Transforming Healthcare: What It Takes To Be “Fresh” In 2016

Which would you rather drink: water from a river or a puddle? When seeking a natural source of water, we are taught to drink from moving water, as it remains fresh. Shifts of weather and influences of other outside forces impact rivers and puddles; however, bodies of water respond in different ways.

Puddles of water change due to environmental factors and grow in times of rain or when water is added. When fresh water is not replenished, puddles become stagnant, evaporate, and eventually disappear.

A river grows, evolves, and changes shape according to landscape and environment within defined, but malleable boundaries. Rivers continue moving towards an objective – meeting a larger body of water, such as a lake, sea, or ocean. Although rivers can be redirected, channeled, and reused, rivers remain fresh.

In the must-read, new book, n=1 How the Uniqueness of Each Individual is Transforming Healthcare, authors Koster, Bisbee, and Charan believe that “questions are the best approach to uncertainty.” For readiness towards a bright future, we need to move from asking desired questions, to asking needed questions. Guiding our questions are the following key market forces creating uncertainty in the shifting landscape of current healthcare:

  1. Digitization: Healthcare is new to digitized information being used by patients and healthcare providers.
  2. Scientific innovation: Fueling broad access to information and an increasing ability to analyze care from an individual perspective
  3. Risk transference: A balancing act in which organizations and individuals face moving forward, despite striving to be able to afford future healthcare

Although the authors’ premises apply primarily to decision-makers in organizations, my work with physicians makes me certain that the principles apply to us personally.

What Questions Do You Need To Ask Yourself, And What Attitudes Should You Embrace?

  1. Accept day-to-day change as the norm. The transforming healthcare landscape is growing and evolving. We are a part of a flow that does not end. Be like a river, with malleable boundaries continuously moving towards a goal.
  2. Know yourself. Who do you aspire to be? Your personal values define your shores. The momentum of moving water is effective when focused on achieving a goal, yet destructive, when the rivers’ boundaries do not exist, such as during a flood. So, take care of yourself!
  3. Know your environment. Who are your patients and customers? What is effective for a local hospital or clinic may not be a good choice for a large healthcare system.
  4. Have a vision and stay aware that external conditions may influence access, design, and performance. Rigid structures, plans, or directives that do not allow flexibility or interpretive approaches limit performance, innovation, and, ultimately, success.

Look towards the river scenario to generate new opportunities and to adapt to changing circumstances. In times of transformation, don’t try to have all the answers. Staying flexible and fresh requires focusing on asking the right questions.

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