Tag Archives: Social

How IT Buzzwords Impact Healthcare

Picture from: http://www.healthcarereformmagazine.com/issue-16/feature-issue-16/healthcare-cheaper-better-faster/

Every industry loves their buzz words, and IT does more than most. Today you can’t talk about technology without one of the big four, (Social, Mobile, Big Data or Cloud), being dropped into the conversation. The question is, what has this to do with Healthcare? Well let me discuss this in the next few blog posts, but first context is required.

According to many commentators, such as analyst firm IDC, IT is entering its third epoch. Starting with the birth of IT in the form of the original mainframes, through the current ‘pc’ dominated client server and into the emerging 3rd Platform, typified by the ‘web-scale’ organisations. What I find interesting is that I can see the parallels with healthcare, let me explain.

The first platform was a time shared infrastructure which you would go with a particular job and walk away with a certain outcome. Sound like a hospital?  The issue with this model is that a massive infrastructure investment is required, and it makes use of very high levels of expertise, to use it effectively. That is why today, while there are still many mainframes in use, the ‘jobs’ they tackle are very specific to what it was designed for and where it is the most efficient way to achieve that outcome.

Today, however most computing is performed on the second platform – client server – enabled by the birth of PC’s and networks. This new model enabled new capabilities, such as interactivity, specialisation and a lower cost of production. The ‘work’ was split into different layers and specialist organisations created software solutions which automated processes.  (Think a PACS, RIS, EMR.) This structure is mostly a hub-and-spoke, with specialists performing their specific task and then passing on to the next layer. I would argue much like the delivery of healthcare outside of the hospital today, where a GP refers to a specialist that refers to an ‘ology’ that reports back to the specialist that diagnoses/treats and then reports back to the GP – each performing a task and passing off to the next entity. Now this model is effective at automating a processes but does it inherently improve that process or add to the quality of what is being done?

In my previous blog post I spoke about Big Data and some of what is enabling this… “What’s changed? Over the last decade technologies that can economically store and reason over disparate data types have been developed… (carry on reading here).”  This leads us to the 3rd Platform, if you like consider how the ‘web scale’ organisations do what they do! Such as Amazon predicting books you would like to read, Google giving you the latest information and Facebook changing social connectivity.

What does this mean to healthcare?  You are familiar with the past, computers have helped add up numbers and do accounting, (mainframe), they have automated processes like patient record keeping and image management, (client-server), now technology is help us to predict, understand and tap into the collective. In doing this we get assistance in diagnosis, discovering new protocols and drugs, and predicting likely outcomes. The advantages to healthcare of better planning, decision support and accelerated innovation are dramatic. In essence this is the platform enable healthcare to move into ‘Personalised Wellness’ or ‘Patient Centric Healthcare’. Consider the 3rd Platform as now helping improve thinking, the human process!

Three ‘platforms’ for technology and three ‘platforms’ for healthcare delivery. The IT industry delivers better, faster and cheaper, our challenge now is to use these technologies effectively to deliver better, faster and cheaper healthcare!


Don’t Shout I’m Back – My Big Data, Social and Mobile Holiday

After committing to this blog and posting just two posts, I went silent. We’ll I’ve been on holiday, two weeks of beach, reading and the Australian Open… all ready for the year to come!
Do you ever stop and think about how different life is now compared to the ‘way it used to be’. Let’s just compare my two weeks of to just 15 years ago. How the nature of data, information and access is changing the way we live!
To start we decided rather late in the piece to go away, being peak season we were expecting availability to be scarce and prices to be extortionist. 15 years ago, (then), my wife would have taken to the phones and after several hours we would have been in a position to make a decision, in this case within 15 minutes we reviewed the options and had a booking with the deposit paid within 20! So welcome to the age of the Internet… but that is not that interesting. What was interesting, (and unfortunate for the vendor), is that we could see this particular set of units did not have a high occupancy and negotiated a much ‘fairer’ price. Sometimes we ignore the price transparency that we enjoy today!
I read a great deal but it’s all ‘work’ related, so I’m lost when it comes to what’s worth reading for entertainment. For me sitting on a beach is about being fully covered and protected while reading. (For people who don’t know me, I’m the kind of person who burns, I don’t tan.) In the past this would mean getting recommendations from friends and an extended trip to the book store/ newsagent to find stuff to read… now it was a quick ‘trip’ to Amazon books. After selecting one book… the recommendation engine suggested a few others, which also got loaded onto the Kindle. Once again nothing new here, but sitting on the beach I was expecting to be the only nerd, however as I scanned the beach at least 80% of the people reading were using a device, rather than filling pages with sand!
In the past I’ve managed to watch the major games of the Australian Open, but this year I got to watch the championship build through the two weeks, a totally different experience. It seems to me like the first week are the warm-up matches for the top players. However, as they move into the second week there is a perceivable shift in play. Now, for better or worse it seems like tennis is moving to look more like baseball, heavy heavy statistics! You will notice on TV every few games the commentators are throwing some fact and stat at you. However if you went multi-screen and also participated in the online experience you could get overwhelmed with the information available.
I’ve discussed the ‘slamtracker’ that Tennis Australia has on their website that tracks the way the opponents are playing and how they are achieving their ‘key play objectives’. The idea is that each player has a certain style of play and as such to beat them you have to adapt your style to overcome their strengths and exploit their weaker side. (For example Nadal served almost exclusively to Federer’s backhand!) Now they have added a social monitoring as well, to me more for interest than predicting the outcome of the game. So while the game is being played you can not only see all the statistics in-front of you, you can see how well they are sticking to a winning game strategy and see what people are thinking. Like the massive drop in attitude towards Nadal as he left the court during the final, and expressed with the boos from the crowd when he got back!
All in all…Tennis Australia today is where Social, Mobile and Big Data come together in one place!
So sitting on the beach, reading my kindle with an eye on the tennis… did mean a beach holiday was very different to what I recall just 15 years ago!

