“Please upgrade your iPhone so our community’s cell tower serves us better”

Details of iPhone 2.0.2 Firmware 3G Connectivity Improvements? – Mac Rumors – An attempt to harness the power of crowds to avoid a tragedy of the commons, 21st century style. I thought this was interesting because of (of course) a parallel to health care. AT&T initially didn’t tell anyone why it was so important that every user upgrade to the latest firmware – now it appears it’s because those who don’t will unnecessarily tax the cell towers serving a specific area. Imagine the behavior this might create – “Are you using iPhone 2.0.1? Would you mind upgrading to improve everyone’s service?”

With that little bit of awareness, maybe this situation might happen. How about someone tapping a colleague on shoulder to say, “Are you seeing a specialist for that condition? Would you mind going to see your primary care physician first to improve everyone’s health care experience?” Those of you in health care will quickly understand why this doesn’t happen due to the incentives out there, but it’s a nice thought.

Let’s see if Apple and AT&T’s foray into community organizing around resource use (intentional or not) provides any lessons for us.

Ted Eytan, MD