Categories

Tag: Disaster relief

An Open Letter to the President: The Danger in Promoting the “Digitization of Disaster Recovery”

Dear Mr. President:

I served in your White House; to do so was among the highest honors of my life and an incomparable professional opportunity.

Since 2009, I’ve sought to return the favor by building on a decade as a journalist to write about the unsung innovation I saw happening beneath the public’s radar.  (The federal government has never been great about describing its positive achievements, but this unintentional “humility” is worsened by too much media reliance on muckraking to generate cheap content.) The prize for some of your Administration’s improvements will be billions of dollars’ worth of process efficiency and an ability to retain social-good programs while slashing redundancy and phasing out archaic ways of doing business.  All politics aside, I watched these mechanisms with my own wide eyes.

But if one is to deliver praise like I just did, then one must also be willing to highlight dangerous errors in the path ahead, especially when the potholes are avoidable.  As a subject matter expert on emergency medical technologies, I have a patriotic duty to point out correctible overstatements and oversimplifications that, if left uncorrected, could undermine your Administration’s objective to bolster the public’s senses of safety, security and comfort—especially as it simultaneously emphasizes the danger of man-made and natural disasters.

On July 9, 2013, your White House sent out a “marketing” email entitled “President Obama’s Plan for Using Technology to Make Government Smarter.” The email contained the following three bullets:

  • Increasing efficiency and saving money.  CHECK: A worthy goal, and one that I had the chance to see put in action from the inside-out, as part of the project team that relaunched USAJOBS.gov—the so-called “face of federal hiring.”  The White House email cited cost reductions of our $2.5 billion; that seems reasonable, considering how extensive an effort went into collapsing duplicative data silos and databases, and modernizing the federal government’s technical infrastructure.  Vivek Kundra, the visionary former federal Chief Information Officer, should be a central figure in every conversation about government’s meaningful gravitation toward efficiency; he earned more credit than he gets (but that’s not why people work in government).
  • Opening government data to fuel innovation and problem-solving: CHECK: The Administration claims that it is opening “huge amounts of government data to the American people, and putting it on the internet for free.”  There are many ways in which this is true, ranging from Data.gov to the Blue Button Initiative, to a (relative) simplification of the grant-making process.  (The latter is better than it was, but it still is eons from intuitive or fair.)  Much controversy now swirls around actions that the government still keeps secret, but that cannot detract from the fact that a veritable cornucopia of information has been released, and it is indeed spurring creativity.  Unfortunately, my own firm uncovered a challenging corollary problem that goes hand-in-hand with the release of oodles of data: at least some of those data are bad, faulty or incomplete, yet when we tried contacting the appropriate agency to close the gap and strive for accuracy, we were met with silence.

The last bullet in the White House’s email, however, does not deserve a “CHECK.” Rather, it is concerning and arguably more dangerous than whoever drafted the outreach piece likely realized.  It also touches on something I know a bit about.

Medical Experts Say Haitians Will Need Health Care Help for Years to Come

Pooja The BBC recently reported that medical organizations with members serving the Haitian communities affected by the earthquake on January 12th warn that one of the larger issues for Haitians will likely be the need for increased medical supplies, such as prosthetic devices and rehabilitation services.

Concerned about infection, doctors in Haiti have had to amputate the limbs of a great many injured patients. In addition to the need for such resources as medical devices and prosthetic equipment, doctors are also still in need of simple medications. Antibiotics are needed to prevent the spread of infections and painkillers to help damaged patients simply make it through the day.

Because many of the country’s hospitals were also destroyed by the earthquake, doctors in Haiti are performing most care in makeshift open areas. And in such environments, infection spreads fast. Though the few hospitals that are running are reported to be in relatively well-organized condition, many of the patients in those hospitals are not leaving as they have nowhere else to go, except perhaps the streets– where infections await their open wounds. So they stay, Doctors are left with fewer and fewer areas to treat, and the number of patients increases. To remedy the situation, there are plans at present to quickly build a convalescent center.

Continue reading…

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER

MEDIA/INTERVIEW REQUESTS

We like to talk. E-mail us

BLOGGING/CROSSPOSTS

Yes. We’re looking for writers & cross-posts. Send us them

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR

Op-eds. Crossposts. Columns. Great ideas for improving the health care system. Pitches for healthcare-focused startups and business.Write-ups of original research. Reviews of new health care products and startups. Data driven analysis of health care trends. Policy proposals. E-mail us a copy of your piece in the body of your email or as a Google Doc.

Registration

Forgotten Password?