What Healthcare Can Learn From America’s Pastime, Part 1 of 2 – Field Of Dreams

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It has been a long, cold, and snowy winter here in West Michigan and across the country. As I sit writing this post, well into April, the temperature outside my window is struggling to climb above freezing – and yet, hope springs eternal. There are sure signs that winter’s icy grip is loosening, and summer is on the way! The Major League Baseball season is underway! Even if the opening day games were played in Sydney, Australia, where the average temperature this time of year is 74 degrees.

it sometimes feels like the U.S. healthcare system has been suffering through a long cold winter of its own. Washington, D.C.’s equivalent of the Polar Vortex, known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more affectionately known as “Obamacare”, has swept across the country, and we all have had little choice but to forge ahead (and sometimes suffer) through the rollout and implementation. But just as winter inevitably gives way to spring and summer, so too the discomfort of massive changes to the healthcare system in the United States will eventually subside, and hopefully introduce a more equitable, integrated and comprehensive approach for everyone.

This transformation is like a mash-up of two of the most iconic baseball films in recent history – Field of Dreams and Moneyball. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll unpack the similarities and differences between these movies and the transformation that health care is undergoing.

Part 1 – A Field of Dreams

In Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella (Kevin Kostner) is a farmer in rural Iowa, struggling to make ends meet while facing a personal crisis of identity. A mystical voice from out of the cornfield speaks to Ray and promises “If you build it, they will come”. Ray plows under his corn and builds a ball field in its place. Through a series of events involving the ghosts of the 1919 Chicago “Black” Sox and his late father, Ray is reconciled to himself and his family. As the credits roll, a long line of headlights can be seen on the horizon headed for their baseball field, indicating that the family farm would also be saved.Our system of healthcare has long been driven by a top down, volume-based, “Build it and They Will Come” approach to care. It’s also fair to say that the industry has been suffering from its own identity crisis and financial struggles for some time. Billions of dollars have been invested in new hospitals, cutting edge technologies, and the latest and greatest treatments. This “innovation” has driven the cost and complexity of healthcare up exponentially, with little evidence of improvement in patient experience or health outcomes to show for it. As we now know, the existing system is unsustainable, and the creation and passage of the Affordable Care Act is the response. In the second installment of this post, we’ll look at what healthcare insights can be drawn from the movie Moneyball. Are advancements in healthcare technology and access to “Big Data” the missing ingredients in creating an equitable and sustainable healthcare system? Or, like the famed Casey at the Bat, are we destined for yet another strike out?

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