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Do Not Underestimate the Healing Power of Change

By Dr. Divij Sharma, MBBS
Bombay Hospital and Research, Mumbai, India

Abstract

Healthcare innovation begets a promising future. Despite its shortcomings, and more so during the COVID pandemic, the world’s healthcare infrastructure has much to offer on several fronts. Technology, artificial intelligence and digital acceleration will undoubtedly serve as a global model from treating the sick to preventive care and wellness. Global expansion and investment in healthcare has created new opportunities to make medical services more understandable, affordable and accessible to general public. The healthcare community can support these efforts by embracing and enforcing these changes.

Do Not Underestimate the Healing Power of Change

One of the illuminating days in the hospital with my critical care team and chief consultant occurred when a 90-year-old woman lying in bed already troubled by a multitude of doctors bombarding her with questions and repeatedly ordering investigations and examinations called out at me asked me softly, “What is a patient to you?”

 

In reply, I quoted my Hospital’s motto: “A patient is the most important person in the hospital. They are not an interruption but the purpose for your work. They are not an outsider but an insider of the hospital. We are not doing a favour by treating instead they are doing us a favour by allowing us the opportunity to do so. It might be another day at work for you, but remember, it is the most distressing day for the patient.” She glazed at me, passed a grim smile and went back to bed.

 

This quote drives and evokes the leader inside of me every single moment of the day I am working. It motivates me to create and perform activities as a clinician and a non-clinician to improve patient care which I call on my colleagues in healthcare and allied healthcare professionals to do as well.

Tailwinds in Healthcare: Innovation auguring good health

Firstly, this brings up the topic of Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. It is an organization that provides healthcare service to over 100 million Americans through various funded agencies. [1][2] One such program under The Innovation Center is the Comprehensive ESRD Care (CEC) Model which is designed to identify, test, and evaluate new ways to improve care for Medicare beneficiaries with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Through the CEC Model, the CMS Innovation Center partners with health care providers and suppliers to test the effectiveness of a new payment and service delivery model in providing dialysis patients with person-centred, high-quality care.  A foundation in Bangalore, India has started a similar venture accessing patients records using digital dashboards and helping them with diagnosis. Another aligned cutting edge program ‘Twistle’ deployed by AdventHealth in Orlando,Florida, U.S has shown leveraged similar approaches to improving pre-operative and post-operative patient outcomes in abdominal surgeries. [3]

 

Secondly, current pandemic has forced the healthcare community globally to develop and embrace tools and technologies that support remote care provisions such as digital acceleration, virtual care and remote patient monitoring to help maintain and even improve patient health outcomes. [4] Google and Apple supported apps have augmented this transition.Patients with heart conditions, for example, can use portable, high-tech devices to track and relay several clinical measurements, including heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels to their doctors. These patients can actually be monitored 24/7, enabling physicians to catch and treat health challenges early, and reduce risk of emergency room and hospital admissions.

 

Similarly, in densely populated nations and territories technology is growing so that healthcare reaches everyone, everywhere which has proven essential to reducing spread of not just aggressively spreading infectious diseases such as the flu, measles, mumps, tuberculosis, viral fevers, encephalitis but also non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases.

Challenges to these Innovations

Innovation often creates new challenges and hurdles. Technological shift often created the economic burden on the system, the providers and underserved communities and individuals for embracing change. To overcome these, they must ask themselves questions like: 

Does the product save enough time to allow for an extra procedure per day?

Is it more cost-effective than your competitor’s technology?

Or, does it provide such a meaningful impact on patient outcomes, such as preventing readmissions, that it can command a higher price?

 

In general, with the current environment of decreasing reimbursement and constrained budgets, technologies that provide cost savings will be favoured by physicians and purchasing committees alike.

Recommendations

Sustainable innovation demands the implementation of certain essential practices as follows:

  1. Evolve and Accelerate: -In a densely populated nation, the competitive advantage lies in constantly evolving to build healthcare resources in order to meet the growing needs of people.

  1. Do not think or say “I”. Think and say “We”- Effective healthcare think of the needs of the people they serve before their own. Eg- the breakthrough development of mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. A vaccine as this was under development for decades, but an extraordinary health crisis and right deployment of money and focus facilitated the development of an extraordinary vaccine.

  1. Maximizing technology and data to expand healthcare: – Soon, many more health care apps will deliver health care, health care education, and possibly even health care encouragement to patients when, where, and how they want to receive these services. In the future, sensors embedded in everything from bathroom mirrors to toothbrushes could be used to monitor a range of health issues, from potential strokes to dementia.

  1. Coping with change: Hospital management and clinical environment has become more competitive and volatile due to faster technological change, greater international competition and overcapacity of capital-intensive industries. The net result of doing it 5% better than yesterday is no longer a formula for success. We all need to be leaders comfortable with change, set the direction for that change and possess unwavering resolutions.

  1. Vision: – Vision involves creating compelling images of the future. Visioning gives people a sense of meaning in their work. We, the integral members of the healthcare community have to be skilled in our capability to get our patients, allied health professionals, pharmaceuticals excited about the innovation-driven future while inviting others to crystallize the image.

Conclusion

I started with a quote and it is only fair that I end with one. This goes out to everyone working to drive the force of creativity: “Every road forks into two ways. Down one way, there is continuity of life as it comes and down the other there is zeal to bring in disruptive changes to make path-breaking transformations. Choosing the latter calls for a lot of blood, sweat and hard toil but setting foot on that path to change is worth taking”. The latter is exactly what leaders in healthcare and public health entrepreneurs should strive for.

References

About the Author​

Dr. Divij Sharma is a junior Resident in Critical Care Medicine at a tertiary care hospital in Mumbai, India. He has served as the State Director of MSAI Eastern Zone (Medical Student Association of India) and is a local officer of SCOME at IFMSA. He also was an esteemed member of the Disaster Medicine Student Alumni Council- IFMSA and is honored to have publications in several peer-reviewed globally indexed journals.

He is enthusiastically motivated and committed to is work, and has a passion for science, writing, ardent reading, maintaining optimum health, and business. He  always takes out time to expand his knowledge on the subject. From his perspective, “One key all doctors must strive to master is communication. We have much to lose and plenty to gain by reflecting on and adjusting how we communicate to the world. In a nutshell, I believe in optimization, positive action and constant never-ending learning.” 

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