Respecting Our Elders has Gotten Us Nowhere

Doing things the way we were taught has stalled innovation in health care.

The apprentice nature of health care is amazing. Learning from doctors who have walked the walk gets us past the overwhelming amount of theoretical knowledge we learned in medical school and onto that boots-on-the-ground practical knowledge that help us survive.

And, it doesn’t stop at training. Most go on to join a practice where the senior partner runs the practice and helps guide you into an understanding of how to manage patients and run an office. It’s likely that they were very successful or they wouldn’t have risen to the role of managing partner. The only issue is that often they are doing things that worked 30 years ago whenever they joined the practice.

They actually have little incentive to change because holding onto status quo is working for them and getting to retirement without blowing everything up might (consciously or subconsciously) be the primary motivator.

So, how do we overcome this barrier to innovate health care?

1.Have masters that get it. Established physicians that recognize that their success depended upon taking good care of patients and responding to their needs. If a practice can understand that and make changes to their practice that reflect that understanding, we can move forward.

2.Have systems and practices that allow young physicians to try new things. A close cousin to the apprenticeship problem, is the risk-aversion problem. Supporting a physician with new ideas can help bring about change for the whole system.

3.Have patients that demand it…and listen to them. This shouldn’t be last. It should be first. But it’s true. If you are listening to what patients want and need from you, you cannot help but change.

The best strategy would combine all three ...

About the Author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles.Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in 2017.