The Currency for Change in Healthcare

Everybody, patients or healthcare providers, are constantly talking about changes in the healthcare system. We talk about the long Emergency visit wait times, we talk about costly medications, or the convoluted healthcare terminologies and how we need to simplify the language. But what does it take to get changes happen in healthcare?

You may say money, we need more capital to invest in healthcare to make things work. I agree but also disagree. To a certain extent, we need capital to fund initiative but I don’t think simply pumping more money into the system will make our system better, if anything more capital rewards inefficiency. Capital needs to be spent diligently and have the ability to measure the return on investment.

I think the currency to ushering healthcare changes is attention. We need to raise attention about matters and for the larger society (not just patients and healthcare providers) to recognize this is an issue.

Attention is the currency to making changes in healthcare happen. There are a few of us who practice in healthcare and very few of us who are actually patients (refer to diagram). These people are the players, they are the actual people engaged in the healthcare problems. Then there are spectators, those who are sidelined and not directly involved with the healthcare issues. These could be a family member, somebody reading about it from the news, or friends. But the vast majority of people are the outsides, people who don’t have a direct connection to the problems that the players are engaged in.

Consider a sporting event. In an actual game, there are players who play the sport and spectators who are in the stadium watching the game. But because the sport is a local hero of the city, even those who are not in the stadium (i.e. the outsiders) watching the game are engaged in the matter. For example, your colleagues may have asked you whether you watched the game over the weekend or what do you think their playoff odds are. The one item, intangible item, binding the players, spectators, and outsides in a sporting event is attention — everybody is aware of the sport.

Healthcare problems need more attention. We need to shine the spotlight on the issue in order for those large majority of outsides to be aware of the issue as well. Antibiotic stewardship and the opioid crisis is a great example of how we put the spotlight on these issues to make it “our” problem and not simply “somebody else’s” problem.

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