Hey, Docs, What Took You So Long?

Here’s the thing about doctors. We are stuck in our ways. We are slow to change. We are cautious when it comes to ‘progress.’ And we are busy, too busy to pay attention to the world moving forward around us. This absolutely perfect interaction between Warren Buffet and Bill Clinton in the twitter-sphere reminded me of this. One day soon we docs will wake up, and someone somewhere will shout, ‘What took you so long?’

Someone’s going to say that to me one day (would that it were Bill Clinton!), ‘Reena, what took you so long?’ My tour of introspection over the last few years has led me to this understanding. Time’s up. Enough thinking. Time for action. I have been on the path, climbing the proverbial ladder. But it’s time to stop climbing and to start doing.

Here’s another thing about doctors. Most of us want to do good. We want to help people. But too few of us wake up and think, ‘I want to change the world.’ It’s turns out there is has been a proliferation of people who want to change the world. And they’re not doctors. So who are they? According to this article, a study of LinkedIn profiles reveals they are entrepreneurs and they largely live in the San Francisco bay area. Egotistical? Yes indeed, but let’s face it – Facebook, Twitter, and others have changed the world.

Docs, it’s time for us to get on the ‘change the world’ bandwagon.

But how? Well, I recently read Dan Schawbel’s Forbes interview of Gary Keller, cofounder of Keller Williams Realty and author of the new book The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Short of reading the book, I was still able to glean this one lesson from the interview alone. You have to figure out what your one thing is, focus relentlessly, and just do it.

Here’s my one thing. And here’s how we docs are going to change the world. Health care is not about health. Don’t be fooled. Our health care system is really a disease care system.  What we really need is a system that fills the chasm between doctors visits, that capitalizes on the rest of life to find ways to help our patients help themselves get healthy and stay healthy. And to do so in the context of each individual’s life, in concert with that person’s goals and needs, and in the manner which best fits with the way they live. I want to find that sweet spot, and it lives at the intersection of wellness, well-being, and health.

Take the example of a company called AbilTo and its founder and CEO, Michael Laskoff. Michael understood that recovery from major life changes, illness or otherwise, is challenging, and that our current system is not set up to help people cope when they are most at need and in the manner in which they are most likely to engage, in their homes. 

This is not rocket science. It’s about getting un-stuck. It’s about being willing to change. It’s about finding innovative ways to help people not just fight disease when it occurs, but to reduce the likelihood of it coming back, or better yet, never developing in the first place. To my eye, it’s about capitalizing on all that empty, wasted space between interactions with the ‘health’ care system.

The world is moving forward around us doctors, and we need to move forward with it. We need to work with entrepreneurs and engineers and venture capitalists. With politicians and advocates. We need to focus relentlessly on identifying the big challenges in medicine and working collaboratively to fix them. Not just tweak the existing system, but profoundly change the system. I second David Shaywitz’s voice in his recent Forbes article entitled ‘Hope, Hype, and Health in Silicon Valley:’

My hope is that we’re inspired by technologies and ambitions of Silicon valley to go beyond the creation of more efficient healthcare processes and more consistent service delivery – as important and difficult as these goals are – and learn how to develop profoundly improved therapies, that cure – or better yet, prevent – disease and disability.

We need to capitalize on the current ‘change the world’ energy out there and harness the humanity of docs. Hey docs, what took us so long? Let’s do it.

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