When the going gets tough – innovate

Meeting the healthcare needs of the community often requires innovation and creativity.

Take for example the barbershop in Harlem that serves double duty as a health clinic.

Or, what about when school based health clinics start serving the surrounding community instead of just the kids that come to school?

What about Minnesota’s “community paramedic” program that aims to meet the needs of a rural and undeserved community?

Mobile phones transforming the way healthcare is delivered?

Telemedicine anyone?

Innovation has many drivers, and often one of the most significant drivers is a communities need. In healthcare, there is often significant disparity in those who have insurance and those who do not (and many, many other examples). For a comprehensive overview, see the always interesting AHRQ National Healthcare Quality and Disparities report. How does our innovation address (or not address) what the community needs? Do we have the capacity (or opportunity) to be more creative in what we do for healthcare?

From one of my favorite, most easily accessible Starfield articles:

“National polls show that most Americans are more worried about health services than about losing their jobs, paying their rent or mortgage, losing money in the stock market, or becoming the victim of a terrorist attack. Health services rank fourth in people’s priorities, after war, the economy, and Social Security. Half of the population is very worried about the costs of care, and one third is very worried about the quality of care—many more than are worried about care for specific medical problems.”

Sometimes we need to get creative to mitigate this “worry” The late Dr. Starfield describes above. Sometimes we need to think about healthcare in an entirely different way. Sometimes we need to take blood pressure readings in a hair salon. Sometimes we need to not only transform the way we deliver healthcare, but we also need to transform our thinking about the limitations and confines of our current system. When we do, there is an opportunity for disruption and innovation in healthcare.

Why settle for the status quo?


In doing so, you just might meet the healthcare needs of the community.

Dr. Miller has his doctorate in clinical psychology and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine where he is the Director of the Office of Integrated Healthcare Research and Policy. His core task is to integrate mental health across all three of the department’s core mission areas: clinical, education, and research. Opinions expressed here are his own and not those of his employer.

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Posted in healthcare, Innovation
  • http://www.Spherit.com Phil Lawson

    Transforming our thinking about healthcare is vital as the current mind”set” about healthcare is limiting and at times even blocking our ability to see new approaches.

    But thinking is relatively easy. The bigger question is implementation. How long has there been discussion about integrative healthcare? How much real, meaningful, transformative progress has been made in large scale implementation?

    There appears to be a prevailing view or expectation that the healthcare system can and will be changed from within. Yet the discussions here on this blog include terms of disruption and transformation. Historically large well established systems are rarely, if ever, successfully disrupted and transformed from within.

    The business world was disrupted and transformed by the personal computer, which came from outside the business world by kids working in garages. The business world and even our social world have been transformed by the Web. One lone guy working on a small side project while working at CERN in Switzerland conceptualized and built the Web. He did so against strong opposition because his idea was going against all common wisdom and thinking about how things were to be done. Then he gave it away.

    That is disruptive transformation.

  • HurricaneRB

    Ben, good article. I would like to see your written thoughts on Dave deBronkart’s mission, which seems so central to the “transformation you mention”…that is, to put the patient at the center of the healthcare model, and as a byproduct create healthy competition, free access to information, and to promote the humanization of a healthcare system that increasingly treats people as “patient numbers.” It seems to me that there are multiple points of change that can happen at the level of the individual, and that is it only at that level that real change occurs. Respect for each other, genuine empathy, solid patient/provider relationships. These are the components of a good system. The opposite of fragmentation is unity. Unity of people and their culture, a willingness to care mutually for each other and to share resources. When we eliminate the divisive elements of the system, the system can heal. Those components consist, and let’s be honest, of individuals who exist and thrive in healthcare not to provide care but to make money and reputation. Occupy Healthcare, if it’s anything like Occupy Wallstreet, has to necessarily address that. Otherwise we continue in this circular pattern of trying to be everything to everyone instead of taking a firm stance on what’s ethical and unethical–and why we end up where we are.