PURSUING A HOLISTIC HEALTHCARE

Healthcare has come a long way. And it still has a long way to go. I don’t think anyone will argue that point. That is why I am relentlessly pursuing a holistic healthcare. I believe holistic healthcare will do more good for more people under more conditions than any other approach.

Doctors have incredibly intensive, specialized training and experience. They are very intelligent and extremely good at their jobs. However, with any area of specialization come specialized risks. This is true of any discipline and the medical discipline is no exception.

Someone once observed that if your only tool is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. I discovered this firsthand with an orthopedic surgeon many years ago. Having experienced an unusual and prolonged pain in one of my toes, I was referred to the surgeon. After a relatively fast examination, he explained to me that I needed surgery to correct a bone calcification/deformity condition.

Having never gone under the knife, this was obviously a decision that I wanted to take some time to consider carefully. In that consideration period, I consulted with my chiropractor, Dr. Bruce Rippee with the Chiropractic Life Center. Dr. Rippee took one look at the situation and correctly diagnosed a dropped metatarsal head. With some manipulation and adjustment work, he rectified the problem. I have been ever grateful that his approach saved me from an unnecessary surgery. Perhaps you have a similar story.

For holistic healthcare to work at its best, you need three components:

  • Patients that want holistic healthcare.
  • Holistic healthcare practitioners.
  • Conventional healthcare practitioners that understand, trust, and support holistic healthcare.

When these three components come together, holistic healthcare can operate efficiently and effectively. I have had conventional healthcare practitioners refer me to holistic healthcare practitioners and vice versa. When each practitioner understands and respects the other, then they become partners in patient care. This partnership brings the greatest benefit to the patient.

On another level, simply the partnership between the patient and the healthcare practitioner tremendously supports a holistic healthcare approach. Dr. Corey Iqbal with the Overland Park Regional Medical Center explains the concept (Andy Marso. “With Patients Having More Say in Treatment, When Do Doctors Say No?” The Kansas City Star. October 15, 2017. p. 12A):

I think one of the mistakes we can make as a health care provider in any capacity is when we decide to take a paternalistic approach and (say) ‘This is what it’s going to be,’ as opposed to looking at the patient-doctor relationship as a partnership. . . . My job is to impart expertise, make them experts on the condition, and then they can make an informed decision.

Dr. Iqbal emphasizes that as a doctor, he must remain open to alternative approaches to the patient’s condition:

I want to fix what’s going on with [patients]. . . . I want to have answers for them and if I don’t have the answers, I want to find innovative ways we can solve those problems.

I deeply appreciate the fact that Dr. Iqbal admits he does not always have all the answers. That is why he is open to alternative approaches. That attitude can only enhance the quality of his patient relationships because his patients know that he is willing to look in other directions.

Dr. Rippee also addresses the importance of that doctor-patient relationship as an essential component to successful holistic healthcare. He genuinely wants to be his patient’s partner. He summarizes his commitment to helping the patient focus on specific goals while exercising a holistic approach (personal communication on file, 10/26/17):

I have always focused on goal-based healthcare that takes into account what the patient would like to see from the next 1, 5, and 10 years. Then I apply the four pillars of excellent movement, nutrition, sleep, and positive thoughts to the end goal that I am given.

Dr. Iqbal and Dr. Rippee are just two examples among many. Increasing numbers of healthcare practitioners are awakening to the fact that healthcare intrinsically demands a holistic approach. Healthcare, by definition must be holistic. Genuine healthcare understands that a hammer is not the only tool. And the more tools we have in our toolbox and the more we use them, the happier, wiser, and healthier we will all be.

Let’s keep pursuing a holistic healthcare!


KEEPING UP WITH TECHNOLOGY

Whether we are talking about you, a home office, or a major corporation, a constant question is how far do you go to keep up with technology? Given the speed of technological change, the pressure to be on the cutting edge, and the need for return on investment, this is an increasingly critical and complex challenge. What company (or individual) wants to be branded as a dinosaur? And these days you earn no medals for being one!

When considering a technology upgrade, finding the perfect timing is the difficult part. Upgrade or adopt too soon, and you run the risk of unintended consequences and exorbitant costs. Upgrade or adopt too late, and you run the risk of decreasing profits and unexpected breakdowns and inefficiencies.

Of course budget and planning cycles must be considered too. Whether in the corporate world or in the home office, to everything there is a season. We have to be smart about technological timing in the context of the big-picture.

Do not underestimate the costs of disruption. Too many business owners do. Sometimes it just makes more sense (and cents) to maintain the technology status quo while certain production schedules are met per contract instead of disrupting productivity just for the sake of the technology upgrade. However, at some point, the disruption if carefully planned, will become the answer to move the organization forward by making it leaner and meaner. The point is that the disruption can and should be carefully planned.

A significant source of insight are your frontline employees. They are usually the people facing the good results or the bad results that are directly driven by the technology. It is amazing how often the frontline agents can see the obvious technology-driven chaos while the oblivious company leadership sits silently in its silo.

