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Researcher

Failure is Under-Rated

By | Advocate, Caregiver, ePatient, Leader, Musician, Researcher | 2 Comments

I’ve told my teams over the years, if we don’t fail several times a week we’re not pushing the envelope and not doing our jobs. We weren’t tightrope walkers, pushing IV meds, or manufacturing artificial joints. We were innovators, learners, and leaders. Failure as a virtue is a hard sell – to almost anyone. My teams, my colleagues in leadership, editorial review boards always start by thinking I’m crazy.  Sometimes they eventually get it, sometimes not. Leadership usually wants to get A’s. In one health system I worked for, I reported that we successfully completed medication reconciliation in 40% of admissions. OMG, that’s awful! They said.  No, I said, that’s great! We’re failing. Let’s succeed. In 18 months we completed medication reconciliation 70% of the time.  It’s a lot harder to go from 70% to 80% than 40% to 70%. In research, we don’t publish when the study doesn’t prove the hypothesis. Yet, not proving is as important, if not more important, than proving. I was on an Editorial Review Board once that decided to solicit articles where the hypothesis wasn’t proven and something was learned. Over a 10-year span, we solicited exactly 0 such articles. Zero!

A definition of failure to some is the opposite of success. Not necessarily. Especially when it comes to learning and getting healthier. We don’t tell kids they fail when they fall learning to walk. They keep trying.  Same with learning to talk. As an adult, I find failure a motivator to try again.  As a thinker and a catalyst for change, I’m delighted when I succeed with 30% of what I try. It’s been the rare boss that’s accepted that. They’ve been the best bosses and we’ve done the best work together in my career.

For health, embrace failure. I did eye exercises twice a day for 8 months before my brain rewired and my crippling double vision cleared 80%. That’s 360 failures and one success! It’s taken years of trial and error to land on a balance, stretching, and strengthening routine that works for me. I stumble a lot, fall infrequently, and sustain only minor injuries when I do. I get frustrated when I see failure and stuck in the muck. Fail and try something else, that’s the ticket.

Failure flavors humility and empathy.  My best stories are of failure – my failures. People laugh with me.  We can all relate to failure. It’s the warp of our lives. Hearing about a failure, we naturally ask, and then? What happened next?  What did you learn? What did you try? What eventually worked?

So, failure, persistence, and humor are inseparable cronies. Keep trying and chuckle at the absurdity. That‘s life, health, music – anything worth doing well.  Persist and laugh. Eventually, who knows?

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

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Health Hats: Reflecting on 2017

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, Leader, Researcher | No Comments

Since I stopped being an employee or a boss two years ago I’ve written annual reports for myself. I had written ones for my boss and staff for 25 years straight. I thought I’d keep it up now that I’m retired from that. Helps me be sure that my work serves my mission. With so much to do in this sick, sickness industry, it’s easy to feel disappointed and burned out. Fortunately, I’ve made a career of beating low expectations – starting with something truly disappointing and finding the small thing that can have an outsized impact by moving that something a lasting inch. I call them levers for best health. I’ve found that drinking water has the most outsized impact for best health. Anyway, the annual report helps me keep a pulse on the balance between impactful work and stoking my fires while managing my health and having fun. It’s an inspiring strange ride. Thanks for being on the ride with me. I couldn’t do it without the personal inspiration of my immediate family (Ann, Simon, Ruben, Jessica, Kate, Anica, Jacky, Leon, and Oscar) and my friends (Mary Sue, Sue, Michael, Kathy, Fatima, Regina, John, Geri, MaryAnne, and Pat). Read More

A Vision of Paying for Value

By | Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient, Family man, Researcher, Uncategorized | One Comment

I’m the child, Custodian and Healthcare Proxy of my 89-year-old mother, Alice. I live in a different state. My mother has diabetes and is depressed. Her care team, beside herself and me, includes medical providers in various health settings, community support agencies, and a full-time caregiver that helps her schedule and get to health-related services. My problem is to understand what my mother wants for herself and to track who says they’re doing something for her (including my mother and me), what they’re doing, and when they’re doing it. I want to know what it takes to do it (Can she afford it? Can she get there? Does it agree with her? Who will be with her? etc.). I want to know if the actions have the effects we thought they would. I want to know what her risks are and how we plan to prevent or respond to them. I want to able to keep track of all this and keep it current. I want to share it or have it shared from day-to-day and from setting to setting even if I’m not present.

