Privacy and healthcare

Returning again to the subject of privacy – this time in the case of healthcare.

Interesting paper produced in the US by the Patient Privacy Rights group – the case for informed consent.

Paper references interesting statistics about the number of patients now demanding privacy – in fact the number of patients avoiding early medical checkups/ treatment because of concerns re privacy/ confidentiality.

The paper pushes a very valid principle – that the medial data about the patient belongs to the patient and not the hospital or clinician. Therefore it is not sufficient to think about patient privacy being addressed by software vendors.

The paper outlines it as follows: It is a mistake to design health IT in a paternalistic manner — assuming a corporation, vendor, provider or government agency knows what is best for each individual patient. Instead, we should build ‘patient-centric’ health IT systems.

The challenges posed are potentially complex – but they need to be addressed. For operators they will require changes in processes and systems. But these changes will be required to meet legal requirements and in order to establish and maintain credibility with patients.

Barriers to Collaboration

Have just been rereading Morten Hansen’s excellent book: “Collaboration”. Hansen concentrates on collaboration within the enterprise. He draws on significant research across a range of large corporates – including well known companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Apple and HP. I have been reviewing his ‘Barriers to Collaboration’ in the context of my own experience across a range of companies.

Not Invented Here
Particularly struck by Hansen’s reference to ‘insular culture’ and ‘status gap’. An example of this often arises where consultants are introduced to assist in some form of business transformation/ BPR – but there is a tendency within certain groups to hold meetings behind closed doors – excluding the consultants. I actually think the status gap is more serious in terms of junior personnel not wanting to open up with senior personnel – because they have experienced a lack of interest/ responsiveness in the past of their suggestions.

In the current climate of economic pressures, cutbacks, rationalisation Hansen’s reference to ‘Being too busy’ certainly rings true. People who are hard-pressed to get their own job done are less willing/ available to assist others. This is a real challenge for management – to provide the environment and opportunities for effective research and collaboration.

It is disappointing that finding people and information seems to be such a challenge. However from my own background in Business Intelligence I think we all know that it is pointless to expect people to contribute data when they do not understand the ultimate use/ benefit of this data. There is any number of technological solutions available – but these require an understanding upfront and commitment to improved processes and technologies.

There are real challenges in transferring what Hansen describes as ‘tacit knowledge’. All very well to capture basics of relationships in a CRM system – but the valuable information is often difficult to put down in writing and requires genuine collaboration for its effective transfer. Tacit knowledge transfer takes us into the area of emotional intelligence and ability to intereatc and share ideas.

Privacy and the social side – social privacy

Back to the subject of privacy I was recently away on vacation with the family. I was asked (by my spouse) not to post anything in the first five days which would identify my location – on the basis that given the context (summer time, kids on holidays, etc) people would also most likely deduct that my spouse was abroad on vacation. I have thought previously about the security issues arising by publishing the fact that I am away on vacation – but I had not thought through the social privacy issues associated with potentially revealing someone else’s likely location by revealing my own.

Many discussions on this and related subjects at today’s conference BlogTalk 2010 in Galway, Ireland. In particular much focus on developments in facebook re location – and the likely impact in terms of location based/ centric advertising. But what about the ‘social privacy’ issues?

Internet privacy

Interesting to see the Irish Times editorial re Internet privacy. I commented previously re my own concerns on the level of surveillance which is now omnipresent. The editorial references comments made recently by Eric Schmidt. Schmidt somewhat controversially has suggested a notion whereby people might wipe the slate clean and start with a new identity at some instant in their lives. He has also been keen to emphasise the difference between privacy and anonymity.

There are no easy answers here. You cannot have much of the desired localisation of services without providing personal information – but there is always a balance between what you are willing to reveal and what you will accept as personalised service. Facebook’s latest expansion of its service to support specification of your location is another example of this.

facebook – 500m plus and rising

I’ve been using facebook actively for a couple of years now. Initially saw it as a tool to stay in touch with overseas friends. But since then seems to have become a way to organise events, share photos, promote business expertise, find answers to questions, reconnect with old friends.

Interesting piece published in Forbes by Fred Wilson emphasising the same point – and the threat to google ( and the rest) posed by facebook.

Google acquires metaweb (and therefore freebase)

Interesting and not that surprising. Semantics are here to stay. Freebase provides quality information which enables improved search across the web – and correlation of data on the web. Makes sense that the leading search company would want this type of data. Will be interesting to see how google leverages the data and what the attitude of contributors to freebase will be post the google acquisition. Obviously with google behind freebase there should be no problems in terms of expansion/development/ improved user responses. Presumably all of this will somehow feed into more targeted online advertising?

Explaining linked data, RDF and SPARQL

The guys at Talis have done a good job of evengelising linked data as a concept, the basic tools and their platform. If you are new to the space then the presentation by Rob Styles (44 mins) (from the Linked Data and Libraries event on 21st July 2010) is worth watching. In particular he does a good job of explaining what RDF is (a graph data model) – as against the different ways in which you can write it down e.g. Turtle, RDFa and RDF/XML. His whiz through SPARQL gives a useful intorduction to how RDF data can be queried.

Wave goodbye

So – looks like end of the road for google Wave. Easy to knock google for this (and other initiatives that have not worked). Seemed like Google were in too much of a hurry to get the incomplete product out in the marketplace. Then seemed like they made some mistakes around security.

At the time I had a concern that in trying to develop a collaboration/ enhanced instant messaging et al tool they were going to build a monster. And I think that was a major part of the problem – user adoption failed because it was not clear which problem google wave was solving.

Anyway the technology is there for others to access and seek to incorporate into other products.