Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Promoting Community Wellbeing by Fostering Mind-Body-Spirit Development

I just submitted an idea to the Changemakers, an organization that describes itself as "...a community of action where we all collaborate on solutions." They are looking for ideas about how to improve mental health and community wellbeing with the world. The title of my idea is "Promoting Community Wellbeing by Fostering Mind-Body-Spirit Development." Following are several sections of my submission; the bold headings are the questions they wanted answered. For the complete submission, please visit this link.

What is your idea?

To provide tools that help transform people's lives, in ways that promote community wellbeing, by enabling and motivating individuals to develop their minds (including their beliefs, behaviors and emotions), bodies, and spirit by following life paths guided by profound insight, rational thought, empathy and compassion.

Innovation: What makes your idea unique?

The information it collects includes details about people's core thoughts, feelings, behaviors and health status, as well as the influences of their psychosocial (including economic, political, cultural and religious) and physical environments. In addition to helping improve people's physical and mental health, knowledge gained from this information would likely have a global societal benefit by revealing how much alike people are—regardless of the societies in which they live—by (a) showing how we share many similar core beliefs, perceptions, values, desires and emotions, and (b) clarifying the influence of psychosocial and natural environments. This knowledge could lead to profound understanding of what it means to be human, as well as dramatically increase the empathy we have toward each other by enabling each of us to "put ourselves in others' shoes." And empathy can breed compassion, which are essential for the wellbeing communities and express humankind's spiritual potential.


Six key problems addressed are:

  • The healthcare industry's failure to adequately address the mind-body connection when providing care (link)
  • The difficulty consumers have making informed decisions, solving personal problems, and taking better care of themselves (link)
  • The need for better evidence-based research, as well as more focus on guideline development, dissemination, and use
  • The need for better protection of populations via biosurveillance
  • Our culture's drift away from empathy and compassion toward a less spiritual set of values (link)
  • The healthcare system's failure to focus on delivering high value (top quality at low cost) to the consumer (link).

What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The idea for the innovation began in the early 1980's as I (Dr. Stephen Beller) began my clinical psychology practice, and has been evolving ever since. At that time I started wondering how to obtain, manage and use comprehensive details about my patients' psychological conditions to help me deliver the best possible care by enabling profound understanding of my patients' problems, determine the best courses of action (treatment planning), evaluate outcomes (the results/consequences of such actions), and continually learn from experience. Since the personal computer (PC) had just entered the market, I figured that using a PC for this purpose was a reasonable thing to do, so I purchased one and began working with spreadsheets.

By the mid 1980's, my efforts led to the creation of a software program that I used in my practice to collect, analyze, and report data information about people's stressful/troublesome life situations, emotional disturbances, maladaptive ways of thinking and acting, psychosocial experiences, and traumatic events. I soon realized that I not only wanted to learn about my patients/clients' mental health problems, but I also wanted a way to know about any related physiological/biomedical factors that were affecting them. My colleagues and I then set out to create the first information technology providing a comprehensive, in-depth, "biopsychosocial" view of patients' conditions and treatments.

This led to a 15-year journey of intensive, cross-disciplinary research and heath IT innovation. During that time, I:

  • Created a universal lifetime computerized patient record system and a suite of decision-support tools for healthcare professionals and consumers
  • Published a blueprint for a national health information network
  • Used the knowledge gained over the years to obtain a patent for a novel process for exchanging and presenting information
  • Presented my ideas and creations to others while establishing international relationships.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

As the innovator behind this ides, my life goal is to work with others to help re-direct the course of humankind, so we don't have to be ashamed of the world we're leaving our children. Toward that end, I've spent the past three decades in creative pursuits, including inventing unique software systems, writing about the healthcare crisis and cures, and developing close personal and professional bonds with fine individuals across the globe.

I'm currently involved in a wide range of activities devoted to:

  • Healthcare reform
  • Consumer empowerment
  • Continuous improvement of care quality and efficiency using evolving evidence-based guidelines
  • Improving the health and wellbeing of the elderly and impoverished, promoting community wellness, and providing diabetes education
  • Development of novel cost-effective software tools and cyber-infrastructure for the secure exchange, analysis and presentation of meaningful information to healthcare professionals and patients
  • Protecting populations and supporting first responders and trauma department staff in disaster situations.

