Physician Survey Signup Bonuses

Many survey companies don’t have great offerings for residents, but two do offer bonuses for signing up/when you complete a survey or two, and MDforLives recently doubled theirs:

I maintain an up-to-date list of healthcare survey companies here–and some links are referrals that also support this site–so if signing up meets your needs/desires, thank you.

Driving at Stable

A classic Jeff Bezos quotation:

I very frequently get the question: “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” That’s a very interesting question.

I almost never get the question: “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two.

You can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, “Jeff I love Amazon, I just wish the prices were a little higher.” Or, “I love Amazon, I just wish you’d deliver a little slower.” Impossible.

So we know the energy we put into these things today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

I recently attended a “leadership” seminar about (radiology) healthcare ecosystems and change. As with all virtual events since early 2020, discussion of the Covid-19 pandemic played an outsized role, and the nature of complexity and change were much pontificated about.

But no one over the course of two days–no one–mentioned the stability of the core mission. The strategic analyses–such as explicit or implicit utilization of SWOT–were happy to focus on anticipation and interception of perceived changes and threats, but no one spared a breath for what they thought wouldn’t change. We talked about trends in corporatization and productivity metrics, group consolidation, encroachment by midlevels and other specialties, downward reimbursement pressure, the push for 24/7 subspecialty staff coverage, lifestyle and burnout, and AI and data science.

To be sure, these and all other big changes are important, but you also can’t lose sight of the underlying purpose of the business in all the pivoting.

What can we say about medicine that is not going to change in 10 years? What is our stability north star?

(Yes this is a rhetorical question cop-out.)


The Stress Heuristic

Cal Newport, author of the beloved Deep Work (among others), writing in The New Yorker.

…most workers who are fortunate enough to exert some control over their efforts—such as knowledge workers and small-business entrepreneurs—tend to avoid working way too much, but also tend to avoid working a reasonable amount. They instead exist in a liminal zone: a place where they toil, say, for the sake of fixing a specific number, twenty percent more than they really have time for. This extra twenty percent provides just enough overload to generate persistent stress—there’s always something that’s late, always a message that can’t wait until the next morning, always a nagging sense of irresponsibility during any moment of downtime. Yet the work remains below a level of unsustainable pain that would force a change.

If you’re a professor, or a mid-level executive, or a freelance consultant, you don’t have a supervisor handing you a detailed work order for the day. Instead, you’re likely bombarded with requests and questions and opportunities and invites that you try your best to triage. How do you decide when to say no? In the modern office context, stress has become a default heuristic. If you turn down a Zoom-meeting invitation, there’s a social-capital cost, as you’re causing some mild harm to a colleague and potentially signaling yourself to be uncoöperative or a loafer. But, if you feel sufficiently stressed about your workload, this cost might become acceptable: you feel confident that you are “busy,” and this provides psychological cover to skip the Zoom. The problem with the stress heuristic is that it doesn’t start reducing your workload until you already have too much to do. Like Parkinson’s naval bureaucracy, which expanded at a regular rate regardless of the size of the Navy, this stress-based self-regulation scheme ensures that you remain moderately overloaded regardless of how much work is actually pressing.

“The Stress Heuristic” is a great term for people’s default strategy for avoiding more work: being literally too busy for more work.

But while saying ‘no’ is easiest when saying ‘yes’ is impossible, it forces you to live without margin. And margin–space in your life for yourself, serendipity, and the chance to chase down things of interest–is where the magic happens.

Even for academics, consider the words of psychologist Amos Tversky (whose work with Daniel Kahneman yielded the Nobel-prize-winning Prospect Theory and the crazy popular book Thinking, Fast and Slow): “The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”

Writing Makes It “True”

From “How to Leverage Language to Cultivate Your Creative Process” by Nicole He in Killscreen.

I had a concept in my mind—maybe I felt it emotionally, I had a feeling about what this thing is supposed to represent. Now what I’m saying makes it real. After that, I started responding to journalists the next morning. What blew my mind was this: the thing I wrote about my project became true about the project. Many of the things I would say, the lazier journalists would just copy and paste. Weirdly, seeing my own ideas in the media suddenly made them even more true—things about a project being about intimacy, about computers knowing more than we know about ourselves. All of this became true, because someone else was saying things about my project, but based on what I had said about my project.

There’s a lot to be said for putting in the effort of distilling a vague idea into a clear concept and writing it down (and, yes, maybe even sharing it). Not just for a specific project, but for you and your whole career.

There is power in storytelling, both internally and externally.

And, perhaps weirdest of all is that–on the whole–you get to define your own narrative.

The Availability Heuristic in Practice

We all use mental models (heuristics, rules of thumb) across a host of simple and complex problems. They often work; they sometimes don’t. You shouldn’t (and can’t) avoid having and using them, but you should be aware of them (and their limitations).

The Influence of the Availability Heuristic on Physicians in the Emergency Department” is a cute little paper demonstrating recency bias in real-life practice:

Heuristics, or rules of thumb, are hypothesized to influence the care physicians deliver. One such heuristic is the availability heuristic, under which assessments of an event’s likelihood are affected by how easily the event comes to mind. We examined whether the availability heuristic influences physician testing in a common, high-risk clinical scenario: assessing patients with shortness of breath for the risk of pulmonary embolism.

The sample included 7,370 emergency physicians who had 416,720 patient visits for shortness of breath. The mean rate of pulmonary embolism testing was 9.0%. For physicians who had a recent patient visit with a pulmonary embolism diagnosis, their rate of pulmonary embolism testing for subsequent patients increased by 1.4 percentage points (95% confidence interval 0.42 to 2.34) in the 10 days after, which is approximately 15% relative to the mean rate of pulmonary embolism testing. We failed to find statistically significant changes in rates of pulmonary embolism testing in the subsequent 50 days following these first 10 days.

Of course, one of the biggest components of the availability heuristic in real life isn’t just how recent the event is (though that’s what’s measurable in this sort of dataset). It’s anything that makes certain events easier to recall. This is, for example, why some of our mistakes or surprise diagnoses can have an outside impact on our practice. We remember that unexpected PE we didn’t see coming more than the many more common examples of the negative CTA.

(Further reading availability bias: Farnam Street.)