30 June 2014

What inspired you to join the technology industry?

In theological circles, and especially in theological schools, there's a lot of talk around “call” and a sense of “calling.” But, ask a programmer about “call” or “calling” and you'll probably hear about using a functions or object-methods.

When I read about Google's Code School Learning Opportunity I knew I wanted to apply. Code School issues Open Badges!

The open-ended, final question on the application took me by surprise: What inspired you to join the technology industry? Wait a sec! Did a tech giant just ask about my “call story”? Yeah, I think so.

I have my doubts about whether a human at Google will actually read my application. If the filtering algorithm looks for compound and/or complex sentences, there might be a chance. However, I know there are humans that will read this post. So, I'll also share my technology “call story” with the handful of folks curious enough to click the link in an email or a Tweet.

A year and a half ago, I encountered an electronic health record system for the first time. After only a couple minutes in the consulting room, tense silence interrupted the usual, easy conversation. I watched, appalled, as my psychiatrist fought his way through the clunky, poorly sequenced fields of the e-prescribing interface. An engaged healthcare consumer, I quickly voiced my concern, mitigating the effect on our treatment relationship. This relieved the immediate anxiety I felt as a patient, but my concern as an advocate held fast. What impact would this technology have on those who already feel disempowered by the healthcare system? How would it affect the health of people at the margins of society?

A half-dozen years earlier, I'd left web application development to pursue a graduate degree in theology, focusing on social justice. The two fields scarcely touched, and in social justice theology, I found the kind of passion I'd seen—but, despite my aptitude, never experienced—as a programmer. Likewise, I scarcely looked back, even after leaving theological school without a degree.

That afternoon, as I watched technology that should have facilitated the provision of healthcare impede my doctor's work, these seemingly disparate and disjoint fields collided. During my theological study, I lacked a clear sense of “call” or vocation, but in that collision it began to crystallize. My “call” is neither in technology nor in social justice; my call is in both technology AND social justice.

That's it. …the short-version, at least.

Finally, share the link to the application form with others who might want to apply. And if you know a girl who's crafty, creative, or thinks technology is kind of cool, tell her to check out Made with Code, it's a pretty neat site (even if does have lots of pink).

24 August 2013

Bad Retail UX!! I may take my business elsewhere.

The process of ordering a prescription via Walgreens website this afternoon was unusually frustrating. Why? Poor interface design! I wouldn't be quite so irked if this were even remotely close to being an edge-case, but it's not. It happens thousands of times every weekday:

  • A patient makes a follow-up visit to a doctor.
  • The doctor sends a new electronic prescription for medication(s) the patient is already taking with no change in dosage.
  • The pharmacy receives the eRx, fills it, and notifies the patient, but…
  • The patient recently picked up a refill of the medication and doesn't need more for a while.
  • The filled prescription sits on a shelf at the pharmacy for about a week; then it's restocked.

Also, because I'm offended by Walgreens' assertion that …any message or other communication sent to Walgreen Co. becomes the exclusive intellectual property of Walgreen Co.…, I'm claiming the copyright on the content of my email message to Customer Service for Walgreens website before I hit the send-button by sharing it here.

Online Pharmacy: “On file” Prescriptions Missing from Prescription History

Dear Walgreens Customer Service,

Prescriptions that are ”On file“ do not show up in a customer's prescription history, even when the “Show Hidden Prescriptions?” radio button is set to “Yes.”

In my case, this is particularly problematic as an earlier prescription, from the same doctor for the same medication and dosage—these details are identical—appears with the messages “Refill Due” and “0 refills remaining. If you'd like to refill, we'll call your doctor for you.”

Such poor interface design provides a dreadful user experience for customers. I expect retail websites to make it easier for me to purchase products, not more difficult. Although I have been Walgreens customer for over eight years, I may now considering transferring my prescriptions to CVS or Rite-Aid—both of which have stores closer to my home.

