By Kim Adams for Enlivening Edge Magazine
As an RN, a 30-year veteran of healthcare services, a change agent, and an avid enthusiast of Teal, I consider two imperatives must be addressed for healthcare to truly evolve its way out of our current crisis. In order to embody wholeness, self-management, and evolutionary purpose, healthcare entities must:
- Focus on Health AND
- Focus on People before Entity
Focus on health
Current standard practice in healthcare today is a focus on disease: its treatment and management. Healthcare as we know it was largely formatted early in the Industrial Revolution. At that time, acute bacterial diseases and injuries were the top killers and hence top priority. The arrival of antibiotics, pharmaceuticals in general, and surgery gave doctors the ability to “fix” these acute ailments and return people to close semblance of pre-sickness state of health.
Moving forward to today, acute problems no longer dominate. They have been supplanted by many long-term, chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and many more. These chronic conditions can’t be “fixed” by current practice, so care is focused on symptom management using mainly drugs and surgery. This is essentially a Blue-Orange, reductionist perspective and now is serving as our financial, social and personal undoing in healthcare.
The single most important fact about chronic illnesses is that up to 80% can be prevented or reversed by changes to lifestyle choices: nutrition, exercise, stress management, work environment, emotional support, spiritual well being and surrounding community impacts.
In other words, chronic disease needs to be treated by addressing Health of the Whole Person. Our current Blue-Orange system is seriously unprepared for this shift, and it is the first part of the true evolutionary challenge of healthcare today. Thus we have 2 of the 3 Teal requirements contained in a Focus on Health: wholeness and evolutionary purpose. Self-management comes next.
Focus on people before entity
Going back to the Industrial Revolution, healthcare systems were largely designed with the principles of factory production lines. The modern hospital is essentially a treatment production line, with the various care providers applying services in linear sequence and relative isolation.
In an industrial production model, the factory itself is the important entity and the people are essentially replaceable cogs in the machine. Indeed, many healthcare professionals feel a great deal like replaceable cogs. A myth abounds that if the entity is prioritized, it will look after the people. This has not proved to be the case, whereas if the people are prioritized, they do look after the entity, and the entity thrives. This has been well demonstrated, especially by Teal organizations.
Interestingly, Green organizations tried to pull this off, with their focus on social equity, caring and mission-centric endeavors, largely still seen in the nonprofit world today. Unfortunately, Green organizations did not present us with a viable option as they have been plagued by weak leadership (no tough Blue-Orange leaders here) locked into ineffectual consensus-driven decision-making. The big leaps forward in Teal have been the decision-making processes combined with shared leadership that makes decisive, high-functioning productivity a reality, without the inhumanity and narcissism of Blue-Orange.
To shift from a Blue-Orange industrial mentality, the focus on the factory (aka the hospital, clinic, etc.) has to be supplanted by a focus on the people. A focus on the people brings with it the reality of the very human, non-cog factors for providers like teamwork, communication, innovation, and fulfillment of career purpose.
A focus on people also brings with it the need of the patients to return to health instead of being trapped in the production line of symptom management. The industrial, non-personal focus has kept the awareness of both providers and patients from the growing imperative to shift to the necessarily collaborative, multi-dimensional needs of Whole Person Health. Buurtzorg has given us a wonderful step forward as a person-focused model, but there is more work to be done.
Creating self-managing, multi-professional teams focused on the Whole Person Health needs of patients is the evolving future, AND a definition of Next Stage Healthcare.
Hospitals and healthcare systems are facing intractable financial crises as cases of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc., continue to grow out of control. Bringing this dual-focused concept of Next Stage Healthcare to life will not only solve the financial crisis, but will also create a far healthier society. This is truly the evolutionary purpose of healthcare today.