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Stephen Lewis on Infrastructure, Identity, Communication, and Change

Archive for July, 2008

VRM and Health: A Country Without Databases, Individual-Oriented Medicine, and “Tasty!”

Posted by Stephen Lewis on July 30, 2008

Further to yesterday’s entry on VRM (Vendor Relations Management) and health care

In The Evidence Gap: A Call for a Warning System on Artificial Joints the New York Times reports that a plethora of unsuccessful joint replacement operations could have been avoided in the United States had there been, as there are in most other industrialized countries, national data bases of patients’ experiences.  Application of VRM to health issues not only has the potential to ensure delivery of properly individualized health care but also to assess and address the needs of groups of individuals and to broadcast the results back to policy makers and the medical industry at large (sadly, medicine is an industry in the US rather than part of a social net or service delivery infrastructure).

Two Health-Related Footnotes:

1. Individual-Oriented Medicine: Two days ago, I visited a “Park Avenue” (i.e. top-draw, high-priced) eye doctor for diagnosis and treatment of what I thought was damage to my right eye.  After a 20-minute examination for which I was changed US$ 395.00, the doctor said my eyes were fine but that I should see a dermatologist and have a general physical exam.  That evening I described my symptoms to a friend who for years works on-and-off as a translator at the office of a Russian-born Brooklyn eye doctor with a primarily Russian immigrant clientele.  Over the phone, my friend was able to diagnose what ailed me as a minor but persistent virus-related affair and suggest interim treatment.   He pointed out that even while functioning in the midst of the US insurance pyramid, some physicians in Russian immigrant neighborhoods still manage to respond to the situation of the patient rather than artificial distinctions between medical disciplines.

2. Tasty!  A recent posting on the New York Times’s Well Blog reported an overturn of the common-wisdom of the last decades re:eggs and cholesterol and also reported that alcohol is good for one not only because of cardiac benefits of red wine but also because drinking enhances quality of life.  Several years ago, over lunch in a restaurant garden in Sofia, Bulgaria, I asked my fellow-diner, an overweight hard-drinking ex-journalist suffering from high-blood-pressure and high-cholesterol, why he had ordered tripe-fried-in-butter, sausage, and feta cheese for lunch.  His answer: “Because it is tasty!” (Zashto e vkusno!)”  After I lectured him pedantically on the evils of cholesterol and sodium, he stared at the plate of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers that comprised my lunch and replied: “You will die of too little ‘tasty’ long before I die of too much cholesterol!”

Posted in Bulgaria, Food, Health Care, Media | Leave a Comment »

A Conference-Engendered Hiatus: Harvard Law School and The Netherlands Institute in Turkey

Posted by Stephen Lewis on July 30, 2008

I haven’t posted to either of my weblogs (neither this site nor Bubkes.Org) since early in June.  Over the last two months the pace and substance of my life had overwhelmed my drive to report or reflect.  In addition to ongoing work projects and research, the past weeks saw my participation in two conferences.  The first, held in Istanbul on June 27, was a symposium in honor of Ottomanist and architectural and social historian Machiel Kiel.  The second, organized by internet commentator and innovator Doc Searls, was held at Harvard Law School on July 14-15.

Doc Searls and VRM at Harvard Law

The conference at Harvard Law was called by Doc Searls, internet commentator, author and speaker, and fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.  Throughout his multi-year tenure at Berkman, Doc has been working on conceiving, shaping and inspiring others to participate in VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) which he describes as “the reciprocal of CRM (Customer Relations Management)”.  Indeed, VRM is a mindset, a movement, and a set of tools for using the internet to achieve what Doc refers to as a Copernican Revolution in the marketplace in which “consumers” (i.e. individuals) actively manage their relationships with companies and institutions according to the needs and trajectories of their own lives rather than being passive objects managed by others.

The present conference attracted dozens of attendees from throughout the United States as well as from Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK where, for well over a year, a hub of CRM, IT, and communications types have been collaborating to develop and bring to market VRM applications. The conference agenda, determined on-site by consensus as per the “Open Space” model, underscored the scope of VRM and its transition from a philosophic and conceptual approach to the actual development of VRM-related projects, applications, and tools.  Also, the presence at the conferences of participants from companies such as Oracle and Sun showed that the “mainstream” is waking up to VRM.

VRM in turn, seems to be waking up to the full spectrum of individuals’ need and relational intents. Whereas a year ago VRM focused on shopping, personal RFPs (requests for proposals), and management of online identity, today VRM is entering the fray of management of medical data and treatment, government relations, public broadcasting, and charitable giving.  A small number of us are also debating the potential of VRM in the management and troubleshooting of projects and processes and in the implementation of organizational change.

To track the development of VRM or to get involved, follow Doc Searls’s subsidiary VRM weblog.  Last: A small:group of us with work-related ties to Belgium and the Netherlands are banding together to emulate the UK group in attempting fit VRM to local issues and social and business cultures.  If you are NL- or BE-based or have a connection to either country and are interested in VRM, do get in touch — by the way, the same goes for anyone in Eastern Europe or Turkey interested in knowing more about VRM.

For Machiel Kiel and Ottoman History at the Netherlands Institute in Turkey (and for a few words on architectural monuments and infrastructure) click here

Posted in Architecture, Client Relations, History | 1 Comment »