Think small: The individual experience of care image Apr04

Think small: The individual experience of care

Columbus, OH — The challenges we have to solve in healthcare are enormous: an epidemic of chronic disease, inequity in care, a rapidly aging population, the list goes on and on. The scale of the problems is overwhelming. Yet, a lot of our solutions tend to be underwhelming. They’re impersonal, hard to use, and full of complex language.

Maybe where we’re going wrong is trying to solve everyone’s problems all at once instead of understanding the incredibly personal experiences that happen along the way.  Matt Mizer, one of our favorite collaborators, recently sent us this video about how the Cleveland Clinic is trying to understand the individual experiences that fill its corridors everyday:

It’s stories like those that inspired one of our go-to brainstorming tactics here. It’s called “think small” and it starts with two people: say a young family doctor and a middle-aged woman struggling with diabetes.

He recently moved from Washington, DC to Dayton, OH to join a practice. He’s training for his first marathon, considers himself a pretty excellent cook, and just started dating a real estate agent in town. She’s overweight, works as a receptionist, has teenage boys at home and an aging mother who needs a lot of attention and care. We give them names and stories and the natural tension that exists around two people trying to connect, trying to change a life.


The challenge then isn’t to solve the big problems of healthcare, it’s to make it a little easier for those two people. To understand the whole situation and create an incredible relevant and personal solution. From those ideas and answers come themes that can power bigger, more universal ideas.


Getting to know the people we ultimately serve has been made easier than ever by YouTube, blogs, and online communities. But, it’s still the actions of generous individuals that tend to give us the most powerful views into life on the real frontlines of healthcare in America. Here are two that changed our thinking:

1. When nurse Martha Keochareon began losing her battle with pancreatic cancer, she decided to share her last days with students who could learn from her experience dying:

2. Dese’Rae L. Stage just completed a first round of Kickstarter funding to bring the Live Through This project to life. It’s a collection of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors, as told by those survivors, and inspired by Stage’s own experience.

Posted by: Leigh Householder