Being an outspoken critic of our current healthcare system for the past fifteen years, offering disruptive health IT innovations whose full appreciation requires a paradigm shift in thinking, and focusing on bringing high value to the consumer—all these things have made my journey very difficult and frustrating, as well as spiritually fulfilling. Nevertheless, thanks to the Internet, I've been able to develop many wonderful relationships with people in our country and abroad. And thanks to the "flattening of the world" and growing awareness that we must change the way business is done and people are treated, I am for the first time optimistic that social innovation can have a positive and sustainable impact on our species.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Increasing Global Empathy by Understanding the Essence of Humanity

For the past three decades, I've been envisioning ways to foster the realization of positive human potential and wellbeing. Toward that end, I've long imagined a world where people from all nations, societies, ethnicities and faiths have a deep comprehension of the thoughts and feelings common throughout all humankind (i.e., the "essence of humanity").

This knowledge would reveal how much alike we all are by showing how we share many similar core beliefs, perceptions, desires and emotions. It would also clarify the ways in which psychosocial (including economic, political, cultural and religious) and natural environments influences and differentiate people's mental states. And it could lead to a profound understanding of it means to be human, as well as dramatically increase the empathy we have toward each other by enabling each of us to "put ourselves in others' shoes." And empathy can breed compassion, which together are essential ingredients for the wellbeing communities.

Collecting information about people's core thoughts and feelings, and the influences of their psychosocial and natural environments, can be done through use of anonymous questionnaires. The questionnaires would have to have adequate details, be written in many different languages, and take into account the customs of different cultures. Developing the questionnaires would be an international collaborative project that could very well promote wellbeing among the participants as they focus on mutual understanding. For people with computers and Internet access, the information can be input into web forms or send via e-mail. For others, field workers would be used (similar to the census).

Analysis of the resulting information would be reveal common human thoughts and feelings about oneself, family, community and obligation to others; about people's perceptions of the past, present and future; about our wishes, virtues (what's good/right) and values (what's important), degrees of optimism and pessimism, sense of empowerment and helplessness & hopelessness; about our physical and emotional health, our pains and pleasures, our hopes and fears, our angers and frustrations, and feelings of shame, guilt, jealousy and envy; about our beliefs concerning life meaning and purpose; etc. The analysis would also delineate differences in our thoughts and feelings based on our demographics and the psychosocial and natural environments in which we were raised and now live.

By disseminating the results throughout the world, by understanding how much alike all humans are in their core ways of thinking and feeling, and by encouraging ongoing global discussion about them, I contend that empathy will increase throughout the world as ethno-cultural barriers are breached to give rise to a greater sense of oneness/unity. This would foster greater wellbeing the worldwide community!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Convergence of 3 Core Healthcare Reform Issues: American values, personal responsibility, and pragmatic solutions

In the past few weeks, there's been a wonderful convergence of discussions focused on core issues underlying our country's healthcare reform debates; these issues are: American values, personal responsibility, and pragmatic solutions for a sustainable healthcare system.

For example, in the past two weeks, the Hasting Center posted the following blogs:
And the Health Affairs blog posted this: American Values And Health Reform

What's most exciting is that these issues go to very heart of who we are as a society, what we truly consider important as individuals, our level of spirituality, our degree of empathy and compassion, and our ability to think rationally/sensibly about the present and future. I've been writing extensively about such topics on this blog for several years; following are some links and summaries:
  • Personal Responsibility: A Thorny Issue in Healthcare Transformation – Explains why there's so much to consider when judging healthcare reform policies in terms of promoting personal responsibility.

  • Criteria for a Sustainable Health System – Presents 4 goals that any government healthcare reform proposals ought to focus on achieving i.e., promoting greater Self-Discipline, Personal Responsibility, Empathy and Compassion for the least advantaged (social responsibility), and Public Accountability (transparency). And offers 8 objectives that relate to those achieving those goals, i.e., Balance Investment & Spending, Balance Savings & Borrowing, Balance Conservation & Consumption, Balance Endowments & Entitlements, Connect Ends & Means (resource availability), Connect Should/Must Dos & Can Dos (priorities), Preserve Security/Protection, and Preserve Rights/Freedoms (opportunity and liberty).

  • A Principled and Pragmatic Approach to Healthcare Reform – Discusses two related issues:

    (1) How principled strategies for healthcare reform should be guided by empathy ("putting yourself in others' shoes" to understand what they are going through) and compassion (caring what others are going through and doing what we reasonably can do to help those in distress).

    (2) How a pragmatic strategy ought to find fair and effective ways to pay for the tactics aimed at realizing the two main objectives of a principled strategy: (a) providing universal coverage and (b) continually improving care effectiveness and efficiency leading to ever-better and more affordable approaches to care. Explains how this is made difficult by our society's tendency to focus on short-sighted, quick-fix solutions that are short on empathy and compassion for the public good, and also by our culture's failure to promote self discipline and personal responsibility & accountability. And it points to the need for substantial governmental reform aimed at minimizing lobbyists' influence, quid pro quo favors to party benefactors, operational inefficiencies, etc.

  • How to Reform Healthcare Sensibly: Focus on Two Clear Goals and Low-Cost, High-Quality Care In America: A Reply – Discusses how the focus of the current healthcare reform debate is out of balance, since (a) issues of money and insurance are by far the main focus, (b) issues of quality and knowledge are a minor focus, and (c) issues of empathy and compassion are mostly out of focus. Explains how focusing on all these issues in a more balanced way is absolutely essential for creating a sustainable, high value system in which everyone: (a) has access to excellent affordable healthcare, (b) gets the knowledge and guidance needed to make informed decisions and take responsible action, and (c) is incentivized to "do the right thing." That is, healthcare reform MUST FAIL UNLESS we balance (a) economic strategies that focus primarily on cost-control with (b) strategies aimed at filling the knowledge gap. As the article discussed, likely consequences of this failure include reduced care quality and productivity, as well as provider resistance.

  • Healthcare Reform's Most Important Issue: How to Make it a High-Value System – Discusses why a deep, rational debate about universal insurance versus single payer systems ought to be balanced by focusing on an equally (if not more) important core issue, i.e., how to dramatically increase cost-effectiveness (value to the consumer).

  • Empathy, Taxes, Personal Responsibility, and Healthcare Reform and Empathy, Taxes, Personal Responsibility, and Healthcare Reform – A Timely Debate (part 1) and (part 2) – Discusses how, from a psychological perspective, there is a lack of empathy (i.e., the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another) reflected by the fact that fortunate people with plenty of money or a secure job with an excellent health plan do not want to pay more taxes nor to risk changing the coverage they believe benefits them; even if such changes may benefit many others who are suffering. Includes a contentious debate I had with two people working in the insurance industry.

  • Healthcare Reform: Where to Focus? – Explains why Robert J. Samuelson misinterprets healthcare statistics in a Washington Post article, and why he is erroneous in his conclusions that (a) controlling cost is the central problem, (b) healthcare for the poor in our country is actually quite good, and (c) we cannot afford to view healthcare as a "right" that demands universal insurance for every American.

  • Aligning the Ought-To's with the Can-Do's – Argues that we had better focus on answering the questions: What OUGHT TO BE done to guarantee everyone has access to affordable, high-quality healthcare? and What CAN BE done, realistically, to make that happen? And then, wherever there is a misalignment between these Ought To's and the Can Be's (i.e., when we can't do what we ought to be doing), we'd be wise to ask ourselves: WHAT'S PREVENTING US and HOW CAN WE overcome those obstacles? I then explain why, when it comes to healthcare (as well as other domestic issues and even foreign policy) answering these questions isn't easy because it requires that we stop deceiving ourselves, and start critically and objectively evaluating the values, priorities, goals, and underlying beliefs of our culture.

  • The Whole-Person Integrated-Care (WPIC) Wellness Solution – The first of a series of posts that describes four types of people, with different character traits, who require different approaches to wellness due their different thoughts, emotions, behaviors, knowledge & understanding, and coping strategies.

  • Are you worthy of health insurance and high-value care? and Worthiness, Socialized Medicine, and Individual Responsibility – Examines and debates the questions: Who is worthy of having adequate health insurance and high-value (safe, cost-effective) care; what makes them deserving? And who, on the other hand, is unworthy; what makes them undeserving?