Mohammad Al-Ubaydli’s blog

The five ‘Why’s

Posted in Books, Entrepreneurship, Patients Know Best, Society by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on May 25, 2009

Eric Ries’s description of the five ‘why’s has been playing on my mind recently as I figure out how to apply it in my company. Briefly, mistakes happen to everyone all the time, but the difference is how you respond to them. In particular, if you ask Why five times you have a much better chance at understanding the true cause of a problem and thus solving it.

The press do this too little and as citizens we suffer from this lack of questioning. Take the tragic story from May 12th of a roof collapsing on students while they were doing an exam. The link is to Google’s indexing of coverage for the story. Sadly, most of the articles focus on showing the “devastation inside exam horror hall”.

It is only on the excellent Teachers TV that I saw a follow-up to the story. As a side note, this is a wonderful channel that I am becoming hooked on. The technical director for the founding team is Dawson King, who is now our chief technology offier.

The channel gets much further than the newspapers did on the day just by asking Why once. In the seventh minute of this video they mention that an inquiry had found that the heating duct “fell because the wires attaching it to the roof broke”. This is not really informative. Just to translate, something (the duct) fell because what used to stop it from falling (the wires) stopped stopping it. In general, it is reasonable to assume the same to be true for any story of part of a building falling.

Asking Why four more times would get you much further. Why did the wire break? Because it was frayed, the answer might come back – I am guessing here and do not know any more facts than the ones I saw in the news story. Why was it frayed? Because it was old. Why was it old? Because the school’s maintenance budget has been underfunded for the last five years. Why was it underfunded? The answer to this will be an interesting one.

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HealthCamp UK 2008

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Medicine, Patients Know Best by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on October 14, 2008

OK folks, applications for attending HealthCamp UK 2008 are now open.

HealthCamp UK is the place for creative medics, innovative business-minded people and inventive developers. Taking place for the first time in the UK, this is a conference where you set the agenda – i.e. an unconference.

The theme of HealthCamp UK this year will be The Future of Technology and Medicine. How best can technology be exploited in medicine? Where and how can tele-medicine be used? Will we be growing our own organs? What will we do with the results of gene tests that tell us our susceptibility to diseases? And what excites you about the possibilities of technology in medicine?

Entrance is free but we only have room for 60 people at this year’s venue, so space is tight. Please apply for your place now. The aim is to arrange a meeting of eclectic and talented minds.

I attended HealthCamp Maryland back in June, had a great time and learned a huge amount. Judging by the early applications there is a fascinating group clustering in London this November 10th.

It remains for me to thank our sponsors for making this happen.

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Good Health is Good Business

Posted in Books, Medicine, Patients Know Best by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on August 1, 2008
Good Health is Good Business

Good Health is Good Business


For the last couple of months I have been digesting the book Good Health is Good Business as I think through its implications for Patients Know Best. I had only thought of providers and patients as markets for my software, but now payers seem a significant possibility. I had originally dismissed this because insurance companies had the wrong incentives, and besides the more progressive ones were convinced they should build their own versions.

But the book discusses the incentives for employers to manage the wellness of their employees, and my software should support wellness. But enough about me. The rest of this post is about the points that I learned the most from.

First was the point that insurance companies have no incentive to improve the health of the patient, only to quickly process the claims for illnesses. By contrast, employers should pay to maintain their employees’ wellness because paying for illness is much more expensive, and maintaining wellness is possible. Here is the full list of reasons that Dr. David Rearick gives for employers to get involved, and its analogue in the UK is the government as payer rather than provider:

  1. You are the payer, and you have the incentive
  2. You are not big enough for anyone else to care (this is less the case in the UK)
  3. The health of your employees is the only factor under your control
  4. You have a captive audience
  5. You can motivate your employees
Wellness programs should include the following core components
  • Biometric testing
  • Tobacco cessation
  • Stress management
  • Weight management
  • Cholesterol reduction
  • Hypertension management
  • Physical exercise programs
  • Substance abuse prevention
  • Back care and injury prevention
  • Health assessments
  • Health risk counseling
  • Nutritional interventions and supplementation
The book includes the relationship between health risks and health costs, with percentage cost increase for each risk factor, and lists the top costs saving and cost benefits programs according to the Partnership for Prevention‘s 2007 report:
  1. Education on Aspirin Chemoprophylaxis for heart disease
  2. Being sure your dependent children are adequately immunized
  3. Establishing a tobacco screening and prevention program
  4. Providing brief counseling interventions for acute medical issues
  5. Encouraging appropriate colorectal screening
  6. Hypertension screening
  7. Providing Influenza worksite immunizations
  8. Providing Pneumococcal immunizations
  9. Providing problem drinking screening and brief counselling
  10. Providing vision screening
Finally, Dr. Rearick provides detailed and fascinating instructions on running such a wellness program, including scores of templates on the accompanying CDs. The book is well worth buying and I recommend it to anyone working in a company. Bring it to your CEO and champion its adoption. If your CEO has the slightest sense he or she ought to promote you for the cost savings you will bring about.
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