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Friday, January 2, 2009

WHIVP Consulting to Capetown, South Africa: The Final Act and Other Thoughts

For New Year's day we ate nothing but simple carbohydrates and sugar until about 3:00 so 2009 started with a sugar rush and an afternoon nap. As you can tell, I didn't make any resolutions about eating better. In fact, the only New Year resolutions that I have made in the last few years are to back up my files on my computer. That resolution is now happily obsolete as I purchased an external hard drive in 2008.

I also had the most traffic ever (still a modest amount) driven by the fact that my blog had the #1 non-sponsored spot on the Google for the search of "US Health care 2009 predictions". My marketing department is never going to hear the end of my search optimization skills. This more than makes up for the fact that when I search for Deadhedge on Google, I don't appear until the 3rd page. I'm outranked by wizard recipes, stories of bankrupt hedge funds, deaths involving hedge funds, gardening tips, and a story about a male hustler and their relationship with a hedge fund manager.

While I enjoyed my 2009 predictions and apparently others did too, I noticed a trend away from doing predictions by some bloggers. There were proclamations that everyone sick of seeing prediction articles, the whole notion had jumped the shark, it was cliché, blasé, soufflé, creme brule, and best saved for another day. So everyone rebranded their "predictions" into "things that they would like to see happen in 2009". Still sounds like a dessert to me, only without the accountability of being wrong but also without the option to brag if you got one right.

Now that I got the navel gazing out of the way, I'll finish up my series on the work that we did as part of the South African consulting trip. The last Act described the work that my team did but there were 2 other teams who did work on Cost Analysis for a grant and their Information Technology systems. Here are their stories.

Cost Analysis Team: Last year, the Cost team had determined how much it cost to treat the common or treatments in the clinics such as TB, HIV/AIDS, STD's, Immunizations, and others. This information helped immensely with budgeting, resource allocation based on disease prevalence, and defend budgets by equating dollars in terms of conditions that won't be treated. This year that work was expanded for a grant application and general work to show the economic impact of some of these diseases and how to show improvements after treatment. This would frame health care treatment in economic terms (similar to what the Obama administration is doing) by showing how curing a disease could improve economic output. Participants would be tracked with their economic activity pre and post treatment to show improvement after a successful treatment.

Information Technology: Much of the data collection was manual tallies at the end of the month. The health department had identified a computer system as a need and was already contemplating a few systems. However, they didn't know how to assess what system they needed because they hadn't look at their processes, data collection, reporting, or their requirements. This team helped them with the planning process to better understand the requirements of any new computer system and how it would be incorporated into daily work. Some clinics had computers but they were underutilized due to lack of training and the fact that it was not incorporated into daily work flow. The health department better understood how to both assess and deploy a computer system by matching it to their operations rather than primarily looking at features.

End Result: Our workshops and final presentation got great reviews and we were invited back for a third year. We were able to build on the initial work of the first team and show the health department the potential for the project work. There were two follow-up teams after us in 2004 and 2005 before I lost touch with the work. Unfortunately the follow-up teams weren't as strong. There wasn't the same mission-driven culture in the teams or the emphasis on the importance of the development work. That made me realize the uniqueness of our team, our accomplishments, and the relationships that were built. I formed really strong bonds with my fellow students during the second year and with the alumni that still continue.

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