Tuesday, April 17, 2012
A Case for Medical Diversity
Diversity trumps ability.
As described by Scott Page in his compelling book The Difference, the thinking is rather straightforward. Good problem solvers in a field are similar, so a collection of them rarely outperforms any one of them by themselves. However, a diverse group of intelligent people is far more effective, so long as they bring difference perspectives and different methods to bear on the problem.
I considered it a powerful argument for doctors to explore social media: to harness diversity. Specifically, it's an argument for physicians as managers of diverse patient care teams, including nurses, dietitians, and social workers, as well as the patient's family, friends, and other patients like them.
Page outlines four conditions necessary for diversity to trump ability. For each of these, I consider how they relate to healthcare.
The problem must be difficult. Good health is famously difficult, and you need only look at the Dartmouth Atlas to see how they vary.
Individuals must know about the problem. There are a great many people, not just doctors, who know a whole lot about not just the health issue in question (the disease and treatment), but also the patient's habits and values
Incremental improvements must be suggestible by the group. Much of health, particularly for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, are about continual optimizations that could be gathered by diverse suggestions.
The group must be large and genuinely diverse. Many patients, particularly those with chronic conditions, interact with a growing number of healthcare providers.