The healthcare system is large and complicated, especially when you have an international scope, making it difficult to keep up with recent changes, innovations, ideas and goals. TED Talks, conferences which bring together specialists from various fields to present speeches and keep each other informed, puts the best speeches by the best speakers on the Internet for free. With TEDMED, the original technology, entertainment and design focus of TED gets expanded to include the medical field. Some of the most thought provoking talks are about the healthcare system. These three essential talks by Rebecca Onie, John Wilbanks and Atul Gawande will get you thinking about the issues being discussed today and make you curious for more.
Rebecca Onie: What if Our Healthcare System Kept Us Healthy?
In interviews with doctors who treat low income patients Rebecca Onie found the doctors upset about not being able to treat the fundamental problems in the homes of their patients. These are problems like not enough food and too many people living in a small space. In response, Health Leads was created. Health Leads is a volunteer based organization that allows doctors to prescribe things like food and heat. Patients can take their prescriptions to Health Leads to get connected to the resources they need. This organization, its history and the goals the founders, organizers and volunteers strive to realize are explained as an example of what we could do with our healthcare system so that it works to keep us healthy instead of waiting for us to get sick again.
John Wilbanks: Let’s Pool Our Medical Data
If within your medical records one could find the cure to cancer, would you want that information securely stored to protect your privacy or would you share it if you had the option? While John Wilbanks isn’t quite suggesting that something so big could be so easy, he is proposing a simple plan with the possibility of a big result. Wilbanks explains the problem doctors and researchers face: the data they need is out there, but they can’t get to it. He tells us how this problem arose as an accidental side effect of well-intentioned privacy policies. According to Wilbanks, we wouldn’t need a huge percentage of people to opt to share their medical information for it to make a difference, but studies show that most people actually will want to share, for the good of the public and for their own good.
Atul Gawande: How Do We Heal Medicine?
If you look at the history of medicine, you see that a patient under care would have one doctor and many nurses looking after them. They would have a team who worked together under the same roof, communicating efficiently and all working towards the same goal: the total health of the patient. Atul Gawande explains how our medical advances have led to specialization, and that specialization has led to a fracturing of the healthcare system. A patient may have 15 different specialists, each assigned to one part of your health. Gawande says data shows that often times the most effective healthcare is the least expensive, and what makes it so effective is that the patient’s care was given by a system of caregivers working together each taking into account all the aspects of the patient’s health, not just the chunk he was assigned to. Gawande suggests we make the healthcare system a system again, like pit crews who work together rather than autonomous cowboys.
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Pauline Fisher is a nurse practitioner and guest author at Top Masters in Healthcare, where she contributed to the Top 10 TED Talks on Healthcare roundup.