is worthy of thanks. 

I am not aware of much more we can do to turn the tide of the pandemic.   Somewhere ahead of us is a finish line.  We will face more challenges before we cross it.  We cannot control all of those difficulties, but in the months ahead, we will be focusing on the ones we can change.  We will be looking closely at the circumstances and structures that impede our purpose and make our work, particularly our clinical work, more difficult and less joyful.   We will be looking for meaningful, actionable ways of rethinking and restructuring our work to make it more joyful and sustainable.

In the meantime, I hope you all can find the space to feel thankful for what you’ve done through this great time of trouble.  I am thankful for each of you my dear colleagues, and hope that this week you will enjoy rest and gratitude among those you hold most dear. 

With gratitude and thanks,

Mark

Mark Earnest from History Colorado dot org website

Mark Earnest, MD, PhD, FACP|Professor (Pronouns: he, him, his)
Division Head –  General Internal Medicine
Meiklejohn Endowed Chair of Medicine

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