If Air Travel Worked Like Health Care...

I hope everyone is having a happy and peaceful holiday season. In the spirit of the impending new year and the resolutions that go with it, I'd like to turn your attention to a piece I missed earlier this fall. David Brooks, in the NY Times, mentioned this article as one of his favorites of the year: If Air Travel Worked Like Health Care, by Jonathan Rauch (National Journal). Upon reading it, I understand why he chose to highlight it. It's a beautifully written and hilarious look at how complicated the healthcare system is. I was laughing right up to the point when I realized I was a part of that whole mess. A small part, but a part nonetheless.

And that got me thinking. Maybe in 2010, we could collectively resolve to be a little less a part of the confusion for our patients. Make the process just a bit smoother: by sharing relevant patient information with other providers (because it's good for patients and not prohibited by HIPAA); by assisting patients in making those follow-up appointments (rather than just giving them phone numbers); by providing more focused and specific discharge instructions, including a phone number to reach an actual person after hours (so patients know what to expect, how to manage their concerns and who to call when they just aren't sure).

In the next year, these are the conversations I'd like to have: how can we integrate ourselves more into the healthcare system (whether through practice, research or public policy initiatives); and how can we help our patients better access targeted care for both short- and long-term healthy outcomes?

Have a healthy, happy, and sustainable new year, my friends. I look forward to talking with you all again in 2010.