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“Why do you want to become a doctor?”

The lead interviewer asked as one of the first questions at my medical school entrance interview.  All healthcare professionals were asked this question, or a variation of it, during their interviews.  Invariably we all answered something to the effect of “because I want to help others”.  If not for a desire to be of service to others, why would we have chosen this profession?  As we trained within our respective professions, we learned to heal other humans.  Well what if it isn’t another human (ie a patient) that needs to be healed?  What if it is us that needs to be healed?  What if instead it is the system itself that now needs to be healed?  Here is where we experience #healthesystem.

Before exploring how we might #healthesystem, let’s first define what this system is in reality.  The healthcare system, at its core, is comprised of healthcare professionals, the system itself with its organization and structure, and the philosophy underlying the paradigm of care.  The professionals working within the system are the human element of the healthcare delivery system and includes many different types of providers, such as physicians, physician assistances, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and many others.  The system itself is the organizational and hierarchical structures within which these professionals practice, be it a hospital, private practice, or any other paradigm.  The philosophy of the healthcare system is the basic tenet underlying the manner in which these professionals practice and the system is structured.  The philosophy of the healthcare system is, in its most basic form, to identify illness or problems and provide treatment to address that which is identified.

There are many reasons why the healthcare system is in dire need of being healed.  In essence it is sick.   The illness being experienced by the system affects each of the three components outlined above.  Healthcare professionals are experiencing high levels of burnout as a result of working within the current system.  It is important to emphasize that this is not the fault of the individual, although there are strategies at the individual level which may be of assistance.  The organization and structure of the healthcare system is sick as manifested in the form of consumer (ie patient) lack of trust and confidence in the services provided by the system and the soaring and uncontrolled costs of providing that service.  The philosophy of the system is unwell because it has not evolved over time and does not emphasize promotion of health and wellness to the fullest extent possible.

Fortunately, there are many strategies that can be employed to improve the health care system.  This is where #healthesystem comes to the forefront.

Healthcare professionals can benefit from developing skills and habits that promote high performance.  These include mindset training, meditation, sleep, nutrition, exercise, and recovery.  Each of these strategies are employed in various other industries and serve to promote high performance.  Within the healthcare system, professionals working at high performance will be of greater benefit to their patients as the care provided will be optimal.  It will also benefit the individual professional since working at one’s highest level provides greater fulfillment and satisfaction.  In addition, these skills and habits will help decrease the risk for burnout.

While developing individual skills and habits will be beneficial, it is by no means a sufficient cure to the system.  Improving performance and decreasing the risk of burnout will help individual professionals, but only to a point.  There is a threshold beyond which the demands placed upon the healthcare professionals relative to the available resources will overwhelm even the most highly skilled individual.  This is why the structure and organization of the system must be changed as well.  The system must be adapted and evolved to come more in alignment with a culture that emphasizes promotion and development of healthcare professionals, both as providers and as humans.  Until this change occurs, there will always be an elevated risk of burnout to healthcare professionals and this will continue to produce the symptoms of decreased consumer trust and confidence, as well as increased costs.

Finally, we need to evolve the underlying philosophy of the system.  While there will always be a need to identify illness and provide treatment, the overall service provided will be greater by promoting health and wellness.  Not only will the service be improved, but the overall health of our population will be better.  Without health and wellness, no one is able to be at their best and by increasing the health of our population, we are all better positioned to pursue what is most important.

Gone are the days of the old system which has provided suboptimal patient service and experience and simultaneously negatively impacted healthcare professionals.  Let’s welcome a new and improved system wherein all individuals are provided with habit and skill development to promote health and wellness within a culture that supports and emphasizes this development amongst its healthcare professionals and consumers alike.

Let’s work together to #healthesystem

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