From shared-decision making, patient-centered care and value-based care to common technology innovations, healthcare players often describe how we aspire healthcare to be in concepts, buzzwords, branding and what has become common lexicon mentioned in conversations across the healthcare industry. What do all these words mean? What are we all trying to say to one another? The essence of these words intends to capture what underlies layers of meaning baked into an ever-evolving complex health landscape, one as we’ve experienced individually and collectively over the decades.
It gets more nuanced. Then there is the history from managed care to consumer driven care and harking back to recreating medical home models resembling when the doctor treated us in our homes, we as an industry and nation continue to find ourselves redefining what care models look like “post-covid” as we try to build forward.
Let’s not get caught up in all the ebbs and flows of regulations, business and policy shifts as we define healthcare in all the moments that matter.
It takes a village – delivering upon health outcomes
As a mother to a young toddler, I reflect on the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” as I read a greeting card from a dear friend. Inside, the card continues “no one tells you where to find the village.” While I can certainly relate to modern motherhood demands, I realize the so-called village is a tale of cultures and history afar. Why is this the case, I ask myself?
We need each other. The case for needing a village to raise a child is equally compelling in healthcare — resembling the need of a village, a team-based and unified coordination of hearts and minds to care for every one of us. The Society for Participatory Medicine stands behind this very ethos. The interplay of dynamic factors from clinical, business and social factors to individuals and caregivers that must come together to deliver “quality care and patient outcomes” is multifaceted.
I share my personal family case in point. On a deeply terrifying day when my husband and I found our baby having what later was identified as a febrile seizure, a known medical situation when a young child’s temperature suddenly spikes from infection causing convulsions and seizures. It was our fortune that our nearby fire department paramedics addressed our 911 call and rushed to our panic distress. I later found myself riding in the front of the ambulance with my unconscious child to a referred and highly regarded hospital as a part of Northern Virginia’s Inova health system that specializes in pediatric care. I was surrounded by a team of emergency personnel including nurses, doctors and pulmonary specialists among others. In the ER room, I watched in horror at my little dear one tied up with tubes and needles, convulsing while the care team tried to control a second episode as I was trying hard to focus on answering the lead ER doctor’s questions as she gathered relevant information. It was only later through tears of gratitude that I heard my baby awake asking for “apple juice,” that I knew all would be well. After an overnight stay in the hospital for monitoring, I managed to shake my own trepidation for what just occurred.
Participatory medicine is a community affair
While my family has the fortune to live near an excellent hospital system and have access to urgent care and outreach, I recognize the disparities that exist across our nation. I am forever grateful to the remarkable care team, emergency staff and community members that were there when it mattered most.
I’ve redefined for myself “my healthcare” to “my family and my community health.” In between my own preventive eye visits, dental care and routine care to when I urged my husband to get checked out right away for what became an emergency appendicitis, to terrifying moments of my little one’s complex febrile seizure, I am an active participant of my family and in community healthcare.
As we enter this era of rediscovering remote, in-person or hybrid models of care, one thing is certain to our healthcare: we are asked to participate. Ask questions, stay engaged and take care of what matters to you and our mutual communities. In a nation rich with resources, when and how we disseminate care needs a community mindset. What lies central to our care acknowledges the community involvement and is grounded in participatory medicine.
I envision a world where our community health is one with the heart and soul of each individual and where each individual and family is one with the village that surrounds us. It does take a village of active health participants to lead to our highest health and well-being.
Tiffany Kuo, MPH, is a public health and integrative healthcare professional with broad industry experience in numerous healthcare settings, including clinical, nonprofit and healthcare technology. She recently served at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, CancerLinQ, Health Union, The Mindfulness Center, and with various yoga businesses in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. Connect with her on LinkedIn.