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+ - Big data = big failure?

Submitted by neapolitan
neapolitan writes: In a piece entitled "Traps in Big Data Analysis", researchers note that Google flu trends has overestimated the prevalence of influenza in recent seasons, and the flu trends (driven by a proprietary algorithm of searched terms in the Google search engine) was generally incorrect.

The researchers had difficulty in replicating the exact data that Google uses to determine the trends due to the always-changing search algorithm and somewhat secretive nature inherent to the company-sponsored analysis.

A recent article in Science reports on "Big Data hubris", trusting that large aggregate data will somehow automatically give meaningful trends. The authors then offer suggestions for improving the analysis of aggregate data, including increased transparency.

+ - Robotic Surgery Complications Going Underreported

Submitted by neapolitan
neapolitan writes: PBS has a report on the difficulties of tracking the complications arising from surgical robotic systems, particularly the Da Vinci robotic surgery apparatus. The original study (paywall) notes that there is a large lag in filing reports, and some are not reported at all. It is difficult to assess the continued outcomes and safety without accurate reporting data.

First Ever Public Tasting of Lab-Grown Cultured Beef Burger 303

Posted by samzenpus
from the tastes-like-chicken dept.
vikingpower writes "Today, at 14:00 Western European Time (9:00 am Eastern), Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University (the Netherlands) will present a world first: he will cook and serve a burger made from Cultured Beef in front of an invited audience in London. The event will include a brief explanation of the science behind the burger. You can watch the event live, online. The project's fact sheet is to be found here (pdf)." The BBC is reporting that Sergey Brin is the mystery backer behind the project.

Comment: Re:Political Correctness has no place in Kernel De (Score 1) 1501

by neapolitan (#44291995) Attached to: Kernel Dev Tells Linus Torvalds To Stop Using Abusive Language

Nothing at all. That is just the "PC Card" that is played whenever rude or abusive people don't like to be told they are acting like wanton children. It's their excuse to act as rude as they like for the sake of the attention it brings them.

Back when I was in college, the concept was known as Political Correctness, Multi-ethnic Cohesiveness, and Inclusiveness Actions, which people attempted to encourage in business settings. It got shortened to "PC Card" in the early 2000's. :)

Comment: Re:Are all deaths equal? (Score 2) 134

You two have a good understanding of the tradeoffs involved with decision-making. Unfortunately, many people do not and see suboptimal outcomes as "errors" in a very black-and-white world. I think the IOM report fed into many fears.

I am continuously annoyed about the IOM report -- as other posters have said, it is now out of date, and sensationalist IMO in the way it counted mistakes and deaths / errors. An "error" that had no effect in a critically ill patient who died 3 days later was counted as a fatal outcome. On the other hand, the sensationalism at the time might have been a bit warranted -- doctors are often very complacent and perhaps the attention was needed / desired to get large scale action. However, it had the side effect of the erosion in trust in those that work very hard, diligently, and conscientiously every day.

I very, very rarely use handwritten prescriptions. Certainly as inpatient (patients who are currently in the hospital) essentially all major medical systems have computer order entry as of 2012. In my outpatient clinic (people just coming for a doctor appointment) it is 100% computer medical scripts with automatic interaction and allergy checking. All of my hospital system is this way.

I can't remember ever having ANY medication or dosing error. Obviously I can't know about it if I don't catch it, but computer order entry, automatic checking, and the many layers of check from doctor, nurse practitioner, pharmacist, and nurse, (and patient!) does provide a safety net.

Can we do more? Well, banning handwritten prescriptions would be a pretty bad idea (if I'm in a community clinic wanting to give a patient some antibiotics for an ear infection, I think I should be allowed.) There are side effects to every initiative. Encouraging computer use is indeed being done, but limited by cost concerns.

Comment: Re:Doctors/Nurses do not get speeding tickets (Score 4, Interesting) 332

by neapolitan (#34729794) Attached to: Do Sleepy Surgeons Have a Right To Operate?

This is simply not true.

If you are legitimately speeding (safely) to perform an urgent operation, the police may escort you to the hospital, enter with you, verify you are about to do an operation, then leave you without a ticket (it happened to several of my colleagues, usually late at night.)

Just being pulled over and showing your hospital badge / white coat is not going to help you 99+% of the time. *Especially* if you were driving in a dangerous fashion. One of my friends has a funny story on how he tried it after being pulled over, and his ID says:

".... ..., MD

The police officer laughed and gave him the maximum fine.

