Recently, I was asked to help find a speaker for a gathering of Healthcare IT innovators and professionals in the Kansas City area. The group was put together in collaboration with the economic development efforts in the community. As I reviewed the people that had been instrumental to my thinking, a select few names came to the top of the list, and we chose Dr. David Voran, M.D., Family Practitioner and Medical Director of Clinical Quality Improvement at Heartland Health System. Dr. Voran is one of the most innovative thinkers in healthcare today. Each time I hear him speak, I think and I learn. This time was no different.
Dr. Voran spoke on a broad range of topics related to the future of healthcare and the role innovations in technology will play for patients and providers. He spoke of embracing a patient’s ability to explore and self-direct care—recognizing personal responsibility plays a big role in the future of healthcare. He spoke of technology targeting individuals, not big institutions, and innovators thinking small to do big things. He recognized doctors, insurers and governments can’t change lifestyle disease cycles—only the individual, with the help of feedback loops, can change personal behavior—but the system must deliver when individuals do their part. He referenced the need to disrupt the rigid barriers in care created by professional boundaries—it drives up costs and limits access to care. Finally, he stated that incentives for care must be reviewed—are we paying health professionals to do what we want them to do?
While all of these points were interesting, what was more intriguing to me is the consistency of Dr. Voran’s core values, as I’ve experienced him over the last fifteen years. He has been remarkably consistent in both explaining his beliefs and holding true to them over the years. In doing so, he has demonstrated a degree of professionalism and commitment that is admirable.
I started thinking about a few philosophical questions. How long do you have to know a person before you recognize their personal core values? What behaviors and actions demonstrate their personal commitment to those core values? What happens when the collective profession or leadership of an organization move adversely as compared to an individual’s core values? How do ethical and principled people act when that occurs?
Listening to Dr. Voran, it seems to me that healthcare providers, patients and policymakers are on a collision course related to core values—technology will be the highway and innovators the pace car. The years ahead will reveal the core values held by individuals, professionals, organizations and government—and I suspect a stark contrast will be on display from one group to the next. I believe, as consumers of healthcare, we will see the greatest examples of personal character along with the most disappointing of character flaws. At the core of our nation’s challenges is the fact that healthcare and the supporting businesses around healthcare delivery have become big money. At the same time, individuals may desire freedom of choice, but with that comes responsibility and a willingness to accept the outcome of decisions. In between all of that is a government that wants to hide from the financial realities of an aging population and policies which have ultimately slowed the growth of our economy.
Questions for America: Will we become creative and innovate or will we wallow in the current circumstances? Where will we stand when core values are challenged by the defensive nature of our current system? Will we hide behind rules and policy in order to not have to make hard choices?
Although each of us will have different ideas for what will fix America’s healthcare dilemma, the key aspect will be our personal commitment to our core values.