The absence of burnout does not equal wellness. While the focus on physician burnout as an epidemic is finally gaining more attention, we may be missing a larger issue. Most physicians are not burned out. We are able to function. We get through our days, make it to some of our kids’ activities and even manage to go out to dinner on the weekends. We survive the work week as we look forward to our next vacation. We do this because that is what we have always done. We put our heads down and do our work. We often project ourselves past the next exam or to the next stage of our lives to help us get through the stress. We become masters of delayed gratification. We develop the mindset of “I’ll be happy when…” I get into medical school or match into a good residency spot or make partner or have enough money to retire etc…Along the way, we may have some bright spots – falling in love, having kids, taking great vacations. We may even reward ourselves for our hard work with a new car or nicer house. We deserve it. But deep inside, “something is missing”. We have achieved most, if not all of the goals we have set for ourselves. Yet despite our hard work, many of us remain unfulfilled with our careers and often with our lives. What is it that we need? A better job with more money? A different car? A different title? Better vacations?
I have struggled with these questions and many more. How do I stop wanting what I don’t have and start wanting what I do have? How can I fully enjoy the present while also preparing for a better future? How can I spend quality time with my kids while they are still around? How can I have a career that uses all of my potentials? Of all the questions that I’ve asked myself, the most important one was this – How can I learn to flourish and not just function?
Fortunately, I found answers in the relatively new field of Positive Psychology which is the scientific study of human flourishing. Unlike traditional psychology which alleviates distress and moves a patient from a -8 to a 0 or +1 (if they are lucky), positive psychology focuses on a patient that is functioning at a +1 and tries to move them to a +8 on the flourishing scale. We need both areas of focus. There are many people that are functioning well by most standards but are nowhere near their potential level of fulfillment.
When a family member was a new mom she called me concerned about her 7-day old baby’s breathing.I almost sent them to the ER. Then she asked me if we could FaceTime. What I saw was a warm, pink, dry baby looking around, looking quite well to me. I was able to tell that she had no labored breathing, no retractions or nasal flaring. She just had a little stuffy nose. I had been answering questions, treating minor ailments and triaging the acutely ill for several years via text, but it was in that moment that I knew the iPhone and other smartphone devices would fundamentally and forever change the way physicians can deliver our services.
Fast forward to next year. An estimated 2 billion people will have smartphones across the world in 2016. Industries are being transformed radically by the widespread uptake of these devices. Healthcare will be no different and will continue to move toward more virtual care enabled by smartphones. As the example above demonstrates, it makes sense for both care and economics.Virtual care and telemedicine worldwide is expected to be a $34 B market by 2020 according to Mordor’s Market Intelligence, with the US accounting for 40% of that, nearing $15 Billion in the next five years. Several early stage tele-medicine companies have raised many millions of dollars in the last several months.
Payment reforms are driving the market toward value-based care and will only accelerate the use of telemedicine via smartphone. Many new forms of payment for medical services are emerging that are not tied to the legacy fee-for-service reimbursement model. Patients are paying more out of pocket and therefore have increasingly aligned interests with payers to reduce costs while achieving better overall health. These changes are, in turn, driving the empowered healthcare consumers’ demand for a better experience and convenience.
About four years ago here in Beantown, survivors of the last big ill-conceived or poorly-executed (depends who you ask) wave of health care management and finance innovation were kicking around for a new approach to aligning payor and provider incentives, focusing on quality and cost containment. To hear Andrew Dreyfus, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, tell the story, the Blues wanted to address both quality and cost, and therefore (after looking in vain for a model elsewhere that could be transplanted to Massachusetts) developed the Alternative Quality Contract, or AQC, which features a global payment model hybridized with substantial performance incentives, plus design features intended to lower the cost of care over time.
Many of the features put in place under the AQC will allow participating provider networks in Massachsuetts to make the leap to ACO (once the beast is defined by the federales), despite the difference in payment methodology (global cap for AQC vs. FFS for ACO).
I was invited to hear Andrew present the AQC story this week together with Gene Lindsey, CEO of Atrius Health, a Massachusetts multispecialty physician network of some 700 physicians that participates in the AQC. (Atrius’ largest group is Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, whose docs used to be employed by Harvard Community Health Plan, the pioneering staff model HMO ’round these parts.)Continue reading…