These and many more factors must be assessed to identify the ideal timing for a technology upgrade or adoption. Even more important than any single technology move is that you are constantly observing the technological landscape. Technology is always changing. As much as we might hope for that day, a “set it and forget it” approach won’t work with technology. If you keep your eye on it, then you’ll know when to take action!


TECHNOLOGY CHANGES VERSUS QUALITY

Artificial intelligence fulfills many roles today to handle customers. Nevertheless, the ongoing question of how AI affects the customer experience remains an open debate. We have been through good and bad technological transitions in the past and we have survived and sometimes thrived. Nevertheless, some of those technological changes have enhanced the customer experience while others have harmed it.

In the early days of the Internet, I can remember my wife reacting to multiple radio and TV commercials by exclaiming, “everything is www this and www that!” She was not happy with so many resources being available on the Web when those early Web days did not always provide the most stellar customer experience. Today she is all over the Web. Obviously, she, like most of us, adjusted and it has been for the good.

Simultaneously, I have some big questions. How will we end up adjusting to AI at the core of our customer experiences or will we? How much will the sense of being passed off to an inferior being insult our intelligence thus causing us to reject the AI element? To what degree will AI degrade the quality of the customer experience? These are all vital questions that have yet to be answered. Time will reveal.

In answering the above questions, we must never forget that ultimately a company does not decide if its products and services are passing the quality assurance tests. That right genuinely belongs to the end user. Customers decide whether a company’s products and services pass the QA test. And it will be the customers that determine whether AI passes the QA test too.


SETTLING FOR A VIRTUAL HUMAN

I once answered a business telephone line with our company greeting and I was very focused and perfect—perhaps a little too focused and perfect. The lady on the other end paused and then asked, “Are you a real person?” I laughed and assured our customer that I was indeed a real person.

We have all been there one way or another. It can be frustrating when you don’t know if the voice on the other end of the line is a human or a virtual human using so-called artificial intelligence. But I think that the frustration goes deeper than that.

Whenever we are prevented from speaking with a real person our customer experience degrades, however slight. That’s another reason why Dilbert got it right with the character “Mordac, the preventer of IT services.” Too often, companies seem to be trying to prevent a positive customer experience. Perhaps that is just one of the reasons why we see such an effort to refine AI. We want AI to replicate the human-contact experience in all aspects so that the customer experience does not degrade, however slight. The idea is that if AI can handle the customer’s request efficiently and convincingly, then the organization saves money and a positive customer experience is preserved. Everyone wins, at least in theory.

As much as I understand that conceptually, scientifically, psychologically, and commercially, I remain somehow unsatisfied and of course that directly affects my customer experience. It’s both an overt and a subtle situation, but it’s definitely not good. Ashlee Vance very accurately captures the experience (“Life, or Something Like It” Bloomberg Businessweek. September 11, 2017, pp. 42–47):

Even successful customer-relations experiences with chatbots, ones where the bot gives the right answer, tend to leave people dissatisfied because they feel like they’ve been pawned off on an inferior being.” (p. 46)

Technology is a wonderful thing. I value it for all its magnificent benefits and I continuously use it to the max. Yet we are human beings and we crave human interaction, especially during those moments when we have a pressing issue to resolve.

AI can do many things because it is the culmination of technology. Nevertheless, it remains technology no matter how intensely we might try to convince ourselves (and our customers) that it is human. Note the quote: “because they feel like they’ve been pawned off on an inferior being.” And what does that do to the customer experience?


ARTIFICIAL WHAT

Artificial intelligence is happening all around us, yet I often muse that the term is an oxymoron and perhaps you have to be a moron to believe the term. How can something that is by definition artificial truly be intelligent? Well, I suppose it all comes down to how you choose to define “intelligence.” You might have a very high standard for the definition while another person might have a very low standard while others are happy somewhere in the middle. This is important because exactly how you choose to set that standard drives how this so-called AI is crafted, evaluated, and used.

My problem with AI is that fundamentally AI is driven by code. Code of course refers to the particular programming language and precisely how it is constructed to handle the required tasks. And of course code by fundamental definition is rigidly deterministic.

  • 2 + 2 = 4
  • A creates B which creates C which yields D.

Using these bits of code and assembling them into massively complex hierarchies eventually creates computer behaviors that appear to replicate human behaviors. When that occurs we are quick to declare the marvelous manifestation of AI.

My problem however is that the human always sees the bigger picture. It is the bigger picture that is not limited to the code. Therefore it is the human perspective that is intrinsically superior to AI.

Because this is true, computer scientists are ever pursuing increasingly complex coding to strive unceasingly to replicate that vital, unique, true human perspective. The problem remains that although this is scientifically (and yes, practically) a noble pursuit, it remains a modern version of a Zeno’s paradox; although you come increasingly close to the destination, it is a destination never reached. (Yes, I understand we have “solutions” to Zeno’s paradox. Nevertheless, the image of Zeno’s paradox is what illustrates our challenge.)

So the ultimate destination is that we so completely code to replicate so perfectly the human thought process that someday we manifest an AI that convinces us it is human, thereby passing the Turing test. Well, I’m still waiting, and I have a feeling I will be waiting a very long time. And while computers might be infinitely patient, I am not.