Do You Prepare for Your Future or Live in Your Past?

Any therapist will tell a patient to learn from their mistakes but not to dwell on them. Parents, who are often thrust into a similar role, are using their experiences and upbringing to improve the lives of their children.

To learn from the past is a great idea. To dwell on the past is detrimental.
How does this apply to the 2020 coined term, “Essential Worker?”

If you work at or own a restaurant, I’m sure your paycheck was essential to putting food on the table. If you were a grocery clerk… one of the faceless people of commerce, you are now a Pandemic hero.

My how times have made us think and reflect. Since March of 2020, we have all spent time defining what is and is not essential.

• Am I an essential worker?

• Is my business essential?

• Is it essential to buy 15 cases of toilet paper?
• Is this new shining object essential?
• Is wearing pants essential when working from home?

Reflecting on this new perspective, I am taken back to Elementary School and an assignment entitled “What would you take.” My 5th-grade teacher, Ms. Johnson, was an engaging educator. She could have easily been a college professor with the thought-provoking questions she would infuse into our young minds.

Today, more than ever, I recall one such question.

“Pretend you are forced to flee your home and only have 5 minutes to gather your belongings what would you take?”

We then had 5 minutes to write down everything we would take in their own “Go Bag.” My bag included my baseball cards, a picture album, and the TV (The Zenith, 17” probably weighed 30 lbs. and would have been a little hard to carry in those days).

I was not alone in my cherishing of the past. Many of the class members wrote down books, trophies, and jewelry as a way to take their lives with them-to bring mementos of their very existence.

Very few people wrote down socks or underwear or a knife and matches. (I guess there were no Boy Scouts in my class). The conversation amongst the class fascinates me to this day. Holding on to the past self, rather than preparing for the future self, was critical for almost all people who answered the query.

Fast forward to the historical year 2020. For Healthcare during COVID, the term essential takes on a different meaning. While Healthcare, in general, is deemed essential, most non-healthcare people do not realize all parts of the industry are treated the same. Some highly skilled physician’s offices are treated in the same category as the local corner restaurant. While urgent care, which is certainly essential, was a focus. Someone in charge of all this forgot about prevention.

While treating an ailment is certainly important, doesn’t the phrase “an ounce of prevention…” still ring true?

Doesn’t it make sense for us to refocus the “Disease care” mindset and truly apply the name from which it originated?

Healthcare begins with you… the captain of your ship.

Prevention is a massively overlooked area of healthcare. Perhaps 2020 will refocus the light not only on the essential workers in prevention, but the urgent need for the Healthcare essential “Go Bag,” which could include the Electronic Medical Record, support staff, physical tools like supplies, and the newest addition, telemedicine.

What is missing, and how do we ensure that Healthcare has all the tools necessary during a digital age? Do we have the appropriate tools for educating patients on what is essential? Have we helped to define that for them?

Coming through to the other side of COVID, we should reset the tools we have in our essential Healthcare “Go Bag.”

If you are working in healthcare, you probably already have a list and know the pain inside and out. If you are not in the industry, ask yourself, “What would you want your primary care doctor to bring?”

Etan Walls is Principal of Strong Walls Consulting and author of the upcoming book The Mega Factory of Healthcare. Strong Walls Consulting provides operational, strategic, and tactical assistance to healthcare organizations, large and small. Previously, Mr. Walls was the COO of the largest independent outpatient Pediatric group in the United States. He has mentored many startup Healthcare IT organizations with his brand of innovative, forward-thinking leadership. All inquiries should go to etanwalls@gmail.com