As a student or professional, it is easy to focus on simply getting your job done. But the Colorado Health Symposium gave me an opportunity to remember the big picture in health and health care.
As a Symposium U scholar who took part in the three-day conference, Aug. 7-9, at the Keystone Resort & Conference Center, I collaborated with policymakers, care providers, technology experts, patients and community health workers to explore new ways to improve health in Colorado and across the United States.
I'd like to pass along some of my favorite takeaways from the Symposium arranged by what I'm excited about, what worries me and what I plan to do with what I learned.
What I'm excited about
I'm thrilled that, as Jay Want, MD, suggested, there is no longer a debate on whether we need to improve health care. Now we are focused on integrating the system and figuring out how to work together to make change. It looks like a big step forward, and I am glad to be joining the health care sector at this exciting time.
I'm also moved by the groundswell in patient and consumer activism. Regina Holliday shared her personal story about the importance of including patients in health care reform. The world is moving away from a top-down approach to health care; health professionals need to be able to learn from each other and their patients.
I'm encouraged by the idea that "play matters" and by the growing emphasis on supporting the well-being of our communities. I'm glad that there is such an interest by care providers, researchers and public health individuals to build physical and social environments where healthy people can grow. I was inspired after hearing the positive policy, system and environmental changes happening in Chicago.
The health care potential for IBM's Watson supercomputer and the collection of big data are phenomenal. I'm excited to see where this can lead us and how tools are developed to help reduce complexity so we can make good decisions when caring for clients.
What I'm worried about:
After hearing Benjamin Domenech's talk about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Rebecca Costa's keynote address, I worry about complexity and the ability of health leaders to embrace "fast failure" to develop the best solutions. I'm concerned that as the ACA is implemented, any failure will stymie the process and prevent the positive aspects from taking hold.
I worry that our current workforce cannot sustain itself as the population grows and more is asked of each practitioner. Because there is so much burnout in health care and so much risk associated with innovation, I can foresee how easy it would be to shut down rather than make change in our health care systems.
What am I going to do now?
As John Kenagy, MD, said, I'm going to "Stop. Think about it" when I hear things that are counterintuitive.
I will embrace failure as a learning tool and cut myself (and others) some slack.
I will read about innovations in health care, including what others have done in and outside my field.
I will use tools shared by Daniel Friedland, MD, and practice mindfulness to change my neurological pathway responses to stress. I'm going to be open to the vulnerability experienced with self-doubt rather than initiating a fight-or-flight response and reframe my self-talk to engage my prefrontal cortex rather than my limbic system.
I will reach out to learn from leaders in my community who are passionate about promoting health in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.
Thank you to the Colorado Health Foundation for fostering passion and critical thinking for those entering the health care field and for the opportunity to attend this conference and to learn from great leaders.
Catherine Greife is among 10 scholars chosen to participate in Symposium U, a partnership with Colorado academic institutions that offers students hotel accommodations and full access to the Colorado Health Symposium. She is currently working on a master's degree in occupational therapy at Colorado State University.