TED Conversations

Closing Statement from Michael J. Barber, VP, GE Healthymagination

Well, TED community, now that our conversation has come to a close, I’d like to thank you all for sharing your thought-provoking questions and insightful ideas on patient behavior. I also want to thank Dr. Nancy Snyderman for participating and for bringing her valuable medical perspective to our discussion.

Over the course of the conversation, some key takeaways for me included:

+ It takes time to drive real change in community healthcare systems but it is worth the effort to increase access, decrease costs and improve the quality of healthcare.

+ Being smart and honest with our healthcare providers goes a long way no matter which country we live in.

+ We can save 100,000 lives a year by preventing hospital errors.

+ Learning about health early in life and developing good habits can have a big impact on our healthcare system in the future.

+ As patients become better armed with information through technology, we will see the patient/doctor relationship evolve into something more meaningful and efficient.

+ If good health is a priority in the workspace, these habits will translate into the home.

This has been a great first experience with TED Conversations for me and I hope to meet you all in the digital healthcare space again soon.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jul 27 2011: I think about this a lot - why people find it so difficult to take responsibility for their health - it polarizes my thinking from one extreme to the other and back on a regular basis. On the one hand, I believe in the freedom of the individual to shape their own lives; on the other hand I believe we have a responsibility towards each other and to society as a whole.

    Case in point (and bearing in mind I live in a country with a single-payor socialized health system (and very good it is too):
    Last week, my father had a successful heart bypass operation after a series of heart attacks (he thought indigestion) caused by severe coronary artery disease. He never smoked. He is far fitter than the average 68 year-old, cycling upwards of 100 miles/week. He eats a largely fish/vegetarian diet out of preference, has been very active all his life, and drinks in moderation, and he has been very proactive over the last 15 years in managing his health. Yet genetics through him a curve ball and the UK's NHS has just spent ca. USD 20,000 re-doing the plumbing around his heart.

    Outside the hospital when I visited, stood an army of smokers, many of them far from their ideal BMI, many of them on drips, some in wheelchairs...and I thought "Really? Should the NHS be paying for this? Their irresponsibility is causing an unnecessary drain on health resources, " I ranted at my brother (I was emotional - seeing your dad intubated in the ICU is never nice). At which point he (who is actually rather clever, and also works in health), pointed out: "Where do you draw the line? Do you refuse to treat drivers who crash their cars driving over the speed limit?" causing a crash of moral reasoning. I don't know.

    So how does the payor (state or insurance company) encourage better health behaviours? I don't think there is one answer - I think there are many, and they are likely different for everyone - what would make you look after your health the way you should?
    • thumb
      Jul 28 2011: Conor – It’s nice to see a fellow GE employee participating in this conversation on patient behavior. I hope your father is doing well. We often have the “carrot” and “stick” discussion within GE, as you know. Do you incentivize people by paying them a cash bonus for going to the gym? Or do you charge them $10 for their hamburger in the work cafeteria and $3 for their salad?

      You know as a GE employee that through our internal health initiative – HealthAhead – we’ve focused on helping employees improve the way they eat, work and live through both carrot and stick approaches. For example, by the end of 2010, 120 out of 295 GE-owned-and-operated campuses were tobacco-free. What I’ve taken away from our HealthAhead initiative is that employers can help set the tone for their employees. If good health is a priority in the workspace, these habits will translate into the home. We hope this will have a lasting impact on the individual employees and their families.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.