Knowledge Like Clear Clean Water

The Chief Knowledge Officer of Britain’s National Health Service, Sir Muir Gray, on Health Care’s ProgressOver the last year or so, I’ve written a lot about how health care information will become increasingly available to consumers and health care business, and how this access will drive new decision-support capabilities that will profoundly change how health care works, eliminating many of the problems that have placed health care in crisis. So imagine my delight when a colleague forwarded this quote.

Sir Muir Gray is Chief Knowledge Office of Britain’s National Health Service. His wonderfully clear explanation of how health care knowledge will become guidance – that is, decision-support – makes a compelling case for the transformative power of Health 2.0.

Check it out:

“The future is something we make, not something we discover. And the future is easy to make because as William Gibson has said, the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

The second revolution took place in the latter part of the 20th Century. It was driven by science, making plastics, airplanes, televisions and innovation in chemical and mechanical technology in health care.

We’re in the middle of the third Healthcare revolution. The first was based on common sense, an empirical revolution; the health of nations was transformed by making observations and deductions from data and improving conditions based on those deductions. So now, for example, we take clean clear water for granted.

We have made amazing progress, but we have though not solved the following “magnificent 8″ problems:

· Errors and mistakes,
– Poor quality healthcare,
– Waste,
– Unknowing variations in policy & practice,
– Poor patient experience,
– Overenthusiastic adoption of interventions of low value,
– Failure to get new evidence into practice,
– Failure to manage uncertainty.

More science and more money is not going to help these. I have reservations about putting more money into health services, because my experience is that this just makes people more obsessed with money.

The third revolution is different – everyone’s involved and it’s everywhere, it’s adaptable, it’s pervasive, it’s inclusive and convergent.

I’m very much inspired by Manuel Castell’s work: The Rise of the Network Society. The third industrial (and therefore, healthcare) revolution is driven by citizens, IT and knowledge. Professionals are by and large two decades off the zeitgeist and this is not restricted to healthcare, it’s seen across all professions.

Knowledge is the enemy of disease, the application of what we know will have a bigger impact than any drug or technology likely to be introduced in the next decade. I’m talking about three types of knowledge here Statistics, Evidence and Mistakes – we need to be able to deliver these as simply and abundantly as we deliver clean water.

We need to take pure research and systematically review it to produce guidance that goes into the “water supply” and then comes out of the tap. What we’re introducing in NHS bodies is a Chief Knowledge Officer – because you need energy to make knowledge appear everywhere.

So how might this come together? In the past we’ve given knowledge to clinicians who’ve then passed it on to patients, now our principles are that we give knowledge to patients and give them the opportunity to discuss it with clinicians. What is the best structure for financing and organising healthcare in 21C? – it doesn’t matter – you just have to decide how much to spend, how to allocate it and maximise use of resources. We should be thinking systems rather than structures, recognising the network that runs alongside every bureacracy is responsible for innovation.

And this will help us move from thinking about hospitals, trusts etc to thinking about our core business – the treatment of disease.”