Welcome to another entry in our series exploring our own researchers who make Feedback tick. Our crew includes those with anthropology, sociology and psychology backgrounds who help us understand past and present behaviors and look ahead at the trends of the future. This interview is with Researcher Michael Dabrowski…
What’s your personal background, education, and research interests?
I completed my freshman year as a Jazz Guitar major, and then – after an intro Psychology course – turned my attention toward the humanities (e.g. language, philosophy) and science with a behavioral slant. I remember thinking, “Wow, I didn’t realize we knew so little about ourselves,” and pretty much let my interests and intuitions guide me from there – into a messy world without structure. Luckily, over the next few years I became convinced that if we use science to put our minds to the grindstone, we can grasp truths.
A bit more pointedly about what keeps me interested in things on a day-to-day basis: whether it’s personal finance, working out, writing, or self-development, I like continually challenging myself to learn about and explore topics that have no blatant right or wrong answer, but still have some kind of tangible structure in a very real sense.
What’s the most interesting audience you’ve researched in your time at Feedback?
There were a couple really interesting audiences that emerged when we started looking into the process of going about acquiring home health and hospice care for loved ones: health providers / industry professionals and those who are seeking immediate care for their parents.
What’s an interesting insight about them?
The vast majority of cases we found involved people blindsided by the sudden reality of their parent needing round-the-clock health care – and it was on them to figure out how to get it. The amount of individuals with suddenly ailing parents who come to forums for emotional and logistical support and answers was surprising, but also extremely honest and very real.
When this happened, we saw anxieties emerge – such as figuring out how to work and care for their parents who were ailing. Another common vexation intruding on these individuals: Medicaid not allotting home health or hospice workers with enough compensation for the number of hours that certain illnesses require.
The other audience – workers in health care (e.g. nurses, home health aides) –
provided a distinct and slightly removed, yet complementary, birds-eye perspective on the issue of hospice/home care. One example of this is how they confirmed the personal vexations of the other audience to the point where we could solidly say that the lack of Medicaid funding allotted for hospice and home health care is a systemic, industry wide problem that severely affects families, as well as consumers of care.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve discovered?
This isn’t exactly weird, per se, but I found a few pretty humorous (and slightly alarming) discussions from a bunch of software engineers and security technologists on Reddit who work in hospitals or private practices. They were talking about – and in full agreement with one another – how most HIPAA patient-privacy violations at the doctor’s office are hardly ever committed by faulty technology and/or hackers like the nightly news might have you believe – the reality of the situation is much less sinister.
They explained how there are two main scenarios that commonly result in illegally leaked patient information: It involves either 1) the doctors – who accidentally leave their patients’ info up on the screen because they’re forgetful or not well versed with the technology software/databases, or 2) chatty office administrators, some of whom don’t think it’s a part of their job to want to understand (much less enforce) all of what’s involved in what HIPAA mandates.
Whether or not these experiences / opinions extend to the majority of health care workers remains to be seen. But it’s these types of conversations that speak to the shared reality of individuals in an industry, and illustrates how they’re viewing and connecting with their world on a day-to-day basis – despite geographical borders.
What was the most fun project and why?
I really enjoyed the work we did for a major hospital merger and the digital examination / strategy recommendations for their impending statewide re-brand. Because they entrusted us with a significant portion of the project, our team was able to offer a comprehensive look at what was going on with their online presence, sentiment, and audiences.
Letting Feedback completely guide the reins in terms of research and strategy allowed us to create an extremely thoughtful and well-informed approach that directed exactly how to best overhaul their re-brand.
What’s the most satisfying thing about the research?
It definitely has to do with being allotted ample time to explore subcultures and gain intimate insight that would only otherwise come from being an expert in a given domain. The continual realization that professionals (i.e. real, live people) are actually using the Internet to communicate with other like-minded people is always mind-blowing to some extent, despite how many times I watch it happen.
On a larger note, I think what ultimately drives me is I’m convinced that constantly learning, growing, and developing never really ends. Acknowledging that curiosity is a huge part of building a satisfying life has honestly been my most simple, yet personally invaluable realization.