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.
Almost no one looks at me on my health journey and says, “There goes the CEO of his health team.” People, if they see me at all, say, “there goes the patient.” Patient and CEO sound very different. My image of patient is barefoot with their bare butt showing while a CEO has a suit and bling.
Engaged clinicians, researchers, policymakers work hard to become more patient-centered. They draw pictures of health services in a circle around the patient in the middle. It’s odd. I’m uncomfortable in their center. I want them to be in their center. Pay attention to your work! I would rather that they fulfill the terms of their contract with me, learn how to be a guest on my health journey, and help me be a better CEO of my health team. Most of us are not that good at this stuff. I’m not that good at it and my life depends on it.
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