Medicine, innovation, and the margin of change

We are continually on a journey of comprehension. Rooted in asking why, when, or what. Many accept the answers to these questions, acceptance becomes the status quo, the status quo leads to stagnancy. The evolutionary nature of this breeds resistance to anything that seemingly threatens the status quo…a resistance to change. This resistance can be flexed…through innovating.

I am a physician. A physician who, not unlike many others, senses the global unattractiveness of this word — change. Our craft is one heavily embedded in a tapestry of handed down tradition, interwoven with steadfast antiquity and startling modernism that seem to flourish at a rate parallel to turn-of-the-century industrialism. The simplicity of the stethoscope is juxtaposed to the complexity of nanotechnology; trending biogenomics nudges aside the commonality of the antimicrobial’s role; the healthcare provider’s hands sense the slow imminence of the automaticity of artificial intelligence.

The healthcare landscape, once comprised of untouched valleys and peaks built on our craft, is now scattered by efficiencies, standardizations, management superfluities, policies — the status quo. The physician bends. The physician may want to return to the once pristine landscape, even if for a quick revisit, but this invokes the new landscape’s greatest threat — change. How do we preserve what simplicity is left in an environment where the standardizations of centuries ago are shifted to the ever-complex paradigms demanded by today? I believe this can be achieved, even if temporarily, by marginal changes of innovation.

How can we make change less threatening to the behemoth impactors of our dynamic environment? By injecting small alterations into the fabric of an organization’s culture. What do we do when technology drones from above over the blue drape of sterile tradition? By engaging its entrance into our practice with small embraces, instead of through gargantuan demands for new guidelines and practice that invade culture. How do we refocus the skill-set of the physician onto its core, while welcoming policy advances, stricter guidelines for quality improvement, and pressure for efficiency? By welcoming innovation — expanding the horizons of our industry by reaching out to others foreign to our environment, trialling ideas that generate discomfort in the status quo, igniting liberal thought in an industry conserved by tradition, opening the door to Medicine’s heavyweight antithesis of all time — “failure.”

Embracing the margin of change in Medicine — in any field — is to embrace failure, for falling off the ever-present cliff of risk is one fall in the right direction. Success and failure go hand in hand, but the transition can be innovated upon. Winston Churchill agrees: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”