Last week I attended the Flip the Clinic Lab event in San Francisco, which was co-hosted by the UCSF Center for Excellence in Primary Care, and sponsored by RWJF. (See my Storify of related tweets here.)
It was a fun and engaging day, but it left me thinking something that I often find myself mulling over at health innovation conferences:
Is it possible to constructively brainstorm about healthcare when thinking about everyone’s health needs at the same time?
In other words, are we likely to come up with good ideas when we’re striving for ideas that work for all patients? Are we likely to come up with really useful ideas when a pediatrician and a geriatrician and a 30 year old Type 1 diabetic get together and envision a better patient-clinician experience?
The difficulty, of course, is that different types of people need different types of help from the healthcare system.
A generalist pediatrician presumably has many patients who are overall fairly healthy. They do need monitoring, and health education, and also help when a new health problem comes up. Many of them might be struggling with weight and healthy eating, and some are at risk due to their social determinants of health. Some of these patients will develop a chronic disease like asthma, and will need ongoing help with their chronic illnesses. And a minority of pediatric patients have the kinds of health problems that require frequent hospitalizations.
A geriatrician like me, on the other hand, cares for older adults who tend to have multiple “mundane” chronic illnesses. Many of them have chronic impairments of the brain or body. Many of them have caregivers assisting them with life tasks, including “self-healthcare” such as symptom monitoring. Many of them experience hospitalizations, and life-threatening health crises.
The truth is that when we brainstorm flips for our clinic, or any other kind of improvement to healthcare, we generally aren’t thinking of everyone at once.
Instead, we are either thinking of our own needs as patients and families. Or if we’re a healthcare provider, we’re thinking of the needs of those patients that we spend the most time with, or are most interested in.