The Takeaways: Week 25 of 2022

A periodic review of articles, newsletters, and podcasts that I found interesting, inspiring, or otherwise worth remembering.

Newsletters

Kevin O'Leary and Ryan Russell, Weekly Health Tech Reads June 26, 2022

The big news of the week of course was Friday's Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v Wade, as the US joins Poland, El Salvador, and Nicaragua as the only countries to roll back abortion rights over the last 30 years. Personally, I found it hard to read the majority opinion, which by my read is primarily about how strictly we interpret the Constitution, the role of the Court, and what people in the 1700 and 1800s might have thought about abortion, leaving it for the dissent to discuss the practical implications that this decision will have for women across the country. It felt like the majority decision journeyed back in time to both curtail the rights of women and also open the door for the reversal of many other rights granted to people in this country that weren't explicitly recognized hundreds of years ago. Regardless of your views on the moral and ethical considerations at hand, it seems clear the ruling is already having major practical implications for healthcare in this country, forcing providers to evaluate the legality of their actions, employers to choose how they will support employees impacted by this, and upheaval for patients who live in states where there is now significant uncertainty around what care they can and can't receive. We found that this NEJM article interviewing clinicians and patients in Texas provides good insights on the challenges ahead and impossible decisions we are making patients make in these uncertain times. In a country that already has some of the worst maternal health outcomes among developed countries, it seems like we are heading in the wrong direction from a public health perspective. 

Chas Roades and Lisa Bielamowicz, MD, The Weekly Gist. The Weekly Gist: June 24, 2022

Is healthcare still recession-proof? A recent conversation with a health system CFO made us realize that a long-standing nugget of received healthcare wisdom might no longer be true. For as long as we can remember, economic observers have said that healthcare is “recession-proof”—one of those sectors of the economy that suffers least during a downturn. The idea was that people still get sick, and still need care, no matter how bad the economy gets. But this CFO shared that her system was beginning to see a slowdown in demand for non-emergent surgeries, and more sluggish outpatient volume generally. Her hypothesis: rising inflation is putting increased pressure on household budgets, and is beginning to force consumers into tougher tradeoffs between paying for daily necessities and seeking care for health concerns. This is having a more pronounced effect than during past recessions, because we’ve shifted so much financial risk onto individuals via high deductibles and cost-sharing over the past decade. There’s a double whammy for providers: because the current inflation problems are happening in the first half of year, most consumers are nowhere near hitting their deductibles, leading this CFO to forecast softer volumes for at least the next several months, until the usual “post-deductible spending spree” kicks in. Combined with the tight labor market, which has increased operating costs between 15 and 20 percent, this inflation-driven drop in demand may have hospitals and health systems experiencing their own dose of recession—contrary to the old chestnut.

Articles

Michelle Frechette, Post Status. Misogyny in WordPress is Real (June 24, 2022)

I was talking to a friend earlier this week about this post while I was putting it together. His response was “you're not going to change anyone's mind.”

I disagree. While I may not change die-hard misogynists, my hope is that by calling out behavior like this, bringing it out into the open, and showing the greater community how misogyny is alive and well in WordPress (and beyond), I can start to change the community as a whole, to make it a safer space for women and non-binary people to be successful, to find happiness, and to thrive in a welcoming community.

I'm not alone. There are many of us. And we're here to stay.

Tom Johnson, I'd Rather Be Writing. How to avoid being a secretary for engineers (November 19, 2018)

All too often, I feel like this element of critical thinking is missing from the documentation projects in the workplace. Instead of critical inquiry, that thought journey has already been taken by the product team and engineering group. The product team analyzed the market need and came up with a product solution. The engineers applied their minds to determine the best way to build the product. They might have evaluated different information system models, different code languages and approaches, and more. When they finish, they feel that the creative solution has been achieved. What’s left is merely to document the solution. And that’s when they reach out to me — to come in after the thinking has been done to merely describe what was built.

Here is where technical writing can become very boring as a career. If my only task is to “document the solution,” where is the fun in that? Where is the critical journey, the inquiry and the adventure in figuring out the puzzle? Where is my ability to “disagree,” as I learned in graduate school? What assumptions can I challenge? How can I interrogate a topic and ask my own questions?