Author Archives: Thomas Goetz

A New Way of Looking at Health

Feb 18, 2014, 3:58 PM, Posted by Andrea Ducas, Thomas Goetz

Putting outbreaks of disease into context “Putting outbreaks of disease into context” via VizHealth.org. The VizHealth site and the associated content are available under GNU Lesser General Public License version 3.0 (LGPL-3.0) and Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States licenses.

It’s not always easy to think in statistics.

While that statement might seem obvious, applying that knowledge when it comes to health and health care is anything but.

Think, for example, about your last visit to the doctor. (Doctors, put on your patient hats and bear with us.) In the first couple of minutes, you (we hope) had your blood pressure, weight, and other vital signs checked. You might have also talked about changes you could make—like exercising more or quitting smoking—and how they might decrease your risk of developing a chronic disease or help you live longer.

As a patient, all of this information is valuable, but it is not often meaningful or actionable: what does a systolic blood pressure of 175 actually mean? Exercising regularly might bring my risk for diabetes down, but by how much? And what does that difference translate to for me?

There are lots of ways to answer these questions, but up until recently there hasn’t been much clarity at all when it comes to how to communicate those answers effectively. That’s why we’re so excited to announce the launch of our newest project, Visualizing Health.

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Flipping the Clinic: The Beginning of the Beginning

Sep 25, 2013, 5:13 PM, Posted by Thomas Goetz

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How do you turn an idea into something bigger? It's necessary, but not sufficient, to start with a good idea, of course. But it also takes a community of supporters—people willing to step out of their busy day-to-day, and contribute time and brainpower to turning that idea into something closer to reality.

That was the goal of the first Flip the Clinic workshop, held in mid-September at the Foundation’s headquarters in Princeton, N.J. We invited 15 amazing thinkers and doers from various perspectives—doctors, nurses, patients, policymakers, entrepreneurs—and asked them to spend a full day (and then some) helping us turn the Flip the Clinic idea into something substantial, or at least substantiated.

The idea was to get some honest feedback on whether the idea has legs, and some expert input on where it might go. The result, by all measures, exceeded our expectations. Not only does the Flip the Clinic idea seem to meet a clear and broad need for new thinking about health care delivery, but it may just offer a necessary inspiration for doing some hard but necessary work in changing it.

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Flipping the Doctor’s Office

Jul 18, 2013, 10:42 AM, Posted by Thomas Goetz

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Consider the doctor’s office: the sanctum of care in American medicine, where a patient enters with a need—a question, or an ailment, or a concern—and leaves with an answer, a diagnosis, or a treatment. That room, with its emblematic atmosphere of exam table and tiny sink and bottles of antiseptic, is in many ways the engine of our health care system, the locus of all our collective knowledge and all our collective resources. It’s where health care happens.

But in a less sentimental light, the doctor’s office doesn’t seem so exalted. Yes, it remains the essential hub for clinical care. But what occurs in that room isn’t exactly ideal, or state-of-the-art. The doctor-patient encounter is fraught with tension, asymmetrical information, and flat-out incomprehension. It is a high-cost, high-resource encounter with surprisingly limited value and limited returns. It is too cursory to be exhaustive (the infamous fifteen-minute median office visit), too infrequent to create an honest relationship (one or two times a year visits at best), and too anonymous to be personal (the average primary care doc has more than 2,300 patients).

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