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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday 26 August 2013

Re-Designing Healthcare: The Race is On

Today I had a fantastic, far-reaching chat with a couple of entrepreneurs about the emerging field of healthcare redesign.  We talked about designing user experiences the way we design products; the difficulty the healthcare sector has in following fresh approaches through into implementation and how design-thinkers who are focused on problem-solving over profit can make a living doing what they do best (and what society sorely needs).

I've had many such chats over the past several months; in fact, there's a whole emerging field of healthcare designers who are doing projects, bridging the gap between such fields as social media and health service delivery, essentially trying to adapt our healthcare model to the 21st Century reality.  At the same time, I've talked to many policy makers, searching for new solutions but wary of committing to anything in politically and financially volatile times.  I've sat down with health service providers who are anxious to see systematic change but concerned about what that change will do to their niche areas/"clients"/jobs.  You'll find a bunch of them meeting here.

There's a real appetite for new approaches to healthcare in Canada, with players in different spaces touching different parts of the elephant, but not connecting in the middle.  The question on everyone's lips is: "how do we close the gap?"

When I first wrote this piece on how social entrepreneurs will be tomorrow's innovation consultants, I had healthcare (in particular, mental health) in mind.  Health is at the root of everything - family life, productivity, even commuting is tied to how healthy we are and where our headspace is at.  It just so happens that healthcare costs take up the biggest chunk of government spending, too.

The same goes for this piece on the changing nature of Government Relations - the emerging spaces for PR/GR folk to play in ties to health management and increasingly, design.  As the landscape around health, healthcare consumption and society at large grows increasingly dense, we need a map to find our way towards the destination of a modern, sustainable healthcare system.

So, with all this in mind, here's what I see happening next:

- These healthcare designers/social entrepreneurs will increasingly find each other through networking events or online and begin to realize they have an entire community of health-problem finders looking for a home.

- Smart healthcare providers/stakeholders will start walking the walk on innovative health landscape mapping/service provision, applying new approaches and ideas from varying fields to healthcare delivery/user experience.

- As some of the healthcare design folk connect with these stakeholders (either as hires or on contracted out projects), it will become increasingly clear just how profitable this design field can be.

- Existing consultancies will start growing into this market space, competing for both healthcare design work and healthcare design talent.

- As competition grows/demand runs up against the ability of existing funding to match, health design stakeholders will increasingly push against policy makers to get with the times.  New healthcare management and design businesses will crop up (treading ground first covered by The Courtyard Group) and existing players will try to catch up.   

- Seeing the chance for good policy and political wins (and recognizing the risk of not doing anything), Political Parties will start paying closer attention.

- Some of the original batch of healthcare design-thinkers will start valuing profit more that problem-solving, as will newbies to the field seeing the opportunity to find success in a growing field.  At the same time, there will be a large percentage of players who continue to see accomplishment as the goal, rather than wealth.  "I solved that" will become the new "I built that", which in itself replaced the feudal "I inherited that."

- It'll take time and a few iterations, but healthcare as we see it now (a product/service to be consumed) will be transformed more into a partnership that involves individuals, their employers, doctors, holistic health providers and other proactive providers.

The big question now is: Who are the far-sighted players who are going to recognize and benefit from this trend first?  Which employers are going to snatch up the amazing, innovative talent that exists out there but is not presenting itself in a traditional way?

What will the resulting innovations look like?  I'd love to tell you more, but the future is a bit like a stereogram; unless you're invested in the idea, I can't guarantee you'll see that third dimension.

The race is on; whichever providers/designers win in the short term, we will all benefit in the big picture.

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