If Oprah was in Charge of (Canadian) Health Care
(ED: This blog was written by a Canadien doctor blogger, Maralee Fullerton MD, but it raises a good point about being “evangelical”, but also applies to digital health; that is, thinking digital health is all for the betterment of Healthcare, which is definitely not a truism. Any changes in healthcare, including digital, must undergo the same rigorous examination, as any other new healthcare tool, and the new device or app should not get a blanket “carte blanche” of acceptance)
Oprah came to my city recently. Thousands upon thousands of people (mostly women) paid hundreds of dollars for a ticket to hear her speak–no singing, no dancing, no pyrotechnics –just someone influential speaking.
I’m going to be honest, I’m neutral on the Oprafication of North America. I think Oprah is a fine woman who has an intangible likability, is informed and intelligent and a highly influential speaker……and very wealthy. I have even used some of her quotes for my own leadership presentations but what would happen to health care if we rely on positive messaging and hope to provide care? What HAS happened to Canadian health care already because of the reliance of politicians on saying what the public wants to hear instead of confronting the facts and real trends staring us in the face?
Now I’m not saying that we don’t need hope. We do. It’s just that it can’t be instead of taking a realistic look at what is happening to Canadian health care now and what will happen to it in the future as changes in demographics, technology, science and economics loom large.
Oprah’s inspiring messages give people hope but I am concerned that this kind of evangelical message of hope is also pervasive in health care and amongst communications advisers and PR types involved in health care decision-making and policy. How could they all be wrong?
Over and over again it is said that political messages must give hope but I firmly believe they must also clearly identify the problems that we need to address with Plan A, a Plan B and even Plans C,D, and E. The public must be given the facts to understand what Canada is up against, especially Ontario and Quebec.
So, as I hear more political handlers and commentators talk about the message of hope that is necessary in communications I am struck by the stark reality that hope just does not deliver health care. It can make us feel better about the short-comings of the current system but it will not provide the changes that we need for the future.
Positive messages are comforting. They make us feel good. When it comes right down to it though, that feeling does not last in the face of shortages of hospital beds, inadequate long term care, patients denied timely care and drug shortages.
The comfort provided by positive messaging about health care is actually diminishing the ability to create necessary change. We need a bit of friction and grit to move forward. The slick and slippery messaging that smears itself over health care challenges by political handlers and advisers is not helping. We need to confront the challenges ahead and the public needs a clear understanding that the system we have created is no longer viable.
Lets embrace the patients, the providers and the people who work in all the various aspects of health care but change the system. We need a hybrid and we need it soon.