My Poker Analogy for Healthcare

I have a group of guys who I play poker with at least once a month. We play Texas Hold’Em which is all the rage and even on ESPN. One of the guys who follows my blog asked me why I didn’t compare poker to healthcare since I use every other analogy from my life. So, here goes…

There are a couple of key skills in poker:

  • Understanding the math behind the cards.
    • If I have a pocket pair (e.g., two jacks in my hand), what is my probability of winning? Well this is tied first to how many people are playing and therefore how many other cards have been dealt.
    • Understand “pot odds” which basically means knowing what return I am getting on my chips if I bet (e.g., if there are 200 chips in the pot and another player bets 5,000, you are barely getting a $1 for each of your chips).
  • Understanding the people.
    • Some people play “tight” and only bet when they have good hands.
    • Some people like to bluff and are willing to take risk.
    • At the same time, you have to know both the person and their chip stack. Do they have a big chip stack (relative to the table) and therefore can take a chance?
  • Understand the game.
    • Depending on the order of betting and the number of cards played, you should act differently. It is critical to understand the order of betting.
    • It is also important to understand how people are playing the game. In big dollar games, amateurs typically won’t bluff. If you allow people to buy back in to the table versus an elimination process, people will be much more “loose” with their betting.
    • Understanding what their pattern of betting “should” mean. They checked…therefore they are weak and I can push them around.

So…what does this have to do with healthcare or more specifically HealthComm.

  1. You should be developing your communications based on science. What works? What doesn’t work? [the math]
  2. You should be personalizing your communications and actions based on the individual and their disease. [the people]
  3. You should be learning from history and trying different approaches to improve your success rate. [the people]
  4. You should know what others are doing and really understand correlations. [the game]
  5. You need to know as much as possible about the individual and what other things influence them (e.g., income, age, geography) to know how they interpret information and their condition. [all of the above]
  6. What type of message will get action – reward, penalty, passive, aggressive. [all of the above]

I may try another one, but I think this gets to the heart of it. Keep it simple…right.

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