Healthcare: Be a leader

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. John Lynch
  • 28th Medical Group chief of medical staff
Airmen may already be familiar with growing national support for the Patient-Centered Medical Home health care model.

The PCMH is defined as an approach to providing comprehensive primary care that facilitates partnerships between individual patients, their personal physicians and when appropriate, the patient's family.

The provisions of the program tout better access to health care, increased satisfaction with care and overall improved health. I think the PCMH movement offers us a defining moment in the development, evolution, and even survival of our healthcare system.

Under a patient-centric system, an individual has the right to expect improved care; as long as they educate themselves about health maintenance and wellness practices, change their behaviors to better manage their health, access health, provider quality and price information, and contribute an appropriate share to the total cost of care [2].

With my focus on medicine just about every day I could go on for hours talking about healthcare reform, however, my actual assignment is to offer an insightful and motivating article on leadership.

In order to see the connection between the present healthcare reform debate and leadership I ask the reader to look more closely at the PCMH concept above because this patient-centric model places the needs of the patient first, but also requires greater responsibility and accountability of the patients themselves.

This leads me to delve into the topic of leadership by focusing on the more basic notion of self-leadership. Neck and Manz in their book, "Mastering Self-Leadership," offer the most useful definition of leadership as simply a process of influence.

Dr. Pamela Butler, who has been practicing as a clinical psychologist in Mill Valley, California for more than 30 years, explains there is no other person with whom we spend more time, with whom we have more influence, or whom we have the ability to interfere with or to support growth than ourselves.

I ask Airmen, as individuals, how much emphasis they place on leading to improve their own health? How much time is spent effectively exercising? How often do they substitute that natural, vitamin-enriched apple for that tasty, yet, artificially-enriched donut? Have they chosen to stop smoking, to get more sleep, to moderate thier alcohol intake, or to eat more vegetables? Have they made the effort to develop specific health-centered goals?

John Maxwell, an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker and author offers this sage advice in his book, "Leadership Gold."

"Anything that distracts me from adding value to my people, and leading them to new levels effectively, must be managed out of my life so that I can really help them."

In other words, he will focus his energy on what is going to give the best returns of his investment. This idea can be directly applied to our own self-leadership practices as we ask ourselves if we have habits that distract from reaching greater levels of success in our personal lives. Do we know how to effectively manage these bad habits?

The ongoing debate on healthcare reform has placed much of the emphasis on working through the details of how to provide health insurance for every American. However, seldom does anyone suggest how, or if, the individual's role should be reformed.

Lisa Herrington, a health industry administrator who launched a discussion of the topic in May on the blog, "Thoughts that Make You Think," poignantly illustrates this issue by writing:

"Having health insurance coverage doesn't make a person healthy. It's what you do with that coverage and your personal choices that make the difference."

My intention is not to lecture about the lifestyle choices Airmen make,though I'd be happy to sit and chat with you about healthy behaviors, but rather to encourage Airmen to take an active role in the life of the one person who you can most certainly impact, through self-leadership, which will consequently impact our healthcare system as a whole.

With this reform debate squarely placed in the public forum we have an incredible opportunity to make an absolutely unprecedented change in the healthcare paradigm we have persistently followed for generations - and we can start with ourselves. You will most assuredly be hearing more about the patient-centric model of the PCMH, which will likely provide an avenue to positive changes, but along with it also comes the responsibilities of the patient -- and, to keep from excluding anyone, we are all patients.

Ralph Waldo Emerson provided motivation when he wrote, "the ancestor of every action is a thought."

Keeping this insight in mind, I choose to close with an applicable, yet, loose paraphrase of the well known quote by John F. Kennedy... and so, my fellow Airmen ask not what your healthcare system can do for you, ask what you can do for your healthcare system. And in this vein, now is the best time to start by asking what Airmen can do to lead their lives more effectively to better health.