This scenario describes a vision of healthcare for a caregiver and his mother. The vision lives in a context of social circumstances, physical environment, individual behavior, genetics, and medical care – the determinants of health. In the best of circumstances, healthcare dollars pay for this vision of best health for people, their families, and communities.

The goals of any payment method should be to reward high-quality care and to permit the development of more effective ways of delivering care to improve the value obtained for the resources expended. These goals are relevant regardless of whether care is delivered in a predominantly competitive or regulated environment, and whether the ultimate purchaser is an employer or the patient/ consumer. Payment policies should not create barriers to improving the quality of care. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Quality of Health Care in America. Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 8, Aligning Payment Policies with Quality Improvement. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK222279/

This means that payment systems for treatment and services recognize quality (best health), support improvement and reward stakeholders (patients, caregivers, clinicians, institutions, and insurers) for the process and outcomes of best health. Read More

CEO of My Health Team

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient, Family man, Leader, Researcher | One Comment

I am the CEO (Chief Executive Officer, the boss) of my health team with a ton of subcontractors: my primary care doc and her practice, my neurologist and his practice, the radiology department at my local hospital, the neighborhood pharmacy, the utility companies… You get the idea. They get paid through my employment benefits, your and my taxes, and out of my pocket. Right now I directly employ my massage therapist and acupuncturist – fee-for-service. I also have pro bono team members: my wife (my care partner), my family, friends, and advisors.

As CEO of my health team, I try to lead and manage. Leading is building and fostering relationships, finding service providers as needed, setting health goals, coming up with a plan to meet my goals, and learning from our mistakes (what doesn’t work).  As a leader I find ways to share information among the team, and, of course, I fundraise and cheerlead. Leading is also about succession planning.  Who will lead when I can’t? Managing, on the other hand, is negotiating service agreements (contracts), actually seeing that the tasks in the plan happen as desired, maintaining the team and it’s connections, and trying to fix what isn’t working. It’s a tough system to lead and manage. It’s exhausting. I have some of the skills I need, but nowhere near all. There’s very little training for Health Team CEOs- no certificate or degree. The pay stinks. There’s no vacation. I can’t resign. Read More

CMS Quality Measures for People

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient, Informaticist, Leader, Researcher | 6 Comments

Payment for medical services is shifting from paying for volume (more visits, tests, visits, days = more money) to paying for value (quality of care). Makes sense. But what does value and quality of care mean? It means that physicians get paid an incentive (more money) for certain results (outcomes, process, actions). An example is readmission rates. If a physician’s patients are readmitted to a hospital after discharge more than most physicians, they don’t get the extra payment. There are roughly 1,000 of such quality measures. These quality measures are very important to us – people at the center of care (patients, caregivers, parents, direct care clinicians and staff) – because measurement strongly influences people and organizations who get paid for medical services. Following the money doesn’t necessarily mean better medical care, better health for us, better relationships among our healthcare teams, or better work life for our health professional partners.

I was nominated to sit on a CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services)/Battelle Quality Measurement Development Technical Advisory Panel (TEP). The TEP had its first meeting in Baltimore last week. I was one of 19 Panel members (and one of two with expertise in all four of the selection criteria -Consumer Perspective, Clinical Content, Performance Measurement, Coding and Informatics).  The TEP seeks to improve the process of developing measures. It isn’t trying to develop measures. The good news is that the TEP gelled as a team and the CMS/Battelle leaders seem open to, if not eager for, actionable advice. I am honored to have been asked to sit at this table.

As a Patient Activist and a change catalyst, I appreciate the formidable forces of inertia and the current business realities of the medical care industrial complex. What can little Danny van Leeuwen hope to accomplish? My goal in accepting this appointment is to find one lever that can move the Value-Based Measurement battleship three degrees toward value to people at the center of care. My superpower is to accept what is and go from there. After listening to my esteemed TEP colleagues, my perception of what is is:

  1. Measures serve to evaluate the performance of individual practitioners (not measure whether patients attain optimal health or how the team is functioning),
  2. Inertia is heading to further measure specificity by specialty and diagnosis (not toward the patient with more non-medical than medical determinants of health who is more than a sum of their diagnoses),
  3. Data for measurement exists primarily in claims, diagnostic systems, and Electronic Medical Records (much less patient-generated data and experience/perceptions of people at the center of care),
  4. Physicians bristle at the idea of being held accountable for anything they deem out of their control (rather than what can I do to contribute to improving whatever?),
  5. People at the center of care, insurers, and policymakers all feel ill at ease with uncertainty,
  6. Few, if any, incentives exist for data vendors to integrate their data (So patients, caregivers, and parents using the most health care dollars provide the bulk of communication at transitions in care, if they can do it at all),
  7. Testing measures in real-life seems to be an almost insurmountable challenge (so the link between measures and what they seek to measure and the link between measurement and value to patients is tenuous),
  8. Direct care clinicians are stressed and burning out – the proportion of time they spent documenting rather than caring is growing while they feel pressure to increase productivity (rather than technology helping to reverse those trends),

Jeesh. Houston, we have a problem. Read More

Transformational Leaders

Dragging or Walking?

