Writing

Dr. Baumol Talks Health Care Cost

Dr. Baumol, in red.Continuing my recent fascination/attention to health care, an interesting post on the New York Times site about the economics of increasing health costs, based on the ideas of William J. Baumol, who developed the notion of “cost disease”:

Dr. Baumol and a colleague, William G. Bowen, described the cost disease in a 1966 book on the economics of the performing arts. Their point was that some sectors of the economy are burdened by an inexorable rise in labor costs because they tend not to benefit from increased efficiency. As an example, they used a Mozart string quintet composed in 1787: 223 years later, it still requires five musicians and the same amount of time to play.

Essentially, making the point that no matter how much reform there is, the cost of care will still outpace inflation. The article (and theory) focuses on people as the most significant bottleneck, though I haven’t seen anything showing that in the current setting, the excessive increase in costs from the last ten years (and why the U.S. is paying twice other industrialized nations, for only average care) is tied to salaries. Tests, insurance cost, overhead, equipment all seem like things that the market can fix, but then again, I’m not much for Economics. In the end, the post is light on details (it’s a blog post, not a full article), but is interesting food for thought.

(Thanks to Teri for the link)

Monday, January 18, 2010 | Uncategorized, healthcare, notaneconomist  
Book

Visualizing Data Book CoverVisualizing Data is my book about computational information design. It covers the path from raw data to how we understand it, detailing how to begin with a set of numbers and produce images or software that lets you view and interact with information. Unlike nearly all books in this field, it is a hands-on guide intended for people who want to learn how to actually build a data visualization.

The text was published by O’Reilly in December 2007 and can be found at Amazon and elsewhere. Amazon also has an edition for the Kindle, for people who aren’t into the dead tree thing. (Proceeds from Amazon links found on this page are used to pay my web hosting bill.)

Examples for the book can be found here.

The book covers ideas found in my Ph.D. dissertation, which is basis for Chapter 1. The next chapter is an extremely brief introduction to Processing, which is used for the examples. Next is (chapter 3) is a simple mapping project to place data points on a map of the United States. Of course, the idea is not that lots of people want to visualize data for each of 50 states. Instead, it’s a jumping off point for learning how to lay out data spatially.

The chapters that follow cover six more projects, such as salary vs. performance (Chapter 5), zipdecode (Chapter 6), followed by more advanced topics dealing with trees, treemaps, hierarchies, and recursion (Chapter 7), plus graphs and networks (Chapter 8).

This site is used for follow-up code and writing about related topics.

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