Author Archives: Mike Painter

Return to Oz: Behind the Curtain at Khan Academy

Jun 6, 2013, 11:00 AM, Posted by Mike Painter

Dr. Paul Wang addresses students at Stanford Medical School Dr. Paul Wang addresses students at Stanford Medical School

I recently stepped out of my largely virtual, long distance relationship with the Khan Academy and went behind the wizard’s curtain to see how it’s actually done.  Certainly, we here at RWJF have met many Khan personalities in real life, including Sal, himself, as well as Dr. Rishi Desai, who leads the Khan Healthcare and Medicine Initiative. However, it's one thing to meet individuals outside of their natural habitat—and quite another to track them back to their offices in Mountain View, California, and see what gives. 

From SFO, I carefully followed my Droid Navigator’s directions off Highway 101 into a warren of non-descript low-slung office buildings—non-descript except for the telltale proliferation of Google signs and young adults riding colorful Google bikes.  I drove around to the back of several of those complexes and finally found the correct numbered grouping.  It really could have been any office or doctors’ office complex in the U.S.  The Khan suite is on the second floor. 

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Good for Kaiser. Good for America.

Jun 4, 2013, 3:00 PM, Posted by Mike Painter

Mike Painter, senior program officer Mike Painter, senior program officer

Earlier this year, Fast Company released its list of the 50 most innovative companies and named Nike No. 1. In that article, Nike CEO Mark Parker noted, “One of my fears is being this big, slow, constipated, bureaucratic company that's happy with its success…. Companies fall apart when their model is so successful that it stifles thinking that challenges it.” Kaiser Permanente did not make the Fast Company list—this year.  But this nation-leading health care provider is working hard to ensure it’s not a big plugged-up company satisfied with its past success. KP works hard at innovating. KP's leaders and staff clearly do not take their past success and excellence for granted.

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A Learning Journey

May 7, 2013, 11:31 AM, Posted by Mike Painter

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A sea change is happening in education. Millions are taking free online courses, some offered by elite universities. Lectures in crowded halls have moved online, with teachers and students using class time for discussion and problem-solving.

Unlike online courses and degree programs, the increasingly popular MOOC (massive open online course) is a relative newcomer to online education. The model beefs up regular classes while offering a free taste of college to anyone with a computer and Internet access.

Critics fear MOOCs may replace or cheapen brick-and-mortar education, and point to their high student drop-out rates. But many leading researchers consider MOOCs a worthy experiment.

Online educator Khan Academy is convinced of the value of online content. Like a MOOC, the material it creates is free and available to anyone, anywhere.

But that’s where the similarities end.

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Whoa! Did You Feel That?

Apr 8, 2013, 1:00 PM, Posted by Mike Painter

Mike Painter

Have you read “The Swerve,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by renowned historian Stephen Greenblatt? In it a canny Renaissance era book hunter discovers and releases knowledge in the form of a medieval, controversial poem lost to posterity. The poem had dwindled down to a single handmade, leather-bound version held behind the vine-covered, ancient walls of an Italian monastery. According to Greenblatt, the unleashing of that book changed everything that came after. That small book with the long poem on the nature of things set in motion forces that challenged the status quo and triggered dramatic, world-wide change—a swerve. The only way that knowledge survived the millennia was because monks trained in hand crafting books had carefully copied the one survivor—and saved it for centuries. 

Last week, the Khan Academy, AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation may not have triggered quite such a momentous unleashing—but this powerful collaboration did start something very interesting with potentially significant implications for health care education.

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Doctor, I’m not comfortable with that order

Dec 5, 2012, 9:18 AM, Posted by Mike Painter

Michael Painter Michael Painter

A little more than 13 years ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its seminal report on patient safety, To Err is Human.  You can say that again. We humans sure do err.  It seems to be in our very nature.  We err individually and in groups—with or without technology.  We also do some incredible things together.  Like flying jets across continents and building vast networks of communication and learning—and like devising and delivering nothing- short-of-miraculous health care that can embrace the ill and fragile among us, cure them, and send them back to their loved ones.  Those same amazing, complex accomplishments, though, are at their core, human endeavors.  As such, they are inherently vulnerable to our errors and mistakes.  As we know, in high-stakes fields, like aviation and health care, those mistakes can compound into catastrophically horrible results.  The IOM report highlighted how the human error known in health care adds up to some mindboggling numbers of injured and dead patients—obviously a monstrous result that nobody intends.

The IOM safety report also didn’t just sound the alarm; it recommended a number of sensible things the nation should do to help manage human error. It included things like urging leaders to foster a national focus on patient safety, develop a public mandatory reporting system for medical errors, encourage complementary voluntary reporting systems, raise performance expectations and standards, and, importantly, promote a culture of safety in the health care workforce. 

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