MCSMN Blog

August 22, 2011

On Deadlines and Avoiding Decision Paralysis

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In Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, a book I highly recommend for those helping to lead change (which is all of us, right?), authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath tell an interesting story based on research into medical decision making.

A doctor was asked to consider the medical records of a 67-year-old patient who had chronic hip pain from arthritis. In the past, the patient had been given drugs to treat his pain, but they'd been ineffective, so the doctor was forced to consider a more drastic option: hip-replacement surgery.... Then came an unexpected break in the case: A final check with the patient's pharmacy uncovered one medication that hadn't been tried. Now the doctor faced a dilemma: Should he prescribe the untried medication, even though other medications had failed, or should he go ahead and refer the patient for surgery?

This dilemma, based on real medical cases, was created by physician Donald Redelmeier and psychologist Eldar Shafir, who used it to study the way doctors make decisions. When doctors were presented with this case history, 47 percent of them chose to try the medication, in hopes of saving the patient from going under the knife.

In a variation on the dilemma, another group of doctors were presented with almost exactly the same set of case facts -- except this time, the patient's pharmacy discovered two untried medications. If you were the patient with the arthritic hip, you'd be thrilled -- certainly two nonsurgical options are better than one. But when the doctors were presented with two medications, only 28 percent chose to try either one.

As the Heath brothers go on to explain, this illogical result (why would the mere existence of a second alternative drug make surgery a better option?) is a manifestation of decision paralysis. Too many options can make decisions difficult, and therefore the default choice (in this case surgery) wins.

So it is with great trepidation that I write today about several training and networking opportunities available through the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, and for which we have significant savings for Social Media Health Network members. And I hope to overcome your potential decision paralysis by urging you to not think of these as different options, but rather an "all-of-the-above" opportunity.

First, as described in this post, we have an excellent webinar coming up on Thursday, that we're producing with Modern Healthcare. The magazine is offering "Making the Business Case for Social Media in Healthcare" to its readers for $249. Members of the Social Media Health Network can get it for $59, saving $190.

Second, the early bird deadline for the October Social Media Summit in Rochester is this Friday, Aug. 26. If you register by then, you get the full conference registration plus the pre-conference workshop on getting physicians involved in social media (a $345 value) for just $795. With the $400 savings on the regular $1,195 conference registration, that brings the total member savings for the pre-conference and conference to $745. After Friday, the registration for Network members will be $895.

Third, we have our Social Media Health Network Member Meeting immediately following the Summit, from 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 until noon on Thursday. This post gives the preliminary agenda, while this one has the registration form. The cost is just $100 to cover meal costs, including the Wednesday evening Network Member Dinner. The Member Meeting/Unconference is only for Network members. You don't want to miss this opportunity for networking and learning with peers.

Finally, on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 20-21, we're holding our first Social Media Residency. It's going to be an exciting opportunity for hands-on learning in a strategic context. Network members save $200 on the registration, which is regularly $845. While there is no hard deadline for registration, we have set a limit of 80 participants, so it will be first-come, first-served.

I hope this week's deadlines (the Modern Healthcare webinar is on Thursday, and the $100 early-bird discount registration for the Summit expires Friday), along with the limited space available for the first Social Media Residency, will prevent decision paralysis from setting in for you.

Register now to participate in all of these learning and networking opportunities, and I'm confident you will find them helpful in your change-initiation efforts.

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