Good Health Outcomes Are What Matter, Not Easy Targets

Dr Ron Pol
7 min readMar 5, 2020

When medical targets focus on processes rather than better health outcomes we should all be concerned

Facing what became an agonizing end to his life, 61-year-old Andrew McMillan and his wife, Jeanette, wished they’d screened for bowel cancer earlier, Stuff’s Cate Broughton reported.

Like many others, I understand. Truly. My wife died. 39. Breast cancer.

With any cancer, finding it early can dramatically improve health outcomes. And reduce the anguish and devastating emotional and economic distress affecting countless families every day.

Jeanette McMillan spoke about her husband’s death in the hope that it might help others. If more people screen for the disease, it should.

But the story revealed something more. Something that goes to the heart of New Zealand’s health system, like many other countries’, and public administration generally.

I don’t know what lies behind Health Minister David Clark’s decision to scrap national health targets, or what will replace them, but the question remains: Is New Zealand’s health system focused on medical processes, or better health outcomes for New Zealanders? Similar questions apply elsewhere. The McMillans’ tragic story offers clues.

Small steps, slowly



Dr Ron Pol

Outcomes science, applied to life. Current main focus AML/CFT. Outcomes architect, loves engaging with open minds. See: