Farnam Street helps you make better decisions, innovate, and avoid stupidity.

With over 350,000 monthly readers and more than 88,000 subscribers to our popular weekly digest, we've become an online intellectual hub.

How transparency and real-time feedback can improve health outcomes

A noteworthy interview with Dr. Atul Gawande:

When you work in complex systems that involve multiple people who have to, in health care, deal with patients at different points in time, no one sees the net result. So, no one has any idea of what the actual experience is for patients.

…A six-month turnaround on data is not great. Part of what has made Wal-Mart powerful, for example, is they took retail operations from checking their inventory once a month to checking it once a week and then once a day and then in real-time, knowing exactly what’s on the shelves and what’s not.

That equivalent is what we’ll have to arrive at if we’re to make our systems work. Timeliness, I think, is one of the under-recognized but fundamentally powerful aspects because we sometimes over prioritize the comprehensiveness of data and then it’s a year old, which doesn’t make it all that useful. Having data that tells you something that happened this week, that’s transformative.

Still curious? Dr. Gawande is the author of three excellent books: The Checklist Manifesto, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, and Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance.