Longing for Simplicity

Last week I attended a healthcare industry conference in New Orleans. In general, I like industry conferences, and I’ve been attending this particular organization’s events since 1998. I got to see old friends, eat Cajun food and learn new things. What could be better than that?

The topic of this meeting was “managing organizational risk” in healthcare, especially in health plans and provider systems like the one for which I work. Wow! Big topic. A summary of what I leaned is “there’s a lot to worry about.”   I won’t bore you with all of the considerations that go into operating a successful health plan, but trust me, it’s complicated.

It is complicated. Very complicated. That’s what bothers me. Complexity has limits. Sooner or later something has to give. It seems to me that the complexity of operating a health plan or other large healthcare organization is actually rising faster than the ever-escalating price of healthcare. Clearly this year’s operation is at least 10% more complex than last year’s – more regulation, more data, more software, more audits, and more confusion. Unfortunately, that’s been the pattern for the last few years, and won’t change anytime soon as Obamacare continues to unfold.

Does it have to be so complicated? I don’t think so, but no one is calling me asking for simple solutions. If any politicians are reading this, my one piece of advice is don’t pass or sign any bills that make healthcare more complicated. Insist on bills that simplify. Period. Really. Pass a couple of those and we’ll be on the right track.

Anyway, the in-depth discussions left me longing for simplicity, and I began to think about how simple good health is for most of us. Eat well, exercise a little, sleep enough, relax, pray and trust God; and it’s pretty likely you’ll be healthy. Not always of course, but by and large, health is that simple. It’s healthcare that’s complicated.

That left me thinking about the general inverse relationship between health and healthcare, particularly in the case of lifestyle illnesses. Then I began to contrast how individuals experience good health compared with (usually multiple) lifestyle illnesses. That bothered me too. I want people to be well. I long for them to experience the simplicity of good health. Finally I doodled the graph below (not the exact same one – I made a nicer version for the blog). See what you think.