A Person is Not Just Their Diagnosis: Why I Joined Accolade
By Dr. Ivor Horn
There is no denying that how we interact with the healthcare system — and even with each other as individuals — is transforming. From consumers to clinicians, the industry is full-speed ahead on its digital shift. Mobile health tools abound and telehealth technology has gone from unique to commonplace, seemingly overnight. That said, we must not discount the need for the human element in healthcare delivery — you can’t hear the fear in someone’s voice via text. It’s this perfect marriage of high-tech and high-touch that drew me to Accolade — and what makes my new role so incredibly exciting.
Over the last two decades, while serving as a health services researcher, a hospital administrator and a practicing clinician, I have seen all too clearly how the complexities of the healthcare system are making it increasingly difficult for consumers to make the right care decisions — especially ones that focus on maximizing their benefits options while keeping costs down. However, my role as a caregiver has also made it very easy to see the power that human-to-human interactions still have in healthcare — and how that power simply becomes amplified when paired with the right information, clinical rigor and innovative technology.
It’s important to note: I am also a self-described data geek. I spend my days both striving to be the best possible provider while also seizing the immense opportunity that lies in data and analytics. Aside from delivering patient care, I actually feel most at home when devoted to research — digging through haystacks of information to uncover diamonds that will drive better clinical practices. If we can understand how different clinical practices influence different outcomes, then the possibilities for healthcare improvement not only become real, but actionable. However, the data can’t do it alone. To make an impact, it takes knowing context. Recognizing that every patient has a story, a unique set of life circumstances that tie back to their overall health, and that accounting for this context is vital to optimal care delivery.
For example, having behavioral health providers on site for those in need of mental health support and having lawyers available to counsel families dealing with poor living conditions are just some of the ways the health systems in Washington, DC and Seattle, where I have practiced, have taken a total-person approach to care — even (or, especially) for children. These services are lifelines for some, specifically those underserved and underinsured populations that often don’t have the time or resources to navigate the labyrinth that is today’s healthcare system.
This holistic approach to care — having not only an appreciation for, but an understanding of how knowing life context can drive consumer health engagement — is the precise reason that I chose to join Accolade. I am a firm believer in the mission and vision of the organization, where it is and where it is going. I am able to take years of clinical research and myriad key learnings from the academic setting and apply them to fill a real-world need. The work is near and dear, and the reward impacts both patients and the healthcare industry at large.
Accolade was a natural fit. The work is personal, and that sentiment is echoed throughout the entire organization. Not many companies choose to focus on social determinants — ones that impact health and health outcomes. But a person is not just their diagnosis — they are mothers and brothers, fathers and sisters, and children. They are you and me, and they need human compassion, in addition to clinical and technological expertise, to ensure they are getting the best care possible.
At the end of the day, organizations must continue to invest in their clinical capabilities and intelligent technologies in order to make an impact, especially for those chronically-ill and at-risk patients. Part and parcel to that is driving better consumer health engagement, which is contingent upon understanding and treating the whole person, context and all. But it can’t be done in a digital vacuum. Human interaction and compassion are key parts of the puzzle and must not be discounted.
Each element — science, technology and compassion — plays an integral role in care delivery today, though each must be taken together to make a real impact on care management, outcomes and the healthcare industry as a whole. It all starts with what we can learn from the data, but it ends with making a difference in thousands of lives each and every day. I am honored to be joining Accolade on this journey to better care management and consumer health engagement, and look forward to the months and years of clinical innovation to come.