Comment: Re:Thinking out of the box (Score 3, Interesting) 520

by neapolitan (#33370276) Attached to: Look-Alike Tubes Lead To Hospital Deaths

Totally agree with you. I'm a cardiologist, and this article just is full of alarmist oversimplification. Leaders in this industry are not complete idiots, and currently all of the connectors that they describe ARE incompatible (except, as you note, the intrathecal, as it is often essentially stock IV tubing, but ports are covered with a big warning / sticker.)

Making "special" tubing, as the article glosses over, may make the problem worse (e.g. situation:

Nurse: Quick, we need an IV in this patient in the ER, his pressure is low.
Tech: We don't have any IV tubing in this bay, but there is some black intrathecal tubing.
Nurse: Let's just use that for now (a tube is a tube) for the IV and change it later. It is an emergency.
Tech: Ok.

5 minutes later, somebody comes along with spinal anesthetic, and now that it is "safe" with a color-coded tube, doesn't trace the tube to the insertion and just injects it into the patient.)

All safety legislation / efforts have consequences, and may not actually make people safer. Here, the situations described are *EXTREMELY RARE*, and frankly, likely due to negligence (I don't have exact details for each instance, but likely the person did not trace the tube, or jury-rigged incompatible connectors together.) Safety cabling may lead to a false sense of security, and current connectors are already incompatible. There is no shortcut or excuse for constant vigilance.


Apple Surpasses Microsoft In Market Capitalization 557

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-bigger-and-biggest dept.
je ne sais quoi writes "Today Apple surpassed Microsoft in market capitalization, a metric of the perceived worth of a company. At around 2:30 pm EDT, the total number of Apple shares were worth $227 billion, whereas Microsoft's were worth $226 billion. Both companies' stocks ended the day in the red, and have dropped in value since the Greek crisis began, but Apple's share price has been falling less quickly. Of American companies, only Exxon-Mobil has a higher market cap at this point at $278 billion. According to the article: 'This changing of the guard caps one of the most stunning turnarounds in business history, as Apple had been given up for dead only a decade earlier. But the rapidly rising value attached to Apple by investors also heralds a cultural shift: Consumer tastes have overtaken the needs of business as the leading force shaping technology.'"

Comment: Checklists, etc. (Score 3, Interesting) 215

by neapolitan (#30885172) Attached to: Radiation Therapy Mistakes Cost Lives

Probably a lot of books written on it -- Atul Gawande did a pretty big "study" with safety checklist prior to OR activation. We have several checklists (independent of anesthesia) before starting any invasive procedure, so this is kind of behind the times. It is more targeted at foreign hospitals or places that have a lot of mid-level providers that are not used to things. If you are interested, the full study can be found here:


gbutler69 writes:
>Says who? Citation Please?
[snip a bunch of rhetorical questions]

From your questions I infer you are completely out of touch with this field in any sort of form. If you want a citation, do a tad of research on your own and you will discover things; I won't spoon-feed.

Poke around here to start (but some of this might be biased the *other* way.) Do a good deal of academic reading and you will get a good feel of what is going on:


Comment: Lawsuits are a very dull edge (Score 2, Interesting) 215

by neapolitan (#30884196) Attached to: Radiation Therapy Mistakes Cost Lives

Again, ridiculously simplistic analysis.

>you should be excited every time you hear a doctor is being sued for malpractice.

You have got to be kidding; that statement is simply ludicrous. I don't engage in some sort of weird schadenfreude when somebody gets sued, even if it were somewhat legitimate. Medical school is relatively difficult to enter, selects for the most driven people, and is a long process where several dozen people work with you and gauge your progress and abilities. *OF COURSE* bad doctors need to be stopped, just like "bad pilots" or "bad computer programmers." Indeed, a lawsuit is one of many ways, in fact a poorly targeted way, of doing this. There are many other options including board registration, hospital credentialing, and outcomes monitoring. Life is not black and white.

The second paragraph of your post makes little sense. Can't have it both ways? Are you advocating ruining the career of good physicians in the hope of catching bad ones with a broad net? I am not advocating increased lawsuits, as the *vast majority* of them are groundless. That is not an opinion.

And yes, I am a doctor. You can check my long posting history for a bit of confirmation or at least support.

How come financial advisors never seem to be as wealthy as they claim they'll make you?