“Disruption” sounds so ominous, don’t you think? “Transformation,” on the other hand, conjures images of melting snow and cherry blossoms and lengthening days. There’s a warmth to the word.

It’s comforting to think of the current period in health care as a transformation, one in which opportunity and optimism reign even amid all the tumult. We finally have the chance to transform a complex, disjointed, costly enterprise into a true system and, in the process, deliver better care to more people.

The process is certainly wide-ranging, driven by numerous forces. For instance, our April cover story, beginning on Page 22, describes new medical technologies that seem to come directly from science fiction: 3-D printers that produce skin cells and artificial ears and organs; patches and sensors that monitor vulnerable patients at home without interruption; Google Glass is being used to tend to trauma patients before they reach the hospital. These and many more are improving care delivery and the patient experience.

The second installment of “The New Health Care Consumer” series [Page 30] considers how old business models are being upended as more and more people actively shop for coverage and care. Convenience and cost now trump loyalty, and the ability to choose and change insurers is particularly … er … disruptive.

The transformation is making us smarter, too. “Partners in Population Health” [Page 34] looks at how hospitals are working more closely with local public health departments to identify community needs and develop effective strategies to meet those needs.


Random Musings

Sorry, Sister

I haven’t been upbraided by a nun since I tried sneaking a Tootsie Roll in kindergarten class 50-odd years ago. Then last month Sister Laura Wolf emailed me her displeasure about mislocating Holy Family Memorial. And, boy, did I deserve it. In my March column I put the organization in Sheboygan, Mich., which we changed to Sheboygan, Wis., on the Web. Trouble is, it’s in Manitowoc, Wis. Sister Laura leads Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries Inc., which oversees Holy Family Memorial. I’ve been to Manitowoc, a lovely community on Lake Michigan that enjoys a mutually supportive relationship with the health network.

Deadlier than cancer?

“The American people [need] to demand that they are not going to buy a steak soaked in antibiotics,” says one person quoted in Julia Belluz’ March Vox piece, “7 scary facts about antibiotic-resistant superbugs.” Belluz writes that we know how but stupidly refuse to do enough to stem the crisis that could kill 10 million people a year worldwide by 2050, compared with 8.2 million deaths from cancer.

For good measures

As providers are called upon to publicly report on more quality measures, we need to look out for unintended consequences. For instance, Paula Span in the March 3 New York Times notes that 30-day mortality as a measure of surgical success “may actually undermine appropriate care, especially in older adults.” It may discourage surgery for patients who could benefit, Span writes, and sentence “others to long stays in ICUs and nursing homes.”