A New Friend and Teacher in Health Disparities

I am so fortunate to have recently gained a new teacher and colleague in patient safety, Ron Wyatt, MD, MHA, who also serves as Medical Director in the Division of Healthcare Improvement at the Joint Commission. I was introduced to Ron by Knitasha Washington, Ph.D., Executive Director of Consumers Advancing Patient Safety, and another colleague, friend and patient safety partner. Knitasha has also been a fantastic mentor in my quest to learn more about the stories, the names and faces, of those whose lives have been touched by the disparities that still exist in our healthcare system, affecting the safety of still so many patients.

I have much to learn when it comes to the data that drives action in the health disparities domain. However, I realized I do not need a doctorate to understand pain and suffering, or possess the desire to help every patient receive safe, effective, high-quality care no matter their race, socioeconomic status, education or age: data points that light up as warnings of variable healthcare delivery. I’m happy to pass on the knowledge gained through Ron’s and Knitasha’s experience; two healthcare professionals whose lives have been touched by loss due to health disparities. And so…

Here is a link to a recent article by Dr. Ron Wyatt, The Stuff That Is Killing Us, posted on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website discussing his experience as an IHI Fellow looking at Disparity in the Deep South. Ron was also a speaker at the inaugural RWJF Scholars Forum:Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health,” held on December 5, 2014, where “a distinguished panel shared their insights on the urgent problem of health disparities in the U.S.” Following is a video from the RWJF event:

Sharing of ‘Good Ideas’ Vital to Solve Healthcare Challenges in 2013

Thanks yet again to Twitter, I recently came across an article on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) site, Young Leaders Transform the Future. The article provides a brief outline of the projects designed by RWJF’s first 10 Young Leader Award recipients. The projects, and those who designed them, are so impressive that I felt obligated to share them in hopes they may add additional spark to an idea percolating within a reader, inspire a new collaboration, or be used as a solution to an existing healthcare challenge. Following are three of the award-winning Young Leaders, and a description of their projects as food for thought. Follow the link above to RWJF site for a description of all 10 projects, and more on the work being done to generate new healthcare solutions:

Ruben Amarasingham, MD, MBA
An algorithm developed by Amarasingham’s group spots patients whose social conditions put them at high risk for relapse after discharge from the hospital. Using this breakthrough technology, Parkland Hospital in Dallas has cut its 30-day readmission rate among Medicare heart-failure patients by a stunning 40 percent, a $500,000 savings that has sparked nationwide interest in Amarasingham’s technology.

Naa Oyo Kwate, PhD
With startling comprehensiveness and originality, Kwate video-documents urban neighborhoods to capture and analyze the ubiquity of racist symptoms and messaging. Lately, she has begun to talk back to the urban environment via billboard messages that lay bare—and hopefully defuse—racism’s destructiveness to human health.

Raina Merchant, MD, MS
Blending social media and tournament theory with an emergency physician’s passion to save lives, Merchant mapped the location of every defibrillator in Philadelphia. Next she wants manufacturers to install a GPS chip in defibrillators worldwide so your cell phone will automatically lead you to the nearest one.

The sharing of these Young Leader’s projects is in the spirit of Stephen Johnson, whose TED Talk is included below, and who believes that good ideas take time and input from others to truly take shape and become reality. If more writers, storytellers, documentarians, healthcare providers, entrepreneurs, tech-savvy creatives, patient advocates and others share their experience and stories perhaps we can jump-start the natural evolutionary process of idea formation to action in order to solve healthcare challenges sooner vs. later.