In May, 2018, I attended the inaugural HLTH: The Future of Healthcare conference in Las Vegas, and it is generating a lot of discussion around some exciting innovations in healthcare.
If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know how strongly I believe in the power of the individual – and the benefit this power provides for organizations that lead inclusion and individuality as a growth strategy. When you allow the individual to influence more, you drive better results. I’ve stated often that healthcare must evolve to inclusion and individuality. Here’s how I define each of those terms:
I use the words “realities” and “values” deliberately because those are two distinct aspects of a person’s individuality – whether we’re talking about patients or employees – and those aspects are not always obvious or easy to identify and account for. That why I also deliberately use the words “system” and “concerted effort.” That’s what it takes – a system of processes to help people within the organization learn about the individuals they serve, and also processes for sharing that insight across the organization (while maintaining patient confidentiality, of course). These are processes that need to be understood, embraced and accessible to everyone within a healthcare organization – clinical and non-clinical, leaders and employees.
There were some great examples of these methods in place at the HLTH 2018 Conference.
Individual Reality – Your Genome
One of the big announcements involved genome sequencing for patients. Since the words genome and DNA get thrown around together a lot, I turned to the National Institutes for Health (NIH) for some clarity: “A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism.”
It doesn’t get much more individual than your own genetic code.
Dr. David Feinberg is president and CEO of Geisinger, a health service organization that serves more than 3 million people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. At the conference he announced that DNA sequencing would be offered to every Geisinger patient, at no cost to the patient. Along with your cholesterol, you can get your DNA sequenced, and that will help doctors see if you have any genomic variants that increase risk of early cancers or heart disease, allowing doctors to detect and treat those conditions before any clinical symptoms become present.
Dr. Feinberg told the story of a 16-year-old who came into the hospital dehydrated from soccer practice. They did the full sequencing and found both of the genes associated with failed cardiac arrhythmias in young athletes. As he put it: “When you hear about the young kid dying in football practice – this patient has both of the genes.” She now has a defibrillator and a beta blocker, and won't die from a fatal cardiac arrhythmia because of her genetics.
That’s care that accounts for her individual realities, thanks to a process that Geisinger put in place to make sure they are aware of those individual realities.
Individual Value – Your Emotions
But as I said earlier, individual realities are just one part of the equation. What would it look like for an organization to have a process in place for getting to know and account for the values of individual patients?
I love this example shared by Sutter Health chief innovation officer Chris Waugh, in a session on “Consumer Orientation: A New Concept for the Healthcare Industry.”
Sutter Health, a large health system in Northern California, had been looking for ways to get people more engaged in their care. Obviously that’s good for the patient, but it’s also a good way to reduce the cost of care overall. Waugh’s background includes time with IDEO, an innovation firm known for its practice of using human-centered design as a creative approach to problem-solving. His work using that process to help people build a stronger emotional connection with their care and other consumer products helped him see that it’s the emotional breakthroughs that allows someone to be more engaged. And, to me, emotional breakthroughs happen once you’ve been able to identify and account for an individual’s values.
Waugh shared one way Sutter Health is seeking ways to make those emotional connections. When a patient gives birth, someone from Sutter Health captures the day the baby was born through the lens of the partner. Unbeknownst to the mother, the Sutter Health employee talks to the partner: "Tell us what happened. What was the weather like? What did it sound like? What did this feel like? What were you doing before you came in?"
Then Sutter Health sends the birth story to the mother 30 days later. According to Waugh, tears run every time. “That's how we're measuring the results: does it make people cry? And every time it makes people cry, because people can't believe that they missed elements of that story. And they're so glad it's captured.”
That’s a powerful way to tap into an individual’s values.
A Combo: Individual Reality and Value – Food
From Nutrino Health I interviewed CEO Yael Glassman, Chief scientist and Co-founder Yaron Hadad. They really brought home the challenge of individuality when it comes to health, nutrition and food.
“I really think personalized nutrition is the first frontier for personalized medicine, because food is medicine,” said Glassman. “But food is also very personal, it's very cultural. It's something that people use as a part of their joy in their life.”
Think of all the devices available to you today to track everything from sleep patterns to activity levels to health indicators like heart rate, blood pressure, glucose and even genetics. Nutrino’s platform, FoodPrint, pulls data from more than 100 different services and devices and uses machine learning and AI to give you insights on how your body responds to food.
Hadad described the level of individuality at play: “There's interpersonal variability – two people are going to have different effects from foods. There’s also intrapersonalvariability – meaning that if I eat an apple twice on different occasions – say after I went jogging or after I slept poorly – the responses will be very different. There isn't necessarily a simple answer to the question, is this healthy for me? It's broader. The question is: is it healthy for me now?”
Turning Individuality Into Better Outcomes With Inclusion
Healthcare organizations are being asked to embrace individuality and you’re being given some amazing innovative tools to start making that happen. Now the question becomes: how?
The parallel challenge for organizations is to make similar advancements when it comes to inclusion. If you’re asking people to trust you with their DNA, with stories about their lives, with the biological data – first, they have to trust you enough to be willing to share.
Then once they do, is your organization ready? If the individual defines the business, the business needs to be ready to allow the individual to influence. Right now most organizations are not ready.
The individual is influencing where healthcare can go, but it will be up to leadership to take it across the finish line to convert individuality into transformative outcomes.
To proactively create an environment of inclusion for patients, an organization needs more than talk. It’s easy to say we see people as individuals and want them to feel included. What really makes a difference is operationalizing individuality and inclusion.
Thought provoking questions to answer, right? These are just a few examples of what leaders need to start thinking about in order to be ready to turn individuality into better outcomes through inclusion.
What is your readiness to lead inclusion as a growth strategy? Click here to find out.
In the next article of this series, I will explore how to embrace individuality without exposing an individual’s vulnerabilities.