Wow! Pow! Zip! Snap!

Connection and community were the dominating theme of the American Healthcare Congress concluding today in Irvine, California. Lots of technology, as usual, but way more about connectional tools than imaging and interventions. Virtual office visits, smart phone reminders of check-ups, personal record health records in the “cloud” linking providers and patients. Wow! Pow! Zoom! Zip! Snap!


For all the internet metaphors that fill our conversation these days, we remain squishy, not hard-wired. Transformation is hard because humans are, well, human. We are distracted by all the other connections and appetites that tug for our attention. Physicians and nurses and everyone involved in the health journey are already busy. The new ways add work long before they free up any time and trouble.

The good news is that humans are made for connection, but with eyeballs, voice, touch, tone and gesture. Wires and machines are dead as a box of rocks until somebody connects them and makes energy move through.

Humans, however, move toward each other naturally because we are alive. We connect. We handle complexity through relationships more than protocols. We seek to know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who cares. We use the odd and unpredictable links to find our way: the former wife’s boyfriend’s buddy who works for the hospital who knows the admission person. Friends and the kindness of strangers help us find our way through and across the dangerous cold currents as across rocks in a mountain stream.

Don’t read me as excusing the toxic stew of policies and practices that explode like land mines in the journey. It is the job of the grown-ups in the structure to get the predictable stones out of the healing way. But we don’t have to figure it out in maddening detail like we do with machines.

Part of management is bringing order out of disorder. But another part is holding the space for disorder so that new human connections can find their own order, smarter and more adaptive than our imposed structure.

If we permit connection, humans will figure it out, especially if we permit their friends to help out, too. That is what happens a thousand times a day with congregations and friendship networks anyway.

We are making it easier and more likely in Memphis by allowing our hospital to be more receptive to the connections through congregations. It is like dropping the string in the sugar water, signaling that it is okay for the crystal to form. The crystal wants to form.

Look like you want a human connection and the human networks will form. And people will move across them more efficiently than you could program. Squishware!

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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