Revolution, Sharing Stories, and Friends Forever: Lessons from #APA2015

As I sit here from my #APA2015 hotel, watching Toronto Argonauts football I wanted to try to capture some thoughts following a fascinating day here in Toronto at the 2015 American Psychological Association Annual Meeting. I have learned three big picture lessons from my time here at #APA2015...

Lesson One: We Need Many Revolutions....

It's so cliche to say "We Need A Revolution" to move the hearts and minds of people to bring about change. But, in my years of doing advocacy work, the word "revolution" really reaches people and hits the right emotional nerve.

Many people have been saying that "We Need A Revolution" in health care. But, what it's really going to take is each community and each stakeholder group needs to have their own little internal revolution first. And then, through the synergy of this passion and drive, maybe something substantial will be done.

Kerri Sparling is part of the first health care change revolution that I was aware of - This is known as the "E-Patient Movement" in which very motivated patients like Dave DeBronkart, i.e. "E-Patient Dave, " they are taking control of their own health care and challenging the health care establishment to give them better care.

My own Family Medicine community is trying to rally our troops by declaring a Family Medicine Revolution, better known as #FMRevolution on twitter. Goals of this movement are to show the Value of Family Medicine to our communities and to our legislators to bring about things like better health care delivery models, like Patient Centered Medical Home and Direct Primary Care. In addition, we're advocating the exploration and implementation of new health care payment models like moving from episodic fee-for-service care to payment for quality of care.

The plenary talk I saw Ben Miller give at the American Psychological Association Annual Meeting was amazing (see pic above). Through energy, passion, data, and stories, Ben is challenging his own discipline of psychology to look within themselves and not settle for the status quo. "We (as psychologists) should not let our discipline be defined by "The Couch," he said. ("The Couch" is the stereotypical place where mental health patients receive care by psychologists.) Ben continued, "We are better than that. We have to define our discipline by assuring the public that we can deliver a complexity of care that we have been trained to do. The time is now. We cannot be left behind." What a powerful call to action.

Lesson Two: Want Revolution? Decide if you need data, or stories, or both...

To bring about revolution, you first have to define your goals and what do you want to accomplish. This will define your strategy. To win the hearts and minds of people, it has been shown time and time again that powerful stories can help to bring your point across.

What I have seen is that to try to inspire revolution in your own community, sharing data with community leaders is the next step to try to "bring your own house in order." For Family Medicine, hearing about and showing things like the decreasing medical student interest in the specialty, the increasing difficulty of patients to have and to hold health insurance, and showing the increasing fragmentation of the health care delivery system - all these and a lot more data have helped to spur on the Family Medicine Revolution.

However, in the area of health policy and in the area of legislative change, you really need a balance of both powerful stories and data people can understand - to even attempt to bring about change. I have heard this for years from my colleagues at meetings like the Family Medicine Congressional Conference, but I really didn't believe it until now. Kerri Sparling said during our session, "When we (as patient advocates) lobby on Capitol Hill, we bring our sob stories, but what would really help is data to help support our stories." That statement really solidified it for me.

Lesson Three: You need Revolutionary Friends...

"You cannot bring about change by yourself," Ben Miller told his fellow psychologists during his plenary session. "We need to be creative and look for opportunities for partnerships, like with our patients, and then we can start to work together on common issues." Sound familiar? Patient advocacy groups, FMRevolution groups, and other groups have been saying this for years.

My thanks to Ben Miller and to the American Psychological Association for the opportunity to speak and to share my Family Medicine and Primary Care story. Thanks to Kerri Sparling for being an inspiration to me an to others in sharing her story. Did you know that Kerri was one of the first people that I met online when I started blogging around ten years ago? She knew me way back in the "Doctor Anonymous" days and it was so much fun talking about those "old days" and reminiscing about our social media journeys.

There is so much more I learned from this brief time at the conference, but those are the highlights. I did video record my sessions. I have to check to see how the video and how the audio worked out. Hopefully, I'll share these sessions with you on my youtube channel soon. Hope you had a great weekend!