What if health care…?

For over a year I’ve been the accidental manager of a community garden. All I did — I swear — is point out an open plot of land and people started pitching in, planting, asking friends to join them. All of a sudden we’d transformed a bare patch into something beautiful.Sunflowers

I thought for sure that interest would wane. I’d be left with a lovely little garden to tend on my own and I’d probably let it go after a while. But new people kept showing up to help. I frankly wasn’t ready but they came in, planted new flowers, and invited their friends to come over. They expanded the original plot and just kept going.

OK, so, before I take the metaphor too far, I should reveal that I’m not talking about a real garden. The community didn’t plant flowers. They planted ideas about what health care could be like if we remade it, without regard for money, politics, or any other reality.

What if we could create a better chronic care system by harnessing inherent motivation & collective intelligence of patients & clinicians? #whatifhc – @C3NProject

What if more Americans accepted that shopping at farmer’s markets costs less than food courts in the long term? #whatifhc – @GoalsGamified

What if people actually took the advice of public health: stop smoking, get outside, eat fresh food, reconnect with friends? #whatifhc – @klimaz

What if looking at my medical information and records were as easy as checking my email? #whatifhc – @MeganHatch

I didn’t grasp the importance of what we were doing until I read this post by Seth Godin: Paracosms, loyalty and reality in the pursuit of creative problem solving. As he writes:

“The most effective, powerful way to envision the future is to envision it, all of it, including a future that doesn’t include your sacred cows. Only then can you try it on for size, imagine what the forces at work might be and then work to either prevent (or even better, improve on) that future and your role in it.”

A simple hashtag — #whatifhc — became a portal to an imaginary future. Hundreds of people stepped through it, playing the game, adding to the daisy chain of dreams.

Some of my favorite moments are when people respond to each other, like this exchange:

What if health care wasn’t scary and actually fun? #whatifhc – @frandickson

To that end, I’ve tried for my son…  bit.ly/Calmer-MJH #whatifhc – @savingcase

It turns out that Melissa Hogan (aka @savingcase) has written a book filled with strategies designed to reduce medical trauma for a child facing multiple treatments.

I also loved seeing contributions from corporations and government entities:

What if health care brought forward holistic, innovative, valued solutions that help patients, providers + payers improve healthcare? #whatifhc – @GSKUS (GlaxoSmithKline US)

What if health care invested more resources to promote and communicate disease prevention strategies? #whatifhc – @NCIHINTS (National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey)

I’ve learned about initiatives I’d never heard of before, like the International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare. And I’ve thought about whether #whatifhc could turn into something more — a cohesive list, a more organized conversation, or even a movement toward reform.

But I decided that’s not my role. I’m not an activist. I’m not a policymaker. I’m a researcher. I ask questions and make connections. I’ll keep the gate open to our friendly, community paracosm for as long as people want to contribute to it. You never know who you might meet in the neighboring plot, as you plant your idea. You never know what kind of magic seed your idea may turn out to be, reaching to the skies like a beanstalk.

So, what’s your health care dream? Tweet it with the #whatifhc hashtag and I’ll add it to the growing Storify. Post it here in the comments or start your own garden plot on Facebook, Google+, or elsewhere.


Posted in: hc's problem list | positive patterns | reforming hc





14 Responses to “What if health care…?”

  1. Thank you SO much for curating that Storify! I was going to link to the entire whatifHC stream on Tweetchat, but your Storify is such a gift.

    > ’ll keep the gate open to our friendly, community paracosm
    > for as long as people want to contribute to it.

    Except that in public conversations, you can’t lock people out – you’ve created something persistent that can live and spread and doesn’t belong to you. That’s transformative.

    And both the automated-forever stream in Tweetchat, and your “best of” Storify, make it easy for people to check back. Thank you.

    • Susannah Fox says:

      True! There have been weeks when I forgot to check #whatifhc and update the Storify, only to find out that there were a bunch of great ideas that had scrolled away. I felt sorry about that, like I hadn’t been a good host or manager.

      This post is a declaration that I want to keep helping to spark ideas and archive them, but it’s ALSO a declaration that this thing doesn’t belong to me, and never did. I’d love to see other people’s curation of #whatifhc. What does it mean to you?

  2. Cheryl Handy says:

    Nice post. It would be so awesome if we could convince people that a hamburger off the dollar menu isn’t a deal. Farmers markets are deals.

    As a patient advocate, I will have fun #whatifhc.

    Thank you for your voice.

    • Susannah Fox says:

      Thank you! That was one of my favorites — I need to let Becky (@GoalsGamified) that I mentioned it here.

      Please do have fun with #whatifhc – can’t wait to see what you share.

  3. Joe McCarthy says:

    “All I did …”? With all due respect, I think this vastly underestimates the value you bring to this community.

    You’ve probably encountered Kevin Marks’ insightful observations about Here Comes Everybody – Tummlers, Geishas, Animateurs and Chief Conversation Officers help us listen before, but I wanted to share the following excerpt that I think highlights one of your many contributions to this community:

    The key to this [the deep changes that ridiculously easy group forming online has wrought] is finding people who play the role of conversational catalyst within a group, to welcome newcomers, rein in old hands and set the tone of the conversation so that it can become a community. … The communities that fail, whether dying out from apathy or being overwhelmed by noise, are the ones that don’t have someone there cherishing the conversation, setting the tone, creating a space to speak, and rapidly segregating those intent on damage.

    • Joe, you just did a BIG service to this movement. One of the key things I’ve been wanting to research has been the difference between communities that mature into value and those that don’t.

      Most people say it’s effective moderators. I see the value of that, and I’ve been one. But this article puts more brain & formality to that. Thank you!

    • And, illustrating the value of “connector” types like you, I’m astounded to see that that’s a 2008 article!

    • Susannah Fox says:

      Thanks, Joe! This gave me a boost of confidence as I was heading into the WAMU studio for the Kojo Nnamdi Show today.

      You’re right, there is an important role for conversation starters and tenders. But it feels funny to claim that title. I’ll work on that :)

  4. Great post! Thanks so much for mentioning the International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare. We asked: “What if we made universal core values the foundation of all healthcare?”

    Over the past several years, we have been working to restore the human dimensions of care – the universal core values that should be present in every healthcare interaction – to healthcare around the world. We created the International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare. We are translating the Charter’s values into practice, education and research.

    We invite everyone to take a look at the Charter and to join us in our work!

    You can also find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/InternationalCharterForHumanValuesInHealthcare

    Thank you.

  5. Brenda says:

    It’s interesting to see a company like GlaxoSmithKlein promote natural and holistic healthcare options.

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