The story of Doctor Kim A. Adcock’s approach to solving a problem in the radiology department at Kaiser Permanente in Denver reads like script background for one of those “procedural” TV shows such as CSI. We know who died (far too many) and we know who did it (doctors, sort of) but we’re not sure how to handle the evidence to make sure nobody gets killed next time.
Procedures that seemed reasonable to Kaiser in 1995 because they “had always been done that way,” turned out to be entirely unreasonable, with deadly consequences. And a solution that seemed impossible because of fear, turned out to be the best and most logical of solutions, and has saved countless lives.
I read this story when it first appeared in 2002 and have cherished its insights ever since. Now ten years later, I had to go find it to share it with this class. Since reading it, and other stories like it, I cannot look at statistics of any kind without wondering what they really mean. If the crime rate goes down, does that mean there is less crime? Maybe not. It might mean fewer people are reporting crimes.
For example, in New Orleans since Katrina, distrust of the police runs so high most citizens in some neighborhoods would rather suffer crime in silence than involve the police. The very first thought that came to my mind listening to that story was, “I’ll bet the crime rate has gone down in those neighborhoods” and not because there’s less crime. The mayor though, and the chief of police, can trumpet those statistics as if they’re doing a better job in those same neighborhoods.
But I digress. Your assignment for TUE FEB 14 is to read “Mammogram Team Learns From Its Errors,” and contribute a comment to an ongoing discussion of the counterintuitivities (I’m going to keep using this word until the rest of the world adopts it) it contains.
I don’t need an organized essay from any one of you, but I do need a contribution from everyone in the form of a comment to this post you’re reading now. I’m setting up the assignment this way to encourage you to read the entire comment string and reply to your classmates, not repeat what they’ve already said.
You may make your own original observations, of course, when you see an opportunity to point out something new. Or you may reply directly to a classmate’s observation with rebuttal or clarification. And you may contribute as well or as often as you like for a better grade. The minimum for a passing grade is one substantial comment.
- Follow the link from the sidebar or this link here to the article.
- Read the article looking for evidence of counterintuitivity. At what points in the story do people think or act contrary to what their intuition told them? How do you explain their feelings or thoughts? At what point in human culture does common knowledge change so that we develop different intuitions?
- Read the comments to this post that precede yours.
- If you have something new to say, add your new insight to the conversation in a comment of your own.
- If your insight is not unique, respond instead to someone else’s comment with refutation or additional support. Never repeat. Never merely agree.
- DUE TUE FEB 14 before class.
- Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
- Quizzes and Exercises category (10%)