Flip the Clinic’s Phoenix Lab Takes Off

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Last Thursday, Flip the Clinic landed in Phoenix for the second of its six Lab events. Forty-five or so attendees, including patients, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, community organizers, entrepreneurs, and innovation team leaders, gathered in the Phoenix Art Museum to explore ways to improve the patient-clinician encounter.

From an aerial view, the whole thing might have looked like an elaborate Busby Berkeley production, small groups swirling in and out of pattern. Participants changed tables at nearly every interval to exchange ideas and gain exposure to new perspectives.

By late morning, a few common themes emerged following an exercise that asked groups of four to identify a set of pinch points—those areas of the health care encounter that are both a source of frustration and ripe for transformation. When these pinch points were presented to the larger group, they clustered into eight major categories needing urgent transformation: patient empowerment, education, access to care, communication between patient and provider, fractured decision making, health vs. disease care, profit over people, and data technology issues. The categories clarified what was important to attendees in Phoenix, while also echoing the results of the same exercise in labs past. Concerns about data and technology, fractured decision making, and communication appeared in Princeton and San Francisco as well.

Lab participants were asked to think through these pinch points in pairs after finishing up a cozy lunch in the sunshine. Had any new ideas come forward? Were there any imaginative ways to alleviate these common frustrations? On a walk, the brainstorming partners talked through these ideas. People circled the Museum’s courtyard, walked under a fountain, and pondered their pinch points in front of a bright red Lego-like T-Rex. For a few, the moment that advanced the current thinking happened during a stroll through the Museum’s Andy Warhol exhibit. In a room within a room, not obvious before its entrance, was a space filled with giant, silver, mylar balloons. Encouraged to reach toward these gently floating cushions (amazingly), it was as if each touch with an outstretched fingertip pinned wishes to those balloons and sent them skyward. Returning to the meeting space, gathering into a giant standing circle in the back of the room, nearly everyone offered an ambitious idea.

By the end of the day, there was an entire wall blanketed with large paper charts colorfully outlining the participants’ ideas, which had progressed into Flips. Like the balloons one hall over, upon initial inspection, these Flips might have appeared too idealistic, too lofty, or too grand. They featured an unlikely alliance, a complaint turned into a clever time saving trick, and a top to bottom reimagining of the health care center’s most dreary spaces. But with peer input and a willingness to evolve, groups reached out and made contact with their ideas. They defined the space and the conditions in which these Flips could flourish. They were no longer floating just out of reach, but in capable hands and ready to be sent out into the sky.