I recently passed my ten-year mark of working in healthcare. And, as I am ending my time working in healthcare technology beginning tomorrow, I’d like to share what I have learned.
I am absolutely amazed by the changes healthcare has experienced. My perspective on the industry has also evolved during this time. The key reason may be time itself. During the past ten years, personal, industry, and political changes unfolded.
A quick stroll through the past ten years.
On the personal side, my brother was in an explosion, landing him in the hospital and physical therapy for many months. My Dad entered skilled nursing and, eventually, hospice care. Recovery and loss in both slices of time and both required navigating our healthcare system in trying to make the best decisions possible.
On the industry and political sides, a slow adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) at first and then an accelerated implementation after the passage of HITECH and the stages of Meaningful Use. Changing standards from CCR to CCD and from HL7 V2 to HL7 FHIR. Many vendors and care providers shifting to consolidation in both segments. Almost no product and industry certifications to many. Changes will continue as we try to achieve genuine Triple Aim – improving the individual experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita costs of care for populations.
The next ten years in healthcare will be exciting as we continue to move into the modern age and adapt to the next generation of digital health and aging parents and neighbors.
What I learned in healthcare.
In healthcare, there are many players. Even though this is the case, too often we feel that if you are not a physician or clinician, then you are not in healthcare. This is not true. Whether working for a healthcare vendor or a care provider in any role, you are supporting the healthcare ecosystem, and we all have a voice.
More than these players are individuals. Healthcare is not a delegated responsibility. Healthcare is a responsibility of everyone. We need to:
- Adopt healthy habits for a healthier life
- Ask questions of our physicians so we understand and make the best decisions possible
- Develop plans for end of life, our own and those we love
- Request our data in electronic format and track our health
- Participate actively in healthcare conversations, civilly and with empathy
No one person is better than another in healthcare. To make healthcare work, we need everyone to be engaged.
2. Ego builds barriers, raises costs, and stunts progress in healthcare Click To Tweet
Maybe a corollary to the first insight is: If you have a pulse, you have an ego. However, in healthcare, put your ego aside and focus on the higher purpose of healthcare, not your self-centered interests.
Healthcare has many egos. People will contend some physicians are too ego-centric. Others will see certification organizations as being closed and inflexible. Many see vendors as being too absorbed in growing their revenue and profits at the cost of delivering the best solution. Patients may also be too ego-centric in not taking healthy advice or being preventive in their care. Ego creates barriers to better results and outcomes.
To gain the purpose of Triple Aim, we need to navigate the egos. The ideal approach would be for all to keep their egos restrained and focused on the higher mission of a balanced and effective healthcare system.
3. Health literacy requires us to break out of the usual conversations Click To Tweet
Many conversations occur on the topic of patient engagement. Each conversation is valuable, as patient engagement goes to point number one – If you have a pulse, you are in healthcare. The missing element is health literacy. Health literacy isn’t necessarily missing; it is just missing momentum.
I don’t have the answer in how to raise health literacy. Bigger organizations and campaigns need to be thought through and developed. Health literacy contains many elements including:
- Importance of healthy habits – eating and exercising
- Understanding life and death and relevant decisions to made in both
- Knowing the questions to ask a physician and having the physician being open to the questions being asked
- Having a will and advanced directives
The big change we can make takes little effort. We can engage in conversations about healthcare, our experiences, our fears, our joys, and much more. Simple health conversations can raise our health literacy.
4 – Hype drives digital health interest. Usable design and useful data will drive digital health momentum and sustainability.
Digital health contains a lot of hype and promise. Millennials and Generation Z will likely lead the way, but Boomers and Generation X are not lethargic when it comes to digital health. After all, it takes all generations working together to make healthcare work.
Most technology shifts go through a cycle of hype and achievement. Healthcare will not avoid this cycle. What we need to focus on is giving feedback on what designs will work while encouraging and adopting a design thinking approach to better digital health solutions. Empathy and technology are the required mix to gain lasting momentum in effective digital health solutions.
We need to be patient but vocal about what works in digital health. Our patient involvement will lead to better digital health solutions and greater health literacy in our communities.
5 – Sharing between generations removes barriers between technology, enhances care delivery, and creates better living and dying.
I have already alluded to the importance of sharing between generations. For me, this is a personal mission. We spend too much time disparaging, ignoring, and separating people into generational boundaries. The reality is simple. When we share experiences and perspectives between generations, we realize there is a thin difference between what we want from our healthcare system.
Stereotyping is a lonely way to live. It also is a miserable way to live. We only have a short time in our lives, and we need to extend a compassionate hand and a caring ear to learn, grow, and experience life in a meaningful way. By doing this, egos will dissipate. Health technology will advance within a patient’s hands. Care delivery will be more interactive. Finding better ways to live will sprout. More understanding ways to spend our last few days and hours will happen.
Sharing between generations will result in being more active in our life and more peaceful in our death. Through each life cycle, we gain lessons and experiences that will help another person. Share and grow stronger.
So, my career chapter in working for a healthcare vendor comes to a close, and I am grateful for everyone I have met during the past ten years. I have learned something from each, along with all the conferences I participated in. Many conversations and many changes. I am excited to experience more positive changes as we advance, and I will continue to be an active participant.
Healthcare never ends. It just gets stronger as we embrace our role as health activists and share what we learn.
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