There has been a trend over the last few years to focus on patients in healthcare. Setting aside the evident irony of the obvious necessity of including the patient in healthcare, there are some subtleties for innovation worth considering.
The first is why? Why focus on the patient? There are other ways to approach innovation. You can focus on the system or services, or products. Etc., Now many of these are by no means mutually exclusive or entirely distinct, but the approach—how you frame your problem and the space in which you are trying to problem-solve—will invariably have an influence on the processes and on your endpoints and outcomes. The mindset with which you approach a problem will guide your thinking and help determine where you end up. So if you start thinking about a healthcare problem from a systems perspective, you will be looking for systemic issues to solve and your interventions will likely involve changes to the system that will try to address the space you define. This may or may not actually impact patient care. For example, a systemic change may result in significant economic savings to the system, but these benefits may not actually be seen by patients—savings may actually be converted as profit-taking or, in the case of public systems, put into other priorities of the system.
Another important nuance is the understanding that even when the “patient” is prioritized in the process—that is, placed as the subject or beneficiary of the innovation—it does not mean that the patient is the agent of the resulting intervention. Improving patient care or the patient experience may involve other stakeholders as objects or agents of a particular innovation. Sometimes changing what a caregiver or a clinician does is by far the best way to improve the patient experience. The point here is that placing the patient at the center of translational thinking does not mean that patients are the only means to the desired state. In a patient-centered approach, however, it should mean, that patients are the end beneficiaries of the innovation, that patient care or the quality of the patient experience is included as a central measure of success for the intervention.
Since the intension of Translational Thinking is, in principle, to have tangible impact on human health, prioritizing benefits for patients as an outcome measure of the innovation process is a significant frame-of-mind for approaching the process of mobilizing knowledge for social and economic benefit.
Most of the world is aware and has begun to grow tired of the extreme measures being taken to fight the COVID-19 global pandemic. Protests to loosen restrictions and demands for a return to normalcy dominate public and private debates. But significantly fewer extreme measures and attention are being paid to yet another pandemic we’ve been facing.
This other pandemic has been going on for so long that it has really become part of the background context of our daily lives. It has permeated every aspect of national and global societies, but it is usually consigned (for the most part) to buried stories, outros, or footnotes of the mainstream media. Yet its spread, the resulting devastation of our communities, and its death toll continue to rise—insidiously ignored or maliciously rationalized.
Statements that there are “good people” on both sides when one side is trying to defend individual rights while the other uses violence and spreads intolerance are so commonplace on the world stage these days, that they too represent a pandemic. A pandemic of intolerance, racism, and ignorance. A pandemic of harmful, selfish and uninformed ideologies fueled by self-serving agents of misinformation and duplicity.
Racism and intolerance are a pandemic that we have faced for decades, no, centuries and it only seems to be flaring up again in the current climate. But the trouble is that we have reached a level of saturation and indifference where, as a global community, we seem ready to ignore this pandemic and ignore its cost in human lives, in favour of returning to normal, to the status quo of caring about our own individual lives.
Unlike with COVID-19, rarely do we talk about the impact of intolerance on humanity, on society, on progress, and even the economy—these seem too abstract and too distant when compared with social distancing and isolation.
Innovation, the creation of new and better processes, products, and services depends on cultivating and nurturing new ideas. Diversity brings together multiple perspectives and ideas and strengthens the quality and impact of education, research, and overall human progress. Racism and ignorance stifle different perspectives and new ideas—they stifle humanity and progress!
At the TRP, we aim to provide a safe and positive space for creativity and innovation. We aim to encourage diversity, multiple perspectives and are devoted to fighting intolerance in all its forms. We aim to attract and retain diverse and excellent students, faculty members, and trainees, and to foster flexible working conditions that accommodate personal circumstances and create an inclusive environment. We support those peacefully fighting anti-Black racism and racism as a whole. It is our collective responsibility to build an equitable, diverse, and inclusive environments where students and faculty continue to seek opportunities and partnerships that remain true to these goals while working diligently to stand in the way of those who oppose these ideals, spread hate and division, and stand in the way of creating a healthy human community.
TRP Program Director,
June, 1st 2020
Among the flight manifest for Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, was the name of Amin Jebelli, a second-year TRP student.
His smile, his dedication, and his genuine compassion have left ripples on the lives of all of us around him.
Find the link to the UofT story here.