Health Tech Reads: Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil

This week Health Tech Reads would like to welcome Sean Erreger and thank him for contributing to our knowledge about healthcare. Sean is a great ally for improving mental health and digital tools and supporting the community. He teaches about social media and being a  LCSW. You can follow his blog and and be sure to get updates on twitter Sean is a Social Media Ambassador for #HIMSS18

From Sean:

In the last 8 months or so I have been making a shift from technology enthusiast to a bit of  a tech skeptic.  Technology is certainly becoming more ubiquitous and this comes with benefits but it also comes with costs.  In healthcare and mental health, I have been pondering what pieces of technology will bring about change. Not only that but what kinds of design will people use and is it ethical?

I recently captured a twitter thread about the unintended consequences of technology. Also spending the last month or so reading "Weapons of Math Destruction" by Cathy O'Neil has challenged a lot of my assumptions about data collection.

As somebody who still has my research core from my undergraduate education, I assumed that all this acceleration of data can only yield positive results (especially understanding those in under-served area's) but the above book has proven me wrong.   There is a lot of data collection that has potential to further divide us and often exclude other. The book goes into vast detail but here are a few examples...

  1.  Judges often use algorithms to determine sentencing of criminals. This determined by "risk of further offense". This often leads them to people in poverty and minorities creating a vicious cycle of incarcerating communities and those who associate with them.
  2. Police Departments are using algorithms to predict where crime "may happen" also create a similar feedback loop where they focus on certain neighborhoods. Leading to increased "stop and frisk practices" and increase in arrests in certain pockets.
  3. Insurance Companies (including Life, Health, and Car insurance) have always relied on math of some kind but are increasingly leaving this work up to computers. Life and car insurance companies are frequently relying on credit scores. Not only can these credit scores be inaccurate and prejudicial but some companies use their own opaque "e-score" to determine insurance rates. Leading to people being denied or being priced out without knowing why.

She calls these algorithms that create these feedback loops Weapons of Math Destruction or "WMD's".  Going into detail into many other examples she describes  3 main elements of WMD's.  First is the Opacity or lack of transparency about what is being measured and how. Second is the scale of how many individuals it may impact and lastly what is the damage or potential consequences.

On January 23,2018 the #HTreads (Health Tech reads) twitter chat will gather at 9:30pm EST to discuss the following questions...

  1. What are some of the problems Health Technology is tackling with algorithms (predictive analytics, AI etc)
  2. What are some early successes with using big data in healthcare?
  3. Given the criteria for a WMD's have you observed any in healthcare technology?
  4. What are some of the steps healthcare technologist/data scientist can use to prevent WMD's?

Moving forward we have to be critical of the ways we are using big data in healthcare. We have to ensure that we are being more intentional about asking these ethical questions.

Health Tech Reads: The Patient Will See You Now by Eric Topol

This week with Health Tech Reads we are talking about Eric Topol's "The Patient Will See You Now" Eric Topol is a healthcare leader and many have read his book. Please come chat with us on Twitter - you can click on the "HTreads hashtag or follow @healthtechreads. Thank you Melanie Hilliard for your review of this great book. Melanie is a healthcare marketing powerhouse in healthcare IT. 


Health Tech Reads book selection for January 9, 2018

The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine Is in Your Hands

Author: Eric Topol

No matter which side of the aisle you are on in the on-going debate over the healthcare delivery system, we are all patients. We are all patients with increasing access to more and more technology at our fingertips. We are all patients with increasing access to share and access our healthcare data on our smartphones. And I dare say, we are all patients who have complained at least once about wait times, or the cost of healthcare, or how long it takes to receive test results back, or how many times do you have to explain your medical history.

In “The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands”, cardiologist and healthcare disruptor Eric Topol discusses how technology, specifically the smartphone, has democratized medicine that will lead to many changes over the next few years.

Dr. Topol predicts that the paternalistic system in which “the doctor is always right” will disappear as a result of increased use and access of technology by caregivers and patients alike. He claims that the smartphone is medicine’s Gutenberg moment that will lead to a far more democratized healthcare system in which patients connect with one another on shared problems, have access to lab tests and their medical history at their fingertips, and create an environment for innovation to flourish from outside the traditional healthcare establishment.

