Flipping Our Culture

Flip the ClinicBy

Meshie Knight is a Program Associate at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

On March 5th I visited Flip the Clinic Lab in Phoenix. The Lab is a hands-on learning environment that brings together diverse individuals with expertise in many areas of health care to work creatively on pragmatic, pioneering ideas that will make fundamental shifts within a health system that is broken.

Together, all 50 of us in attendance embarked on a journey to explore options for low to no-cost solutions to some of health care’s most prominent ails: patient/provider engagement, improving the experience of care, reducing costs, and improving outcomes. At the end of the day, the Flips weren’t monumental earth-shattering changes in health care delivery; they were common sense approaches that could provide small, yet effective, solutions. This, I later realized, is the potency of Flip the Clinic: practical solutions that cumulatively move the needle on culture change.

Culture is so core to who we are that we tend to be unaware of how it shapes our lives. For instance, what if we were intrinsically excited about going to the doctor instead of experiencing gripping fear whenever we needed to go? What if our doctors regularly consulted with us on proposed care plans before proceeding to the next steps?

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where I work, a Culture of Health is not merely a vision we speak about, but one that we try to live. In the same way that one practices mindfulness, we practice “healthfulness” in all realms: how we work, how we play, and how we live. We’re shifting conversations around and approaches to improving health and health care to focus more on the complex whole of individual knowledge, experiences, beliefs, values, and attitudes as they relate to well-being. To me, a culture of health means getting to a place where good health is a permanent and inseparable part of each individual. It is a bold vision, but improving health care requires us to be bold.

Flip the Clinic knows just the kind of bold that I’m talking about.

During the Lab, I heard Dede’s story about her son, who had fallen ill with a rare and debilitating disease. Having endured months of poorly managed and uncoordinated care, Dede took matters into her own hands and became her son’s self-appointed case manager. She researched, tracked, and compiled a large binder of data on her son’s condition, including test results, medication adherence reports, and eating patterns, until doctors started consulting her for guidance in providing care for her son. Dede’s story is one that resonated both on personal and professional levels. While it is important that we all learn the importance of self-advocacy, we should expect that when we get sick, we can work in collaboration with our providers to ensure that our care not only meets our needs, but also affords us and our loved ones opportunities to be included in the decisions that affect us.

Dede’s experience led us to a greater awareness that a Flip—a fundamental shift—is needed for so much of health care. And that people armed with experiences and great big ideas for re-engineering our health care system are committed and ready to help build a practice that delivers real change in real time. Although this will be difficult work, I have seen bright spots shining through. Flip the Clinic highlights these bright spots by bringing together smart people who are rolling up their sleeves to contribute in important ways.

As I headed back to the Foundation, I thought about the importance of making sure that Dede, her son, and many others like them know the power of their stories and how important it is for us all to continue to work earnestly to create a Culture of Health, one Flip at a time.