Dr. Thomas H. Lee 2015 TEDMED talk

Added on Jul 20, 2016

Rediscovering Health Care's Original Goal: Reducing Suffering
2015 TEDMED - Palm Springs, CA
Thomas H. Lee, MD

"This story is like a stress test: ​It shows us how our systems break down and patients lose their confidence in the care that they're getting. Ironically, the more sophisticated the care, the greater the risk for chaos and the more the patients fear that they might somehow get lost in the shuffle.

Here is the good news. As tumultuous as our times may seem, I think the arc of history is clear. We are heading toward a better health care systema health care system that is in the process of organizing and even competing on meeting the needs of patients. These changes are occurring because of the economic pressures on health care, not despite them. Those pressures are real, and they are so intense that health care organizations are just starting to figure out that they can't just deal with these pressures by trimming a little here and there.

What they have to do is step back and look at the big strategic question: What are we trying to do? As organizations ask that question, many of them are rediscovering the original goal of health care, which is to reduce the suffering of patients.

Some may ask​, ​hasn't reducing suffering been the goal all along? As a practicing physician I would say​, ​absolutely... kind of... now that you mention it. There have been other things on our mind lately; there are new challenges that didn't exist before. It's like a disease that didn't exist before. A symptom of the new disease: the doctor who says he'll call you and then doesn't, and you wait and you wait, and you wonder what you're supposed to do...

I don't think that these broken promises are a reflection of moral weakness in the people who are going into health care today. They are a manifestation of a much deeper issue. That deeper issue is the chaos that is a side effect of the medical progress that we've had in the last few decades. The progress is fantastic​. ​There is so much more we can do today​, but oftentimes it feels like there is too much to do​. ​And there are too many people involved​. ​And they have narrower and narrower focuses​. ​And no one has full accountability for the big picture of what is happening to patients. 

Here is how I know we have a real problem, but it's also how I know we are ready to take it on..."