Sometimes I wear socks with holes in them. More often than I care to admit. Why? Because of a man named Eldon Richardson. Eldon was a Great Depression era electrician – and my maternal grandfather. I hope you have memories like mine, listening to the stories of overcoming hardship with grit and determination. People who lived through the Great Depression thought differently. They were practical – unbelievably practical. They wore socks with holes in them because they focused on more important and more practical things.
Maybe health care can learn a thing or two from holey socks. We could think differently and act practically. What if we, as leaders in health care, took bold measures of practicality: hard-nosed, Great Depression style practicality? Health and health care would advance more quickly than ever before.
Health care is NOT health (according to Lauren Taylor, author of The American Health care Paradox.) Since health is 60 percent socioeconomic/environmental/behavioral, and 20 percent genetic, but only 20 percent health care, it will obviously take more than doctors to improve our health. If the average American spends one hour per year with their primary doctor, but 240 hours per year in a store or online retail setting (Vaughn Kauffman, Principal, Health Industries Advisory Services, PwC), we could learn from retailers to help Americans develop behaviors that improve their health. Or consider that Americans check their smartphones over 100 times per day (Dr. Joseph Kvedar, Director, Center for Connected Health, Partners Health care) – what a great place to interject ideas to improve their health!
Sure, improving health and health care is a challenge, but an insignificant one compared to what grandpa Ed and millions more faced 80 years ago. If they did it, so can we. But it will take more than a new pair of socks! We’ll have to think differently and act practically!
How do we do that in the modern world? By using what’s available to us now to make progress just as our grandparents did – such as changing our thinking to be analytically driven – a proven approach across most other industries. Using our data to discover insight, predict the future based on the past, deploy insights we gain from data to drive proactive action, and monitor the results for the continual improvement of health care.