Topol takes a provocative look at the future of the patient-physician relationship, evaluating everything from the role of value-based care and the impact of this democratization on the cost of healthcare delivery to technological creativity.


Questions for this week’s #HTReads discussion:

Q1. Do you think the smartphone is medicine’s Gutenberg moment? Why/Why not?

Q2. What is the future of physician-patient relationship?

Q3. How would you feel about receiving a potentially terminal diagnosis via smartphone?

Q4. What is the role of peer-to-peer medicine currently and how do you see it evolving in the future?

Bonus question: Q5. Do you think the average patient is optimistic about the power of information and individualization in healthcare?

Health Tech Reads: The Originals by Adam Grant

This week our review was written by Jen Horonjeff who founded Savvy Cooperative- We will have a discussion on Twitter about the book on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 9:30 PM EST. Please follow Savvy on Twitter!  I am consistently impressed with Jen's intelligence and hard work to work with patients for fair representation in medicine. When I have a question about fair treatment for patients I ask her.

Want to find the chat? If you go to HealthTechReads or click on the Hashtag #htreads you can follow along. If you haven't finished this book a twitter chat can serve as a great preview. Need to get a copy? A great fast option is to get it on Amazon. Want to give this book as a gift? You can offer to give away a copy (not everyone can afford awesome books). Our main mission is to increase reading and great books for those interested in Health Tech. We want to promote women in STEM as well through literacy- knowledge inspires action.  - janae

The Originals: a review from Jen Horonjeff

Adam Grant starts his book, The Originals, with a quote from George Bernard Shaw, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Grant lays out what it takes to be a trailblazer and challenge the status quo--and it’s not likely what you think. He dispels the assumption that successful entrepreneurs are risk-takers and lone wolves and, in fact, that those who take that approach are ripe to fail. Instead, he takes the reader on a journey through stories and research studies, across time, discipline and geography, that illustrates quite the opposite. Some of the most impactful originals are often those who are generally risk averse, thoughtful about execution and purposely surrounded by diverse perspectives. Grant describes how all of us have the opportunity to recognize good ideas, overcome anxieties and find allies in unlikely places.


I read this book in the summer of 2016 while I was quietly researching what it would take to launch a radical new idea of my own. I didn’t fit the typical entrepreneur stereotype, nor did I have any experience launching a business. I was just a lifelong patient with a chronic illness and a scientific research PhD (the most risk averse breed!). This book gave me the courage to recognize the original in me and inspired me to found what is now Savvy Cooperative, a patient-owned co-op that restores power back to patients by giving them a voice in healthcare innovations. And to make the radical even radical-er, Savvy uses a business model, called platform cooperativism, that lets patients co-own the co-op, have a say in what we do and benefit from equitable profit-sharing back to them. So whether you’re starting your own endeavor or looking to be more original in your current work or relationships, I hope that you will read this book and cultivate your own inner-trailblazer.


  1. Grant notes that “practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.” Where have we seen this in healthcare and what is the impact on innovation?

  2. What fears/barriers exist in healthcare that keep us from innovating?

  3. “Groupthink is the enemy of originality.” What can people do to surround themselves with diverse perspectives?

  4. Originals may have great ideas, but it takes personal stories from users to bring them to life. With so many stakeholders in healthcare, which stories matter?

  5. BONUS: Which people or companies stand out as originals and trailblazers in your mind?

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the w.png

Health Tech Reads: In Shock by Dr. Rana Awdish

This week we are discussing and previewing "In shock" by Dr. Rana Awdish. We will discuss the book Tuesday night, December 5 at 9:30 PM EST. This will include questions about the topic and book. If you haven't read the book you can get it here. We don't ask that you finish every book before a chat, you can use this as a preview for great books in Healthcare. Please be respectful and interact with great content by following the twitter handle @healthtechreads and searching the hashtag #htreads. 

Our review this week was written by the very kind Grace Cordovano. Please follow her on Twitter. 