Furthermore, as the line between web-applications and software applications has become increasingly blurred, retail websites have come to set the bar for user experience in their respective sectors. When the retail website for a major national pharmacy chain like Walgreens has set such a low bar for user experience, is it any wonder that so much software in the healthcare sector is difficult to use?

With frustration and great disappointment,
Shelley V. Adams

Message subject line and content © Shelley V. Adams; licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. The subject line and content of this message, including this footer, has already been published as part of a post on the author's blog.

20 July 2013

Politicians Defying Stigma around the World (and an ecumenical surprise)

While listening public radio Thursday morning, I heard a fairly interesting segment on BBC Newshour. The segment began by describing an announcement from the campaign of Chilean presidential candidate Pablo Longueira that he would withdraw from the upcoming national election due to a depressive episode that began shortly after his primary election victory.

From personal experience, I know the decision to openly disclose a psychiatric diagnosis can be extremely difficult, and I've never lived in the political spotlight. I've read about candidates deciding to disclose their diagnosis in state and local political races, often to preempt the scandel of being “outed” by an opponent. Even so, national elections bring much greater attention. While I know nothing of Mr. Longueira's background or political platform—beyond the BBC's description of him him as a “conservative” candidate—I admire his willingness to be open about his condition.

I was also quite impressed by the BBC's sensitive coverage of this story. However, the segment didn't end with the news story. Instead, the piece went on to further explore the issue of depression in politics through a phone interview with former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, explaining that he made international news in 1998—during his first of two terms as prime minister—when he took a leave of absence to recover from an episode of depression.

That took a couple minutes to sink in. A politician… not just a politician, but a head of state(!) openly announced that he was suffering from depression, took time off to recover, and it didn't end his political career. I was definitely curious to know more about this man.

Long frustrated with spelling in my native language, I know better than to guess at spelling anything in others. Instead, I grabbed the audio for the program from the Newshour podcast to get his dates in office and headed to Wikipedia's “List of heads of government of Norway.”

I've developed a non-linear approach to reading Wikipedia in order to get a feel for the quality of the article before jumping in. I skim the introduction to be sure I've found what I was looking for, then jump to the references section to evaluate the sources If the sources are few in number and/or poorly documented, I proceed with caution. Time permitting, I'll mark unsourced statements and related problems. Sometimes, with a topic I'm particularly interested in, I'll locate information sources and fix broken links.

The article about the former Norwegian prime minister turns out to be one of these. My curiosity only increased when I read the first line of the introduction.

Kjell Magne Bondevik ([çɛlː mɑŋnə bunːəviːk]; born 3 September 1947) is a Norwegian Lutheran minister and politician…

A Norwegian what and politician??!

But the reference section was in sad shape. However, with the correct spelling of ‘Bondevik’ I could find other sources—both to satisfy my own interests and add references to the world's most popular wiki.

Back to my “ecumenical surprise”: sure enough, the bio-blurb at the beginning of a December 2011 interview in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization confirms it. Because of my interest in the connections between faith and mental health, it's always a treat to discover a clergy-person who is open about living with a psychiatric diagnosis, but to find one who is such a public figure… wow!

Linked references

BBC News. Chile Presidential Candidate Resigns. July 17, 2013.

BBC World Service. Newshour, 18/07/2013 (1300 GMT). Newshour. London, UK, July 18, 2013.

Dvorak, Petula. Doug Duncan’s Vocal Dealings with Depression Serve as Inspiration. The Washington Post, November 29, 2012.

Jones, Ben, and Kjell Magne Bondevik. Fighting Stigma with Openness. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 89, no. 12 (December 2011): 862–863. doi:10.2471/BLT.11.041211.

Self-Disclosure and Its Impact on Individuals Who Receive Mental Health Services. Monograph. Rockville, MD: Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, September 2008.

Sexton, Scott. ‘I Finally Knew What the Problem Was,’ Prosecutor Says. Winston-Salem Journal, March 6, 2012.

Wikipedia. Kjell Magne Bondevik.

Wikipedia. List of heads of government of Norway.