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient, Researcher | 2 Comments

In its simplest form communication is who, what and how.  Who needs to communicate? What do they need to communicate? How will they communicate? Our healthcare depends on communication between all members of the health team. That communication exists in relationships.  What do people at the center of care and professionals in healthcare look for in their relationships? Much as with any relationship – access when needed, exchange of information, listening, respect, speaking the same language, understanding each other’s values and priorities, follow through. Not easy in the best of circumstances. I’m amazed that we expect consistently good communication in healthcare. How can there be? Communication in health care is fascinating! Anyway….

I am a member of the Academy of Communication in Healthcare. I went to Baltimore this week to attend the International Conference on Communication in Healthcare and the Health Literacy Annual Research Conference. My attendance was sponsored by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) as part of their Ambassador program.

My goodness, an International Conference on Communication in Healthcare!! Still my beating heart.

As in most healthcare conferences these days the buzzword is Patient-centered. Buzzwords are weird. They make me suspicious. Patient-centered often feels to me like health professionals dragging the patient into the center with them (as in making sure we understand them and do what they want). Sometimes, however, patient-centered appears to mean empathy (walking in someone else’s shoes). So what is it? Dragging or walking? Read More

Health Goals to Clinical Decisions (CDS)

By | Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient, Researcher | 2 Comments

It’s hard to reach personal health goals or solve medical problems without a plan.  Plans require decisions. Never-ending decisions (choices) in the health journey. Clinicians, researchers, and insurance companies study and use Clinical Decision Support (CDS) to help with the decision-making process. It’s a shortcut for using research (evidence) in the decision-making. Some talk about patient-centered decision support (see a definition at the bottom of this post). They’re trying to figure out how to help people to make decisions in two minutes of ten-minute visits. Yet, few patients or caregivers I’ve met ever talk about CDS.  So how can people understand the value and limitations of CDS? Read More

Learning What Works

Learning What Works

By | Caregiver, ePatient, Researcher | One Comment

One of my passions in life is Learning What Works for people on their health journey. As we travel, we make choices – endless choices.  Should I do A rather than B? Eat the brownie or don’t eat the brownie? Take a walk or don’t? Go to the doctor or wait until I feel worse? Fill the prescription the doctor wrote or don’t? Have surgery or wait and see? Stay home with my dad with dementia or arrange for home care? Or we make no decision at all (a decision in itself). Sometimes people search for help in making these choices. Help from professionals on their care team, from their care partner, from Dr. Google, from their mates or social network.

Learning what works is an experiment.

A person tries something – it worked or it didn’t – for them. To know it worked means that the person has an idea of what they are trying to accomplish (See my post on personal health goals). And that they think there’s a relationship between what they tried and what they accomplished (or didn’t). I have a fever, took an aspirin, and the fever dropped. I have heartburn, stopped eating chocolate, and now less heartburn. My MS symptoms are getting worse. I reduce manageable stress. My symptoms subside. What’s important in all this is that I know what I want, I try something, and I feel better or accomplish what I wanted (or didn’t). Some people, like me, have a written care plan and keep track with lists and spreadsheets. (See my post on planning personal care)  Most don’t. Read More

Cinderblocks4 – Medical Advocacy at its Best

By | Advocate, Caregiver, ePatient, Informaticist, Leader, Musician, Researcher | No Comments

 

Pound for pound, the best health conference! A rare combination of small, local, action-oriented, inspiring networking, and relaxing. 40-50 attendees met in Grantsville, Garrett County, MD, population 766, for three days. Regina Holliday of Walking Gallery fame organizes and breathes life into Cinderblocks. The older I get, the more I seek people who collaborate to solve local problems that matter to them.   50% of the 30 presentations were literally local – from Garrett County and immediate vicinity. The rest came from as far as France and LA, Oklahoma, Texas, Boston, and DC to learn what works for each other. A sample: Read More