Reimagining the public health system post pandemic.
I have been reading the new book from Michael Lewis called The Premonition. It’s a story about the deficiencies of the US public health system.
The leading characters were rarely if ever in the news during the pandemic. One of which is Charity Dean MD who was the Assistant Director of Public Health for the State of California at the start of the pandemic.
She is now the Co-Founder of The Public Health Company developing solutions for global organizations and communities. For those who read the book, privatizing public health might seem like the right direction.
Given the increasing financial burden of the US healthcare system, leaders need to look closely at the issues and lessons learned because the commercial sector is not exempt.
The word courage emerged again as something lacking. Courage to speak up and do the right thing regardless of the personal impact. Some might be thinking that’s not courage – that’s political suicide.
However, there are times when fighting for what’s right is the only right course of action. The Covid pandemic was one of those times. Fortunately, Dr. Dean was willing to put her job and her reputation on the line.
She embraced the role of a Public Health official and understood that to do her job well, she needed to say and do the tough things. The tough things are standing up to bullies, closing physician practices that threatened public health and leveraging all available resources to get the job done.
People like Dr. Dean represent a double edged sword for leaders. On one side, they’re an asset because they’ll do whatever it takes to do the job well. On the other side, they’ll challenge others and push the boundaries of the role. Consequently, others will perceive them as a threat.
It takes courage to hire them and to protect them from those in the organization who will try to muzzle them. People tried to muzzle Dr. Dean but fortunately, Todd Park knew to look for someone like her on L6 – six levels removed from the top person.
Despite all the money invested in the US healthcare system, the systems failed again. The controls prevented healthcare systems from accessing free Covid testing.
Controls are often overused when there is a lack of understanding within the organization. The understanding about how the systems work, how the data flows and who manages different aspects of the systems.
When controls are overused, people try to work around the system or give up. Unfortunately, some hospital leaders gave up and others succumb to the political pressure of the “healthcare industrial complex”. Commercial labs and health systems reportedly stood in the way of new resources to protect their established relationships and interests.
Poor alignment is difficult to overcome. A pandemic is one of those times when you would expect the interests of the broader industry and the public to align but they didn’t.
Some blame the lack of leadership in the White House and the CDC. Others are questioning how to strike the right balance between experience and stagnation as well as expertise and optics.
As a society, we’ve been so conditioned to think poorly of career politicians and public servants that it becomes hard to consider the value of their experience and expertise. While trying to right past wrongs we may be creating new problems in the process.
The Public Health Company
The Public Health Company can add value to the system. What value the company adds is yet to be determined.
However, the public health issues are systemic to our mindset, our systems and our priorities. There was opportunity for more people and more companies to shine. Unfortunately, many in the position to do so put their short term interest ahead of the bigger opportunity.
Recovering from the pandemic is going to be a challenge for the healthcare industry. Leaders somehow have to find the right balance between growth and savings.
To do so, leaders should embrace the lessons from the pandemic and be thinking about Alignment, Systems Design and Values to strike the right balance moving forward.
The Rush Weekly has become more random as of late. It takes a lot of my time and thought to produce something worthy of your time.
The timing will continue to be a little random. I’ve decided to write a book to compile some of my thoughts, ideas and research that will provide you with more valuable insights. Please reach out if I can be of service to you.