Monthly Archives: March 2014

Information is only as good as its means of delivery.

Life is a series of decisions often made using imperfect information.

There are two ways to end up with imperfect information. First is that the information source is itself incomplete: nothing in medicine is 100%, the stock market is inherently unpredictable, as is weather, and we even can’t be sure that the organic pears aren’t grown using pesticides.

Outcome is only as good as the best information affords.

Even given a perfect source, imperfect communication of information also leads to flawed information.  Loss of emotional cues when transitioning from face-to-face to telephone to email to instant messages.  The dreaded typo “Oh that sentence was supposed to have a ‘not’ in the middle of it.”  Even the world as we see it is limited by our eyes – myopia, glaucoma, or perhaps simply the visible light spectrum.

While it is difficult to improve the quality of information source, using the appropriate means of communication to properly deliver information is sometimes easier.  It might just mean a strategically placed emoticon ;), careful proofreading, or a pair of glasses.

It’s always more complicated – but so what?

As a college student I thought medicine is just a vast combination of facts, then medical school taught me that it was more complicated.

In medical school I thought that radiology is just about pattern recognition, then residency taught me that it was more complicated.

In residency I thought that the health care crisis is just a problem of not enough money, then business school taught me that it was more complicated.

In business school I thought that informatics is just about customizing to user needs, then working on a project taught me that it was more complicated.

But after being wrong so many times, I find myself continue to simplify complex concepts in my head. Maybe we’re built to do that. If I knew how complex medicine is, I may have gone into another field.  If I knew how difficult radiology is, I may have applied into another specialty.  If I knew the full complexity of healthcare informatics, I may have waited years before launching into a project.

Maybe it’s how society moves forward – by foolhardy people acting on oversimplified versions of the world.  Although the person who jumped in without understanding the complexity of the world might frequently fail, the person who held back would always fail no matter how much complexity he appreciates.


What is delightfulness?

Delight strikes when we recognize patterns but are surprised by them… It’s seeing a beautiful landscape and thinking all is right in the world… A perfectly closed-off plot, with just a couple of loose threads. A picture of a farmhouse, but the paint is peeling. Music that comes back to the tonic note and then drops a whole step further to end on an unresolved minor seventh… It’s like the smile from a beautiful stranger in a stairwell—it’s fleeting. It cannot be otherwise—recognition is not an extended process.

Raph Koster