Review: In Shock


Dr. Awdish tears down the walls housing her personal experiences as a doctor turned patient. She masterfully guides the reader through multiple vantage points: as a doctor expecting a child, to the loss of a child and her own “death”, to miraculous survival, painful yet determined recoveries, multiple set backs, surgeries, and medical emergencies, with victories and profound revelations throughout. The story captivates the with a raw authenticity, transporting the reader through a broad spectrum of emotions the reader couldn’t possibly be prepared to experience: disbelief, grief, devastation, sadness, victory, joy, and true hope.  Dr. Awdish’s deep inner reflections are juxtaposed with her seemingly endless battle for life, providing a thought-provoking framework for redefining the terms patient experience, patient engagement, doctor satisfaction, and the meaning of true healthcare. There is no doubt that medical education must be refreshed after experiencing this harrowing account.


Readers will undoubtedly leave this book permanently changed and rocked to the core. In Shock professes a convincing perspective on the need for compassion and human connection in medicine.  Dr. Awdish makes a clear case for the need for more empathy for doctors, patients, and their care partners. She is a visionary enlightened by her profound experiences as a patient. This should be required reading by every medical and nursing student, every hospital administrator, technician, and staff member. There isn’t a single person who wouldn’t benefit from reading In Shock and experiencing the consequent opening of the soul first-hand.


Questions for #HTReads In Shock

Q1) According to In Shock, what are the qualities of care that would enhance and elevate the practice of medicine?

Q2) In Shock presents the need for a change in the culture of medicine from disease and treatment focused to one that is more holistic, acknowledges imperfection, and embraces suffering. Do you agree that this cultural change is needed?

Q3) When a physician labels a patient, i.e., difficult, non-adherent, hysterical, what gets overlooked or missed?

Q4) What are the risks/benefits of physicians taking the time to listen to patient stories in the context of a stressful schedule and environment?

Women in HealthIT #KAREOCHAT

I'm really looking forward to being part of #KareoChat this week at 9 AM PST on November 30 - because we are going to talk about Women in Health IT. With recent culture shift and #metoo leading to the firing of high profile men in Hollywood it is a topic of discussion in many industries. What is happening in Health IT? We will chat on Twitter if you search for the Hashtag #KareoChat and we will have 5 questions. I really want to hear what your experiences have been. Is Healthcare and Health IT like other industries? Have you noticed a cultural shift?

On Twitter Chats we like to discuss and interact about specific topics online. 

We will discuss the following Questions:

1. What examples have you seen of women promoting women in Health IT?

2. How does news about workplace harassment impact women working in HealthIT? Are things getting better? #metoo

3. Do you know people who have left healthIT to go to other industries? Why did they leave/stay?

4. What is your wishlist for women in healthIT? 

5. What unique contributions can women give in improving informatics and EHR development?

Please come join the conversation.


Health Tech Reads: Medical Improv by Beth Boynton

Medical Improv by Beth Boynton was a really interesting read for me as I've talked to hospital systems about burnout and dealt with process improvement. So many errors in medicine are part of communication problems. Beth Boynton, RN, MS gives 15 practical tools that you can use to improve communication. 

I was reminded of a new Saturday Night Live sketch we could name- The Hospital. I would invite Patrick Dempsey and - What other famous doctors do we need to have on our improv sketch? We will discuss the book tonight on Twitter at @Healthtechreads and have 4 prompts for conversation.  ManageUpPRM is also contributing to a giveaway for this week. Their platform helps organize operations and engage employees. Maybe they can help launch a show about Medical Improv.

If you haven't finished the book yet- it's a great book for improving communication and you can get it HERE.

Questions for #HTREADS






Medical Improv

Nov 28 Health Tech Reads is Taking a break! After that join us December 5 for Dr. Rana Awdish and her book "In Shock" There is a great summary HERE.


Health Tech Reads: The Emporer of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The summary for #HTreads this week was written by Melanie Hilliard, an accomplished marketing creative in health informatics.

My history with cancer is a personal one. I’m sure I’m not the only #HTReads book club member whose life has been touched by the disease.


My father received his terminal cancer diagnosis of multiple myeloma at 49, although he had been sick for more than one year with unknown symptoms and no treatment plan. He passed at age 56 despite receiving remarkable care at the City of Hope in Duarte, California. I spent the bulk of my early 20s fighting the disease alongside him.


Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer begins with some startling statistics.


“In 2010, about six hundred thousand Americans, and more than 7 million humans around the world, will die of cancer. In the United States, one in three women and one in two men will develop cancer during their lifetime. A quarter of all American deaths, and about 15 percent of all deaths worldwide, will be attributed to cancer. In some nations, cancer will surpass heart disease to become the most common cause of death.”


I am most certainly not alone in my grief for a dying a loved one lost to cancer far too early.


Mukherjee offers up a sweeping and ambitious biography of cancer. From its first appearance in an Egyptian text written in 2500 BC to our modern-day treatments administered by doctors like Mukherjee.


Join us for the #HTReads Tweetchat on Tuesday, November 7 at 9:30 PM ET to discuss the book.


Q1: Mukerjee’s essential question is this: Is cancer’s end conceivable in the future? Why/Why not?


Q2: Is the war metaphor (i.e. the war on cancer) an apt one? What other metaphor makes sense?


Q3: What are some recent advances in health IT that are being used to improve health outcomes for patients?


Q4: Where/how does former Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative play a role in the history of cancer?


Q5: What is the patient experience like for cancer patients? How does Mukherjee portray the patient in his book? What is your personal experience?


Bonus question: Does “knowing your enemy”—knowing cancer—bring some kind of comfort?


The Emporer of all Maladies

Health Tech Reads October and November 2017 Schedule

Schedule for Health Teach Reads #HTreads for October and November 2017

October 10, 2017 Demystifying Big Data and Machine Learning in Healthcare by Prashant Natarajan

October 17, 2017 Heritage Biologics Podcast- Value Based Healthcare with Dr. Mahek Shah from Harvard Business School and Dr. Kyle Hogarth

October 24, 2017 Patients Come Second: Leading Change by Changing the Way You Lead by Paul Spiegelman

October 31, 2017 Halloween! Holiday off.

November 7, 2017 The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

November 14, 2017 EHR Workflow Management Systems: Essentials, History, Healthcare by Charles Webster, MD MSIE MSIS

November 21, 2017 Medical Improv by Beth Boynton

November 28, 2017 Thanksgiving Holiday- break

December 5, 2017 In Shock by Rana Awdish



Health Tech Reads: Demystifying Big Data and Machine Learning in Healthcare

General Guidelines for Health Tech Reads Twitter Chat:

1) Please read the book before the chat begins. We try to make content accessible if you haven't had a chance to read the book but please respect the authors and their efforts.

2)  There will be 4-6 questions, please identify your response to question by identifying which question you respond to.

3) Don't forget to use #HTReads.

4) We assume all tweets during #HTReads are your own.

5)  Follow the #HTReads twitter account for more information and updates. @healthtechreads.

6) #HTReads last one hour.

7) Through the eyes of celebrated authors and their works, #HTReads hopes to widen the conversation. 

8) #HTReads meets every Tuesday 9:30PM ET.right after #hcldr- same day- same channel.

9) Please try to stay on topic and participate with the hashtag. #HTReads.

Demystifying Big Data and Machine learning in Healthcare by Prashant Natarajan

Our very own Prashant Natarajan has written a great book about machine learning in healthcare. With all the hype where can we get great information about this topic? Which companies have something to contribute and which are vaporware? Here are the questions for the chat:

1. Is healthcare looking at the right data sets for Artificial Intelligence to be helpful?
2. What are the best use cases that you see in Artificial Intelligence and healthcare?
3. Are there things you would consider unethical about Artificial Intelligence and healthcare?
4. Healthcare has lost a lot of money on potential improvements with artificial intelligence- does healthcare lack the tech talent to scale Artificial Intelligence?
5. What is the best source of education about machine learning and healthcare? Who do you consider an expert?
6. Bonus- what is your favorite potential of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare?

This starts at Tuesday, October 10 9:30 PM EST after HCLDR chat. 

If you don't have your copy of the book yet please watch this helpful video for guidelines and join us at HealthTechReads on twitter at 9:30 PM EST.