The Inspiration for Innovation

We live in an era where healthcare consumes a great deal of our time, energy and resources. It has not always been so, and to my mind we as a nation have an obligation to find our way back to balance before the rest of the world copies the inefficient and expensive system we’ve crafted over the last century.

The United States spends more on health care per capita and more on healthcare as a percentage of GDP than any other nation. This alone is not surprising, but add another important statistic to the picture – that the U.S. ranks last in quality of healthcare among similar countries – you see that our healthcare system is in desperate need of not just an adjustment of its payment systems (aka Obamacare), but an entirely new approach.

Just as a little altitude can provide perspective, the inspiration for innovation in one industry occasionally comes from studying the evolution of another. I came across a fascinating article about the cattle industry in the New York Times, Where Corn is King, A New Regard For Grass-Fed Beef, and I recommend you give it at least a quick read. The author describes the reemergence of the tried and true, yet largely abandoned system of raising cattle for eventual human consumption on grass, in open fields, rather than on grain in giant commercial stockyards. The old-school approach takes longer and is more subject to the vicissitudes of nature, but the product is ultimately superior in taste, quality and safety.

Two points in particular stood out to me as being helpful to those interested in bringing innovative (even when revertive) solution to the seemingly intractable healthcare crisis: 1) that change in an established system like healthcare must often come from “educated people from the outside,” and 2) that agents of change must endure the “cultural fear-mongering” which comes whenever truth impinges upon firmly-held opinions, approaches and practices not rooted in truth. These may sound discouraging to those not directly involved in such a process of change, but to me they are some of the most encouraging words you can hear when you’re in the thick of it. It’s good to know you’re not alone!

The healthcare system we have is effective at acute care but woefully ineffective at handling the most common and costly healthcare concerns: chronic disease. Interventions don’t come early enough and are often suppressive, contributory lifestyle factors are poorly addressed and the front-line drug and surgical interventions are, despite the many advances through the years, still rather crude and disruptive.

“Alternative” systems of medicine are growing in popularity, though healthcare practitioners and product companies schooled and grounded in approaches such as homeopathy, nutrition and botanical medicine are, like proponents of grass-fed beef such as Mssrs. Frost and Lasater, marginalized if not disparaged for their less “modern” approaches. This saddens me, not because of my commercial interests in the alternative healthcare industry, but because I find the rejection of truth in the name of science or business to be one of the most reprehensible of human failures.

Science and business, if they are to serve humanity, must be rooted in the pursuit, recognition and advancement of human understanding. They must bring us more closely into alignment and cooperation with the fabric of creation of which we are a part. When financial concerns or the quest for power and control are put ahead of the lusty pursuit of truth, we move backwards as a race. And just as when you take the wrong path on a hike through the hills, the way forward often requires taking a few steps back so that you can once again move from the known (truth) to the unknown.

3 thoughts on “The Inspiration for Innovation

  • What an interesting article. The two industries you’re discussing undoubtably have some compatriots in other industries struggling to bring changes. It can be treated like the oft told David and Goliath story by trying to find the one thing that might might impact the petrified institution; but while dramatic and quick, it seems more likely to occur as
    serendipitous while taking the slow steady approach. Not slow because of trepidation but it’s often an ecomomic reality. I believe the one power each possesses, in both cases, is the power of our personal choice. Always capitulating to the status quo is a habit. I think most are driven out of fear or apathy. Be willing to ask questions and do your own research to find answers. The buck stops here is a great attitude to take where your health is concerned.

  • Excellent summary. Having observed and participated in the evolution of thought in the world of health care for many decades now, I can vouch for the balance an accuracy of your statements. Although it is not a field for the fearful or prejudiced, there is tremendous opportunity in this industry for safe and effective innovation and renewal. Truth has a way of continuing to surface, even when suppressed by fear, greed and habit. The well-being of so many depends upon the courage of a relative few here.

  • Thank you for sharing such an interesting article. It’s so important for us to be hungry to educate ourselves so that we can participate in actually making a difference in areas that need new life in them!

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