The Future of I.T. – This is IT!

In the past four blog posts I’ve been discussing the individual trends of Social, Mobile and Big Data. To save you time if you haven’t read them I argued that the underlying value of each of these trends are:
–          Social’s value is tapping into the community or crowd
–          Mobile’s value is in the fact that everyone and everything is going to be connected.
–          Big Data’s value is in understanding what the data has to tell us.

Now I gave examples how each of these trends have been used by companies and people to change the way that they do things. These niche applications are very specific to an organisation or person, however what everyone wants to know are the benefits that are applicable to most organisations.

What I’ve found is that the benefits multiply when you look for applications at the intersections of these trends.


Social meets Mobile

When the crowd is connected it revolutionises engagement, giving rise to new support models, new way to achieve customer intimacy, new merchandizing methods and new ways industries.

Many organisations are facilitating the service of their products by the crowd. Look at any technology company and you will find a ‘discussion forum’ and or a connection between their products and the crowd. Crowd sources customer service is becoming the norm for the IT industry and its improving customer satisfaction. Not only does the crowd not involve a call centre and a level one script but it also offers real-world advise on best practices!

I took up cycling about two years ago, and to keep motivated I used an app called Strava. At the time I spoke about how this application that tracks people riding and allows them to virtually ride with others, as well as compete against them gave a new dimension to the cold mornings out. Since then there have been a flurry of other initiatives where communities have connected to each other to change the nature of interactions. Everyone knows about garage sales but today the largest garage sale of all eBay has gone way beyond the local neighbourhood as well as past just second had stuff. Craft markets are being replaced by http://www.etsy.com and even borrowing the neighbour’s car is now being put online with http://www.buzzcar.com or  http://www.easycar.com where you can rent your neighbours car in  peer-to-peer rental system.

Big Data meets a Connected World

The ability to augment the human with data can dramatically alter any interaction and any decision. Also understanding what ‘things’ are telling us could improve reliability, performance and efficiency.

Although Google Glass is getting a reputation to be the “nerd’iest” thing on the planet, think about the concept of providing information to you as you do about your normal daily activities. For example you look at an item in a shop and can instantly get the details of the item, the reviews of others and comparative pricing, won’t that change your shopping experience?

Is there information in your organisation that would help someone make a better decision, improve their service to a customer, I’m sure the answer is yes. The issue is getting the relevant information to the relevant person at the relevant time! So we need to start thinking if you would like a side of data with that.

Secondly, in this complex technological world how much better could our systems perform if we understood exactly what was going on. For example: EMC runs a relatively large e-mail set-up to support 60 000 odd users. This single, complex system does have a lot of moving parts and as such does suffer issues that affect users. EMC undertook a project to capture the logs and information from the e-mail system and the infrastructure it runs on and then correlate this to ‘failures’ as reported to the helpdesk. Now EMC can predict when a situation is forming which is likely to affect users, and these can be averted by taking action.

The information is out there, we just have to understand what it is saying.

Crowd meets Big Data

Understanding that the crowd is saying and where they are going is key to anyone producing or servicing people!

A fun example is eHarmony.com, a dating site that took a ‘big data’ route to differentiating itself. I believe they have about 500 questions that they ask of people to enable them to match couples up. According to their entry on Wikipeadia, (here), their couples have a better ‘quality score’ than the average and twice as likely to report their marriages as ‘extremely happy’. (Their stats.)

