What is healthcare? Or for that matter, what is health? Is it having insurance? Is it not having to need insurance because you’re already healthy .. supposedly? Is it just being able to make it through the day – in hopes that today won’t be as bad as yesterday or tomorrow won’t be worse. Healthcare in America is a precarious phenomenon and is uniquely American. And a big part of it, is our society’s refusal come to an acceptance on an agreed upon definition.
Let’s strip ourselves our all preconceptions – and start with a blank slate. In fact let’s scrub that slate down to its very name. The word healthcare is no longer part of our lexicon. Let’s call it the human condition. Now we’re not restricted to insurance, whether we have it or not. We’re not limited to bricks and buildings … or even to doctors and nurses. At the core is you, and me and all that affects our human condition – and what it takes to make us who we are and who we could be. And it is not just our physical condition but also the mental, spiritual and social parts of us. All of this mixed together is really what makes us who we are.
Our lives are not made up of silos where we personally reside, isolated from other humans … no matter how much we often feel that they are. Others around us add significantly to who we are. Who we depend on, and who depends on us dictate our daily lives and our definition of self. To neglect them any one of them alters our composition. We change. In essence – all of this is our human condition. And if we want to improve it – all of these components have to be taken into consideration and cared for.
People immersed in life-dictating chronic conditions have even larger part of their life affected by outside stakeholders. Independence cannot be taken for granted. A trip to the doctor may or may not just be that. Instead it’s a coordinated affair of appointment settings, caregiver schedules and weather alerts. For many chronic care patients – their human condition revolves around this affair often of situations outside their control.
So being healthcare providers, how can we as the caretakers of our community’s human condition bring all these elements together in an integrated approach that best serves those affected by ongoing conditions? As a launching point, let’s focus on cancer patients – such as myself.
As of this February, I started another round of chemotherapy treatments for lymphoma (CLL). After eighteen months … my remission was short-lived. Hopefully with a DNA test and a more aggressive treatment regiment – the outcome this time will be better. Regardless, this isn’t about the number on a blood panel or even a DNA test. In fact it’s not about numbers at all. It’s about all the rest of the components that make up who I really am, physically, mentally and socially.
Road To Your Perfect World
In a past life I spent fifteen years as headhunter – a recruiter. I interviewed people, lots of them – probably thousands. As my career matured, my perspective of my role in my candidate’s lives changed. I wasn’t just there to help them find a job. I saw myself more a purveyor of goals, aspirations and dreams – and often of those around them. Or as I coined it – I was a navigator on “The Road to Their Perfect World.” My role could be a simple as helping someone change shifts so they can be there to help coach their daughter’s software team. Or it could be as significant as coordinating a career change that included a relocation across the country so their wife could be close to her parents in order for the grandkids to get to know their grandparents why they still could. In a certain sense, I was acting as caretaker of the human condition – just hoping to do my part in improving it – however large or small of a part that may have been.
At the heart of all it though was the understanding who my candidates really were. It was seldom the title on their business card, or even a number on their W-2. It was more their daughter’s softball team or the time it took to drive to the in-laws. This all begin with the interview and real conversation. Sometimes this conversation wasn’t easy. Not everyone is open and sharing. Not everyone wants to unveil the their hidden sides. Sometimes they didn’t even know these sides themselves. It was my job to pull back the curtain, of sorts. Often it meant sharing to them who I really was, warts and all. They needed to know I could empathize with them, their needs and most of all … their dreams.
The authors also urged providers to help “link care and personal context” by working with patients to “engage in integrated assessments of clinical and social goals, and reach mutually agreed upon care decisions” with patients and their families. Policymakers may “develop incentives, along with clinical practice guidelines and decision support tools … to encourage physicians to engage with each patient on their (sic) personal context and goals in making care decisions.” (from the NAM report on overhauling healthcare)
Imagine if as caretakers of the human condition we looked past the numbers and into all the components of what actually makes us who we. Imagine if we strove to know who those who have entrusted their care with us really were. What if we made it a priority to learn what their dreams were, who depended they depended on and who depended on them? As a caregiver for my elderly parents, this hits home … literally and figuratively.
We need to break down the silos of preconceptions and not pigeonhole – but look at everyone as unique member of our society and view our job, our responsibility, that we do everything we can to preserve and hopefully enhance their role in our community.