Sparking a Collaborative Community in Flip the Clinic Labs

By Andrea Ducas

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Andrea Ducas explains what she expected—and how she was surprised—by attending a Flip the Clinic Lab.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect walking into our Durham Flip the Clinic event. I was anxious to see the kinds of “Flips” the group developed. What would they tell me about health care priorities in the research triangle? What might stand out as something I could dig deeper into or bring back to my colleagues? I was anxious to see who FTC brought to the table, and to walk away with a better understanding of the “secret sauce” behind a program that I’m not in the weeds of day-to-day. And I was also pretty anxious to get over my cold.

I’m happy to report that I got a lot more than I bargained for—on all fronts (sorry again for the gift of my germs, Whitney!). I’ll cut to the chase and say I did get some sense of Durham’s health care priorities and it was certainly informative to meet the folks around the table…but it was the answer to my secret sauce question that was most intriguing.

Flip the Clinic is all about the community it’s building. I heard more than once, in a town where divisions run deep based on shades of blue, that ‘despite working on X for 15-20 years, this is the first time I’m meeting someone with my counterpoint job from Y health system to try to solve the same problem.’ Another common refrain from the innovators in the room? ‘I thought I was alone in this, but now I see there’s an entire community out there! And I’m so glad I’m in it now!’ The energy around sharing, collaboration, and camaraderie was palpable.

I realized at the meeting that the beauty of Flip the Clinic is less about the “Flips” (is that blasphemy?) and more about its capacity to bring like-minded health care disruptors together to problem-solve. To really lean on and learn from one another in the pursuit of a better clinical experience. To stop ‘beating the joy out of practice‘ and ‘bring some joy and optimism back into medicine.’ To just ‘do things differently.’ And in the case of some of the in-person convenings we’re hosting, to do so with the great luxury of dedicated time.

The Flips proposed were certainly interesting—they touched on topics like payment reform, better data flows, and addressing non-clinical health determinants—but in the end they served mostly as a way to surface shared interest and pinch-points to help clear a path forward. As symbols for what to address to drive toward true culture change in health care. I left genuinely excited to see what’s next for Durham, and the potential for the ideas—but especially collaborative community—sparked there to start something special.