In college I majored in sociology, which is how I discovered my favorite college course and one true love: social theory. Social theory helped shape the direction of my thesis, where I ended up merging some core ideas of two of my favorite thinkers: Karl Marx and Ivan Illich. Bear with me here as I get a bit nerdy--I took Marx’s theory of alienation, which focuses on how the way we produce goods results in workers becoming disconnected from the part of the work that creates meaning, and applied it to the current health care system, where patients often find themselves unable to truly own their health and the process of navigating the health care system.
When I wrote my thesis, I was focused on the theory and not the practical application, but at the root of it, it spoke to the lack of patient-centeredness we see in our health care system. In retrospect, it was auspicious timing that I started working at CCMU—an organization that puts the patient at the center of every health and health care system conversation—a month after graduation. At CCMU, we are constantly seeking new ways of thinking about our health care system, which requires time spent researching and reflecting on evidence-based practices and theories of change that prioritize the patient. The difference between my school work and my work at CCMU is that what we research is, critically, of practical use to the health care system and our efforts to improve it.
One way we are doing this is by adopting a consumer-as-expert lens as we work alongside other leaders to transform the way health care is delivered and paid for. We recognize that the shift away from profit-driven health care toward value-driven health care is one that must prioritize the patient and involve them in the work. The health of our most vulnerable populations improves when we increase access to comprehensive and affordable coverage, increase access to health services and resources, and enable patients to navigate the health care system in a way that best meets their needs. In order to accomplish this, we know we need a marriage of research and practice, informed by the experiences of Coloradans. So, we’re starting by looking at what’s already worked when it comes to integrating consumer values into health system transformation, and then we’ll be applying what we’ve learned, and learning more from Colorado consumers, as we work to transform the health care system.
I still like poring over theory, but I’ve learned that engaging in this kind of learning is more fulfilling when it is tied to practice and grounded in real life circumstances. At CCMU, we are always looking for new ways to think about longstanding problems, but our ability to translate this research and learning into practical application is our true strength.