The complexity of the healthcare system is hard to wrap your head around. Even (maybe especially) after a long day of conversing on and listening to ideas on the topic. The Mayo Transform2011 Symposium seeks to both open up and tear down this complexity, with its varied roster of passionate people working in a tough arena where the past, present and future in healthcare converge.
And hospitals are (or should be) a thing of the past in healthcare. At least, hospitals as we think of them: giant institutional campuses where we go when we are sick. (That this came up repeatedly today at the Mayo Clinic, one of the most renowned of these institutions, is indicative of the terrific work being done there.)
As many of the speakers noted today, the key to future healthcare is in designing for the patient, from a holistic perspective, rather than merely at the touchpoint of the hospital. The most insightful and exciting ideas expressed at Transform were with those finding the opportunities to break away from the institution of the traditional hospital.
The concept was exemplified in the breakout session, "Unlocking the Power of Sharing Data," in which the speakers emphasized the necessity and eventuality of every individual's health records being in a shared system for managing their health. This concept immediately seems scary—health data is private, and very personal. To share it, or have it sitting on some server somewhere, feels exposed.
John Wilbanks, of Creative Commons, made the interesting argument that most people are already willingly and unknowingly sharing data—via Facebook, online surveys, shopping, even Google searches. Wilbanks and the panel, with Ian Eslick of MIT and Lybba.org, Jesse Dylan of Lybba.org, and Michael Seid, MD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital, advocate for a shared health data system to increase efficiency and innovation in hospitals, and a better experience for patients. With this system, the panel described the notion of hospitals as "heavily-connected hubs" within a larger healthcare network.
Further on in the day, Halle Tecco, founder of Rock Health, an incubator for health-centered app development, provided a perfect example to back them up. A friend of hers was being treated for a brain tumor by being monitored regularly by doctors at Stanford University, when she went into a coma and was rushed to UCSF. It took her medical team at UCSF four full days to secure her full medical records from Stanford, only 35 miles south. If the two hospitals had been better connected, Tecco's friend would have had surgery the day she was admitted.
Another speaker embodying this concept of breaking out of the hospital-as-static-institution was Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH. Parkinson set up a private, primary care practice out of his home in Brooklyn, NY. He combined an old model of medicine—house calls—with a 'new' way of providing a service that we are all accustomed to. To schedule appointments, patients could go to his website, enter their symptoms, and set up a house call.
It seems like an obvious and simple concept—and in many ways it is. But, no one does it, and the model challenges the current healthcare system and concept that the hospital is the place to go when you are sick. Someone reported Parkinson's practice, and the New York Health board put him under investigation. He is no longer practicing medicine, but he has started many other ventures in the health arena.
Parkinson's example, along with Rock Health and the data-sharing advocates shows how we are in an exciting time in healthcare, and the complexity that creativity and design encounter in altering our behemoth medical institutions.