A challenge to healthcare execs: Don't hide your opinion about what's happening in Washington

Lygeia Ricciardi's advice for leadership, and social media, in a time of political uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act and the fate of health reform in America. 
By Lygeia Ricciardi
09:09 AM
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Avoiding confrontation has its appeal. Offending the wrong person, after all, could cost you — socially and financially. And online it’s so easy to seek and read only what you agree with. But if too many of us remain silent or, by contrast, sink to the level of personal attacks, it will likely cost us our democracy: a price we cannot afford to pay.

Healthcare executives, here’s your challenge: Be a leader, have your own opinion, and don’t hide it.

But also check your temper and the fear beneath it. Be brave enough to engage with a variety of people to understand where they are coming from. Maybe they are your colleagues, or your healthcare providers, or your patients, or even your relatives.

On Twitter and other social networks — do you follow people you don’t agree with? Do you ever listen to or read media that fall clearly outside your comfort zone? Listen first. You can also help to connect the dots that only you may see for others. Successful changes in digital health — and democracy itself — will require both effective strategies and competent, compassionate communication.

Use the your influence and social media to stand up for your principles and for people — including members of underserved populations — who may not be able to stand up for themselves. 

Health and technology policy in flux
In the world of digital health, it’s important to also pay attention to technology policies that are not tied exclusively to health.

Under newly-appointed Chairman, Ajit Pai, for instance, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently limited participation in the Lifeline program, a longstanding subsidy which provides affordable Internet and phone access to low-income Americans. Facing a flurry of criticism, Pai explained the decision as a largely procedural one that was meant to avoid abuse of, not undercut, the program, stating that “hyperbolic headlines always attract more attention than mundane truths." 

Indeed, they do. As an alumna of the FCC who worked on a closely related program I admit to hyperventilating about the headlines before I dug deeper.

Leverage technologies to narrow the digital divide
In a pre-HIMSS17 #HCLDR Tweet chat, moderated by Colin Hung and Joe Babaian, participants shared advice and specific strategies for supporting underserved communities through digital health, including the following:

  • Use mobile to reach underserved populations since they are relatively likely to access the Internet via phones rather than desktop computers. See this article for stats
  • Leverage eHealth (including telemedicine) to bridge the gaps between in-person healthcare visits.
  • Stop adapting technology to healthcare; identify problems first, then find solutions (which may or may not include technology).
  • Use technology to streamline administrative processes in support of underserved populations. Example: Chicago is using technology to fast track food stamp applications.
  • Get better at assimilating lessons from elsewhere in the globe, particularly since most people on earth are relatively “underserved” compared to Americans.
  • Serve and support people where they are geographically Example: this community-based court for homeless people in Denver.
  • Apply the microservices model used by other industries to healthcare. 
  • Emphasize empathy, sympathy, and human relationships in healthcare; technology is secondary.

That brings us right back around to the call to action: Use your voice for positive, constructive change, and try to listen and dig before you react to news or allegations. 

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