Over 5000 years ago, as described in the Old Testament, the first human was given language to name the animals, that were created in the Garden. [GENESIS 2:20]
Spoken language enabled man to learn in groups, develop, share and propagate techniques, traditions and best-practices in health, agriculture, trade, public, family and personal life. Knowledge was stored orally, and preservation of information depended upon a human network of expert sages who remembered the knowledge and transmitted it orally to the next generation.
Accessibility boiled down to being able to physically meet someone who remembered the knowledge and asking him (or her) a question.
Over 500 years ago, Gutenberg was the first European to use movable type printing.
His invention of movable type printing played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution and laid the basis for modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.
The accessibility of printed information in books, enabled many more people to learn, share and preserve knowledge.
About 40 years ago, email was invented. An email sent in the early 1970s looks quite similar to a cellular text message today. The standard email transport is the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), first published as Internet standard 10 (RFC 821) in 1982, over 30 years ago.
Email enables anyone with a network connection to send a message to anyone else improving accessibility even more, albeit creating new problems related to distraction, privacy breaches, spam and lack of structure. These problems often make email feel like a step backwards, since at least with a written book or expert sage, you can get the information you need in a coherent and structured fashion and don’t have to go crazy searching your inbox and folders for a piece of information you just know you got.
It’s no wonder that physicians don’t enjoy doing email.
In 1996, Google launched its search engine with the mission statement “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful“.
That accessibility has taken us a long ways towards improving learning, sharing, remembering and preservation of knowledge.
Making more affordable medical technology, expanding hospitals, reducing hospitals, changing healthcare business models, providing government subsidies, importing doctors, exporting doctors, delegating healthcare to patients and getting obese Americans to walk more and eat less all have their own constraints that ignore the root constraint of the problem:
The current system of healthcare is based on a 5,000 year old knowledge accessibility model: physically meeting your physician and asking him (or her) a question.
TOC (the theory of constraints) teaches us that most problems have one constraint. Any manageable system is limited in achieving more of its goals by that one constraint, sometimes two. The current constraint for achieving more of the goals for the healthcare systems is information accessibility.
We have the technology to make this happen today with easy-to-use social software: private messaging, blogging, groups and content sharing. Thanks to the accessibility of cloud computing, any physician or healthcare worker can now create a private, personalized network of care in just a few minutes by themselves – without having to go through a large, cumbersome and slow-moving IT organization.
In a private network of care, physicians share guidance and patient share feedback with an simple social software interface. Patient-mediated input of data makes it easier for a doctor to take decisions and increases patients’ trust in their physician.
Accessibility to shared information does not come at the price of privacy.
In a private network of care, there is no overlap between patients and no overlap between physician networks. Sharing of information between the patient and doctor is completely at the patient’s discretion.
When a doctor has access to her diabetic patients blood sugar measured at home, she can save a visit to the office by providing updated guidance using a private message. When a Parkinson’s patient starts having insomnia and bad dreams, and records his personal experiences with status updates, his neurologist has immediate accessibility to this information and can reduce drug dosage or schedule.
So there you are – it’s as simple as updating your status on Facebook.
Solve the accessibility problem and you’ve solved the healthcare problem.