In a recent TED Talk by David Meslin titled, “The Antidote to Apathy,” David opened his talk with a profound question:
“How many times have you been told that real, substantial change is impossible because most people are too selfish, too stupid or too lazy to try and make a difference in their community?”
This intro made my jaw drop. It seemed so true! I have even felt this way myself. “What could I possibly do that could initiate substantial change and positively influence my community?” I am a patient and professional, but I am not a decision maker or elected official involved in politics.
David goes on to suggest that apathy in fact does not exist. Apathy is an illusion based on our world experience. Instead, “we live in a world that actively discourages engagement by putting obstacles and barriers in our way.”
Barriers such as:
- Decision making systems that limit community engagement
- Communication strategies that do not engage stakeholders
- Stereotypes and prejudice
Social media enthusiast, Phil Baumann, also touched on this idea of apathy in a recent blog post titled, “For – Against – With.” In his article, he discusses three different approaches to an individual’s relationship with technology.
As Phil explains, some individuals work for technology, submitting to its functions and limitations and other individuals work against it, passionately resisting its progress. However, there is also a unique group of individuals, or leaders, who choose to work with technology and invest in its potential.
The philosophy demonstrated by the individuals who work with technology are the antidote to apathy that David Meslin addresses in his presentation.
Technology in healthcare is no different than technology any place else. I think too often there is an attitude in health IT, in particular, that sounds like this:
“Hey, this stuff is complicated. There is no way we will ever figure out the best way to make everyone happy.”
“We are too far gone to do anything about that now.”
“What could I do as a patient that could possibly influence anything happening in healthcare technology?”
The thing to realize here is that if we believe that change is possible, that we in fact do have a voice and an influence on the industry, then we have the ability to make a positive difference for the future. The opportunity for innovation and imagination is fertile in the health IT space. (Moreover, the hard part has already been done; change is wanted!) So, what can we make of that opportunity?
There are things we can do to engage, instead of submitting to apathy:
- Listen: Subscribe to RSS feeds from your favorite industry blogs. “Like” pages on Facebook. Use Twitter. Follow hashtags for updates in the industry. There are many opportunities to be notified when new content exists. Listen to what people are saying in the industry and reflect on their messages.
- Comment: Reply meaningfully to the content you find. Challenge the content that you don’t agree with, and the content you do. By providing feedback to communicators, you provide direction for future content. Engaging in discussions will challenge others’ thoughts, and ideally, provide a new perspective to the problem at hand.
- Share: When you come across insightful or impressionable content, share it! Spreading messages with other professionals in the industry provides the opportunity for additional comments and additional perspectives.
As David Meslin indicates, as long as we remember that if we can redefine, identify and dismantle apathy in health care, anything will be possible.