“I’m going to the sun,” my TWO-and-a-half-year-old daughter confidently declared. She said it so casually, as if she was letting me know that she was going to the playground.
Thinking I could use this as a great parenting opportunity and push my toddler to think through her decisions, I replied in a concerned tone: “Sweetie, the sun is really, really hot. What are you going to do about that?”
She replied effortlessly, as if the solution had always been right there in front of me, and somehow I had failed to see it, “I’m going to wear a really, really big hat!”
Later that night, I was reflecting on the little exchange with my daughter. Why had I been so determined to point out to her that it was impossible to travel to the sun? After all, two is the age to dream and imagine. As we grow up, why do we stop believing that we can do anything, absolutely anything, we imagine?
Since I started working as a hospitalist in 2007, the state of healthcare has been in constant turmoil and distress. Everyone, from providers to policymakers to patients, has been critical about the current state of our healthcare system. Many are concerned with the future, too. In fact, headlines regularly describe healthcare as “deficient,” “error-prone,” “deadly,” “bankrupt,” or “wasteful.”
This is not the vision of the medical profession that I had when I was an idealistic medical student. I was filled with aspirations of curing the sick, alleviating suffering, and helping to make the world a better place.
Don’t get me wrong…I get it. Hospitals, hospitalists, and all forms of care providers have a long way to go before we provide the highest quality of care at a cost our nation and our patients can afford. But in the critical evaluation of the current state of healthcare, where is the positive beacon of hope?
When did we, providers of care, stop believing that we could do anything, absolutely anything, to improve the state of healthcare?
Over the past decade, numerous innovations have been introduced to address the deficiencies in our system. However, efforts to come together as a medical profession and address these issues systematically have been lacking. And new initiatives, such as the ABIM Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign, are still in the early stages of widespread acceptance and adoption.
We have come a long way from the witchcraft of early healers and the barber-surgeons of medieval times. Modern medicine comes from a tradition of discovering the germ theory, eradicating polio, sequencing the entire genome, and performing simultaneous multiple organ transplantation. Providers are more than healers of the individual patient; they are healers of populations. By advancing health, they have enabled societies to thrive, grow, discover, and innovate. We shoulder significant responsibility, and our impact has shaped the course of human history.
Despite the stated challenges in healthcare, I’d like to think this is our finest hour, our time to shine. We have a rare and unique opportunity to completely reinvent the system and redefine the practice of medicine—to transform it from how it is practiced to how it should be delivered: high quality, high value, patient-centered, yet population-focused. This goes beyond ensuring that every patient with acute myocardial infarction receives an aspirin or working to prevent surgical site infections. This opportunity affords us the possibility to deliver extraordinary care.