ROCHESTER, Minn. — Health care leaders and practitioners should avoid the temptation to take a fantasy-football approach to care and care design: rigorously tracking the stats, but neglecting the human nuances that can matter most.
That was one of the many analogies made Sunday during the first day of the Mayo Clinic's Transform Symposium, this one made by journalist and moderator John Hockenberry. The common thread tying all of them together was the growing retail-like nature of health care, and the need to tailor care to each patient, however he or she desires.
You could be excused for drafting a player on your fantasy football team who scores touchdowns, but has a lengthy arrest record, said Hockenberry. But dwindling are the days when a doctor can provide textbook care at the clinic to a diabetic patient while ignoring the food desert he or she lives in or the patient's lack of a fridge in which to store insulin.
"As important as statistics and scientific measurements and metrics are in health care, the science of medicine is often a fantasy of what we believe or wish to be true about human beings and their health," Hockenberry told attendees. "The reality is what happens on the field, happens with real human beings who have lives outside of the game of football, just like they have lives outside their trip to the doctor's office or to the hospital or to the emergency room."
Mark Bertolini, the president and CEO of 44-million-member benefits company Aetna, too, emphasized the growing need to treat patients as consumers during his remarks. Patients are voting for new models with their feet, and increasingly taking their care to businesses that provide a more affordable and convenient experience, such as retail or urgent care clinics. The message they're sending to hospitals, loud and clear, is "I don't want to buy what you have. Unless I'm on death's door, I'm not going." Providers, too, could take a cue from Coca-Cola and its Freestyle beverage machine, which gives customers the exact amount and mix of soda they want. The bottling companies might not be crazy about the contraption, but consumers love it, Bertolini said.
Despite years of health reform, the system is still a fractured and confusing maze. Bertolini urged attendees to go watch this video detailing what the airline industry might look like if it were run like a hospital (which still seems as relevant today as it was when posted in January 2010). Rather than rearranging the furniture, health care leaders should figure how to completely reinvent the system around the patient. In the new reality, everything from social media to mobile technology will be used to help keep patients healthy, navigate the system and manage their health care costs.
For the chronically ill who use the system frequently — like Bertolini's son, who was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma in 2001 at the age of 16 — hospitals need a concierge form of medicine, surrounding patients with care managers to help navigate the system. "Had I not made it my job to manage my son's care, he would be dead today," he said.
Health care also must invest in wellness today, he said, even if it will take 20 to 25 years to see the payoff when less of the chronically ill show up in emergency rooms. And for the 75 to 80 percent of patients who use the hospital only occasionally for routine needs, providers must emphasize convenience and affordability, he added.
"We have to make it really simple for the people who use health care on an episodic basis … flu shots, lab tests, x-rays," Bertolini said. "They should be able to get them where they want them, when they want them, at their own cost and on their own time. It should fit into their life, versus their life having to fit into it."
Watch for continuing coverage of the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation's Transform 2014 on Tuesday and Wednesday.