Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini Manages with Data

From The New York Times:

Dr. Reisman saw that the practices had helped his boss recover, but he was not convinced. “Because you’re doing yoga, everyone has to do yoga?” Dr. Reisman shot back, as recalled by Mr. Bertolini.

Mr. Bertolini appealed to Dr. Reisman as a scientist. They would measure workers’ stress levels by tracking heart rate variability and cortisol levels, common measures of anxiety. And they would team with the Integrative Medicine Program at Duke University, which does research into the efficacy of alternative treatments.

When Mr. Bertolini reviewed Aetna’s financial performance for 2012, he noticed something surprising: Health care costs had fallen. For the year, paid medical claims per employee were down 7.3 percent. That amounted to about $9 million in savings. The next year, health care costs rose 5.7 percent, but have remained about 3 percent lower than they were before yoga and meditation were introduced at the company.

DJ Patil Tells Us Where Data Science is Going

I especially enjoyed Barack Obama’s data science joke at the beginning of this video:

Network Neutrality Day

I spent the morning watching today’s FCC meeting where they passed rules about network neutrality and community broadband. I think these are huge wins for consumers, but was especially excited by a point made by Tom Wheeler before the vote on network neutrality. He pointed out that with the 4 million comments that the FCC received on the topic it was the most open rulemaking process they had ever engaged in, and that receiving this input gave their ruling extra legitimacy. As a fan of open government, I strongly agree. Many government discussions and decisions are made quietly, and the quieter these decisions are made the less legitimate the rules can feel. The network neutrality rules, whether you agree with them or not, are the product of a vigorous public discussion about a technical issue, and an example of democracy at its best.

Tony Hwang Understands the Value of User Experience

From the New Haven Register:

At the suggestion of a colleague who spoke at the hearing, Hwang agreed that an easy to access link on the DPH website or on each hospital website would be satisfactory and allow consumers to readily find the information.

He said he began his search by going to individual hospital websites, assuming that is what a consumer would do.

He didn’t find the information, but if a hospital wanted to point out its particular success in a given area of care, that information was easily accessed.

Finding information on hospital associated infections, by using the state Department of Public Health site, is a multi-step process.

You first go to the Department of Public Health website;then to Topics A-Z; then find Healthcare Association Infections; then go to HAI Data, Reports and Publications; then, under Acute Care Hospitals Data to the Hospital Compare link that will take you to the information gathered by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As the article describes the information the state is collecting is already available, but it’s just not easily accessible. These kinds of problems are not limited to hopsital infections but other data that people are looking for. Webmasters can use tools like Google Analytics to determine what information people are looking for and then get an idea of how easy or difficult it is for them to find it, and also to get an idea of if they are failing and figuring out ways to get them to the data.

The Data on Racial and Gender Bias

Among some of the more fasincating facts I have found includes research that Ian Ayres from Yale has done on the topic of racial bias in society. He has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times today:

Bus drivers were twice as willing to let white testers ride free as black testers (72 percent versus 36 percent of the time). Bus drivers showed some relative favoritism toward testers who shared their own race, but even black drivers still favored white testers over black testers (allowing free rides 83 percent versus 68 percent of the time).

A great follow-up to Sunday’s Nick Kristof column:

The study found that a résumé with a name like Emily or Greg received 50 percent more callbacks than the same résumé with a name like Lakisha or Jamal. Having a white-sounding name was as beneficial as eight years’ work experience.

These data points might be alarming and depressing. Our reaction might even be to deny that this is the case. But we cannot fix problems without seeing and identifying them. One interesting point raised by Matty Yglesias yesterday:

the statistical controls that reveal that don’t make the problem of the wage gap go away. They help us identify where it exists. Some of it exists inside the companies where women work. Some of it exists inside household dynamics and broad social expectations of how family life should work. And some of it exists at the level of occupations, where women’s job opportunities are structured in an economically unhelpful way.

Once we figure out that a problem exists, and where it exists, it is much easier to tackle it.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.