Many know a simple form of Ockham’s razor, that being that the simplest explanation is usually the right one.  Otherwise known as the law of parsimony attributed to Franciscan friar William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), the heuristic works well in philosophical debates. In the scientific method, it is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic. In modern healthcare, some might say it’s a pipedream.

Healthcare is the epitome of a complex, adaptive system (see The Beehive Effect: Execution and Complex Adaptive Systems). One of the most influential elements of the system of healthcare is who is at its center: the patient. Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, President and CEO of Mayo Clinic, spoke at the most recent Fortune Global CEO Forum (October 2020) about the intersection of breakthrough, technology, innovation, and the patient.

Dr. Farrugia points out that patient compliance is a true variable in the delivery of healthcare. For example, 10% of people with breast cancer do not take the medications directed by physicians, while another 10% of those with breast cancer take meds they actually don’t need. How can we alter human variance in a way that makes a difference? Farrugia says that patient compliance for physician requests can be impacted by technology. To make it happen, though, it all needs to be integrated throughout the sciences of healthcare.

Farrugia asserts that addressing affordability must be done through the lens of excellence and quality. He says that taking such an approach is critical. From Mayo Clinic’s point of view: start with excellence as the standard, and once that is in place reduce waste and make things more efficient. Regularly shaping the offering to be a better and better fit for the needs and wants of patients and their caregivers brings forth innovations. Again, connecting these issues together with science and technology around the human problem is the big unlock for healthcare.

Yet, it is not that simple, and Farrugia knows it. He says that fundamental to success in healthcare is one simple word: trust. For patients to not only buy into their physician’s directives but then to follow-through, healthcare’s argument has to be “this is better for you” instead of “this is cheaper for you (read: for us).” Farrugia says that when the trust is there, people will welcome the shift to control to the provider. How to bring about that trust is another conversation, though.

As we have all seen, Farrugia points to what we all face in 2020: Covid-19. He argues that the pandemic has showcased the ‘we’ in healthcare. Farrugia points out that the ‘we’ only works if the argument makes sense to ‘me’, that is the patient. When healthcare fails to bring the ‘me’ into ‘we’ without the individual’s consent, there will be disappointment down the road. For those of you not from Minnesota (where Mayo Clinic is based and from where I write), let me translate: you’ll think I’m on board, but I’m not. How many physicians forget to check for that when they prescribe care?

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