Since the early 1970s or so, healthcare in the U.S. has advanced exponentially—but so have costs. But at the same time, it’s become more and more accepted, or even expected, to game the system.
Face it: “code maximizing” and other strategies made sure hospitals and medical offices got as much for each patient visit, procedure, or follow up as possible. Likewise, patients used the emergency department for their visits to avoid having to schedule an appointment. And while high co-pays and urgent care clinics have offset a small portion of this overuse, it still happens, contributing to unsustainable costs.
The system was front-loaded to encourage and force certain types of behavior from the healthcare establishment. Preventive care, maintenance visits, low dose medication, regular monitoring, weight loss, wellness—these common-sense approaches had low or no reimbursement. In effect, patients with no problems had no value to the system. A quadruple bypass procedure was fully reimbursable in ways a prescription for healthy eating and exercise was not.
The system we have now—and that we are desperately struggling to fix—was born of that mentality. Right or wrong, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a first step toward reform, but like with any major shift, the change must reach everyone, everywhere as it drives new methods of delivery and accountability.
Of course you’ve got to put socks on before your shoes, and the same might be true of healthcare as well. And, make that, your #pinksocks. Just as Nick Adkins started by giving them away last year at the annual HIMSS Conference, and watching the humorous gesture make a real effect. Healthcare professionals analysts, executives, clinicians, and researchers alike are enjoying the inside joke and having a laugh at themselves.
The pink socks he gives away relate to Adkins’ revelatory experience at the Burning Man festival, and demonstrate the principle of gifting—a relatively simple idea that’s one of 10 principles that govern the yearly desert music gathering.
What do pink socks, a desert music festival, and healthcare have to do with each other? In this case: everything. The socks signal a new way of thinking about healthcare, one that relies less on competition, and more on collaboration. Less on secrecy, and more on creativity. Less on institutional habits, and more on finding what works. Less on the business of healthcare that has taken the attention away from why we’re all here to begin with—the patient.
Or, as Nick would say simply, “love more, fear less.”
Yes they’re just socks, but they’re playful, creative, and disruptive. And lots of visionaries are wearing them—from Eric Topol to Jonathan Bush to zDoggMD to Rasu Shrestha and everywhere in between—talking about what the future of healthcare should look like as a result. The principles behind those unique pink knee socks with the black mustaches shows that when we share good things, they spread—that together, as one, we can make a difference across this industry and for health of our world. Imagine making positive healthcare changes that way, because those socks sum it all up.
“To achieve the promise of new approaches (new models) to healthcare,” Nick says, “it will take all of us—technology companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, research centers, patients, providers—all working together towards a common goal.”
That kind of thinking is also coming from the nation’s highest office, too. In his final State of the Union address, President Obama noted that change (progress) is not inevitable, but rather is the “result of choices we make together.” Those shared choices, he noted, could lead to turning inward in fear—or facing the future confidently together, and using technology to solve our most urgent challenges.
The #pinksocks movement aims to take healthcare to its basic principles, too—away from coding, reimbursement, and bottom-line—and back to where it should have always been: on the patient, on the consumer, on the person. With it comes the recognition that patient-centered care is no longer good enough, and rather that person-centered care is what we need to reinvigorate a broken system. But there also needs to be a re-emphasis on continuity of care and an added focus on not only the patient, but also the family as a whole, and even the social determinants of health (SDoH). No longer can we look just at the person in front of us, but we must reach deep into the their environment so that an individual’s lifelong health and well-being can be supported through holistic care. This will allow us to start re-delivering healthcare that works, healthcare that is safe and high-quality, and healthcare that, quite simply, leaves no one behind.
It involves communication, and coaching, and engagement, though. Except healthcare has lost touch with that, we have become disconnected from the patient. Today’s “consumer” is not only plugged in, but wireless—and takes care of business—including health—on a smartphone. Healthcare is starting to happen like everything else—in the palm of your hand. Yet healthcare providers continue to act in the same old ways—aggravating patients-consumers who want to be in charge of their own care—from
records, to treatment decisions, to appointment times and locations. With this type of anywhere, anytime access and engagement comes the possibility of better compliance and adherence, making healthcare’s new goals of value and accountability a reality.
Now this change is going to be much more difficult than putting on a pair of ridiculously pink socks. But that simple act demonstrates just how fast a good idea will spread, if it’s given a chance—and a little push—by healthcare professionals who aren’t afraid of embracing change. Even if it’s just a change of socks.