Adventures at the UC Berkeley I School

I had a feeling when Scott Young, MD (@scottyoungmd – and PS he is getting the hang of Twitter quite nicely) told me that he would be running a course at the UC Berkeley School of Information (aka the I School, @BerkeleyISchool) that an ask would be coming along with it, and sure enough….

Yesterday I served as co-course instructor with Amy Compton-Phillips, MD for “Finding Health in the US: Health Care and the Information Economy” (course blog is here), which as the course title states, is about the relationship between health care and the information economy. And there is one. And whether anyone likes it or not, it will get stronger, not weaker.

I was actually a student at UC Berkeley when the Information School was created, and I remember its origins (from my recollection) as a kind of a sanctuary from the study of information that was connected to computer science and technology, where information stewards such as librarians could gather and perform scholarly work on the impact of information access in society. Back then, as I was learning about the internet, I hung out with librarians, not programmers. I see that my recollection lines up with how the School sees itself today.

Scott asked me to dialogue with the students about social media. I showed a combination of examples from previous presentations (most recent one is here to give a taste).

The discussion I facilitated was nicely placed next to Amy’s, which was called, “My Doctor is the Best….Right?” and was about the state of the art of understanding quality.

“Welcome to my classroom” – Scott Young, MD

In actuality, an audience like this among the most anxiety inducing for me (which I always balance with my love of the topic that I’m discussing), not as much because they’ll know more than I will (which is extremely likely, especially here, I’m happy to learn more), more because of the desire to keep people with different backgrounds engaged (i.e., not bored). Let’s face it, I sat in those chairs too…

I learned that in this group that there’s not a huge penetration of Twitter (consistent with national statistics) and variable uptake of Facebook, from less than 100 to more than 1,000 friends. The group was also pretty astute about the uses of social media in health care today, and possibilities for the future.

A sage quote from Jack Cochran, MD, came to mind, which was “to be convincing, you have to be convince-able,” when we talked about the differences between what an integrated care system is capable of and the rest of health care is capable of when it comes to leveraging social media tools. It’s an important conversation because non-integrated care systems serve more than 90% of Americans today.

The being “convince-able” part is to be able to demonstrate problems-not-sovled at the same time things-we-did-well so that people can engage with their creativity and not feel there isn’t space to innovate. It’s the difference between credible and incredible. I prefer credible. It’s the way I blog anyway.

I think the things in common are that good communication comes in many forms and these tools allow good communicators to reach more people with the information that they want to receive, spurring innovation, reducing confusion, improving access. An integrated system can and should model how this can work well, and at the same time learn and transfer knowledge across the industry to keep getting better.

Can it be done? I wouldn’t visit the I School if I thought it couldn’t!

Thanks, I290A, The I School, Amy Compton-Phillips, and Scott for the chance to collaborate.


Ted Eytan, MD