August 2010
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Broken Bones, Good Deals and My Daddy

I don’t have the strength
To get up and take another shot
And my best friend, my doctor
Won’t even say what it is I’ve got

Gather round, children. Let me tell you about my Dad. He’s a wonderful, smart man. He taught me to play chess when I was 3. He is also an orthopaedic surgeon, which means he fixes broken bones and things. He comes from a long line of doctors, which I broke when I turned out to be a computer geek. He worked for many many many years in government hospitals until, about ten years ago, he moved from the operating theatre to the courtrooms, working in the medico-legal world.

Here is how it works. Someone gets injured somehow. In South Africa where I grew up, it is normally a car accident. South Africa has one of the worst road safety records in the world. It is often whiplash. Don’t ever get my Dad started on whiplash. Seriously.

Anyway, the insurance companies need to reimburse the victim for medical bills, loss of earnings, psychological trauma and other goodies. And this is where it gets tricky – you need to put a dollar (or ZAR) value onto all of this. It is complicated even more when some victims (either fraudulenty, subconsciously or due to lawyer’s pressure) fake or exaggerate their situations.

Which is where the experts come in. Both the insurance fund lawyer and the victim’s lawyer need to ensure that they have medical experts on their benches. And here is the cool bit. All the senior orthopods in South Africa know and respect one another. Most of them will represent both the patient or the insurance fund – they don’t play favourite.

So the two doctors will sit in the courtroom, recognise each other, and think to themselves “Oh look, they’ve got Doctor {insert name here} . He’s a good guy who knows his shit and will fairly represent the situation.” And, more often than not, they’ll quickly come to a fair and equitable agreement. The doctors normally don’t even open their mouths in court. They just sit there like finely tuned bullshit detectors and only get involved when the bullshit levels rise. However, if either side lacks a respected expert, things can drag on a whole lot longer and end in a mess. Of course this isn’t always the case but, as I understand it, it is pretty close.

So what? Well here is my point. I’ve recently been engaging a lot of third parties product and service vendors. And I’ve been really fortunate to work with people from these companies that really really know what they’re doing. And, they seem to think I know what I’m doing. Which has made the entire process quick, painless and fair. Both sides know what a fair day rate for consultants is. Both sides know which products are real and needed for the solution, and can smell snakeoil a mile away.

So, the moral of the story. When engaging third parties, make sure that you have someone on your team that knows the industry backwards, and make sure the third party knows that you know. Secondly, make sure that the third party has someone that knows their industry backwards and doesn’t just sprout hot air.

You’ll save yourself a fuckload of time and stress. Trust me. I’m a Doctor’s son.

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