Well do I need to say more if there is some evidence that it works in a subject as complex as relationships and love?

Understanding the social trends leads to a predictive enterprise, revolutionises the development of new products and services as well as gives a new dimension to branding and marketing.

To summarise, if you are looking to drive meaningful change to your organisation all you have to do is leverage the Internet of Everything, tap into the power of the crowd and understand what the data is telling you!

The Future of IT 2: Social = The Crowd!



When Social meets the Enterprise there is one of a few reactions:

A) How can marketing tap into an audience of one billion? or
B) Is it productive to let our people access social media at work?  or
C) Can I use social media to cut my cost of recruiting?

Now these are the obvious uses of the various social sites out there, and they are being leveraged. For example it costs organisations tens of thousands of dollars in commissions when a ‘head hunter’ finds a candidate. However, if an employee refers a candidate it’s more likely to be a successful outcome both in terms of skills and experience as well as cultural fit. Today LinkedIn is becoming one of the leading employment sites on the net.

There is also interesting work being done with Facebook whereby you can assume that people who like similar things are similar. So by analysing what individuals have ‘liked’, may tell us what they would like to buy!

However what is the underlying value of this area? Let me suggest that understanding the social network is not as powerful as leveraging the community it represents.


Let’s explore this idea a little bit. Matt Barrie, BRW entrepreneur of the year 2011, is tapping into the global human capital with his website Freelancer.com, (here). The idea is to crowd source expertise on a global basis. By posting a job on the site, interested suppliers bid to do your work. Now you might think that is fine and probably useful for web-site design and coding. However review the categories on the site and you will see that work is being done from Aeronautical Engineering to manufacturing a “Variable Pitch Quadcopter”.

I remember when I was part of a start-up we got a logo designed. It took about 4 months from start to finish and involved an extraordinary amount of time from preparing and briefing an agency to continual refinement until we eventually settled on a final design. Using matt’s site you can put a similar brief up and within hours, people submit their ideas from which you can choose from. Substantially cutting the time and cost and dramatically improving the talent pool that you are drawing from.

We can go further and tap into the knowledge of the crowd! If you haven’t visited the Kahn Academy, (here or downloaded their App), then you are missing a major source of education as their tag line says, “Learn almost anything for free.”

Now it’s not just knowledge and expertise that can be crowd sourced. The now famous case study of the “pebble watch” financing through Kickstarter.com. If you don’t know the story; some guys thought it would be cool to design a watch using liquid-ink technology, (used in e-book readers), to create a smart watch that would show the time and link to your phone. They estimated they needed about $100k to develop it and put the project up on kickstarter.com. At the end of the period they had $10Million in orders! Today a substantial % of movies, charity drives, theatre productions are being crowd funded.

So where is this going? I would suggest that the power in social is actually the value of the crowd. In the future tapping and leveraging the crowd is going to be essential to the longevity of any organisation.

So does Social = Crowd.

Next Mobile.

The Future of IT 1: Manual to Mental


I believe we are experiencing a fundamental change in the way technology is being used, which will have a profound effect on humanity.  Technology in the past has been concerned with automating and augmenting manual processes, now the focus is on mental processes.

For 60 odd years Information Technology has been applied primarily to taking organisational processes and automating or augmenting them. Computing was applied to helping the accountants keep the books, then to managing resource planning, then to customer relationship management. From purchase orders to rolodex’s, these systems on the whole duplicated what people could do with pen and paper. Job done!

If you have a new way to double the speed at which a purchase order is generated, I don’t think anyone will really care. However if you could help someone make “twice as good” a decision, or help designers design ‘twice as good’ a product, or help find “twice as many” fraud attempts; well now people will be very interested.

The job of automating and augmenting the human mind is now the main game!
(Before we get into the esoteric/academic discussion about automating creativity and emotion.. let just agree not go there and focus on automating mundane tasks and augmenting these higher level functions.)

Begin With The Buzz Words

Lets start at the beginning and what is HOT, right now.. which as we all know is SMAC, (not a miss spelt colloquial term for a drug),  Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud.

First let’s get rid of one, Cloud. The reason is that Cloud today is synonymous with Cloud Computing and technical Infrastructure. Although the continual development of the infrastructure into a highly scalable, cost effective and agile utility will underpin everything else here, it does not add to my discussion.  Cloud Computing is the accepted norm, it is the enabler to what I am going to outline.

Now over the next few posts lets think a bit more about Social Mobile and Analytics and where these are heading in terms of the fundamental value and potential uses as these evolve.

Next Social