Changemaker Health Is Good for Patients and Even Better for Business

Dec 26, 2017

Changemaker Health Series — Essay №6

By Megan Strickland; Editing & contributions by Amy Badiani and Yeleka Barrett

Changemaker health is a growing movement within healthcare that provides more open and participatory pathways for patients and customers to be involved in their own healthcare. Recognizing that patients are the experts of their own experiences, changemaker health expands the dynamic from patient-centered to patient-owned. What does this really mean? It means patients are not simply a focus within the design of healthcare services, but they are empowered to be in control of their own care. Read the first article in this series, which introduces the concept of Changemaker health in depth.

But, how can healthcare companies become an integral and supportive part of the Changemaker health movement?

Step #1: Turn Employees into Changemakers

As our world’s challenges become more complex and global in nature, our workplaces need to adapt and change the way we solve challenges. The Institute for the Future (IFTF) at Dell reports that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. Smart companies are getting ahead of the curve by recognizing the need to be increasingly user-centered, creating new leadership with personal and professional development opportunities and honoring the wholeness of their employees. They are transforming company culture, inside out.

Jos de Blok of the Netherlands, for instance, created Buurtzorg (meaning “neighborhood care”), a network of over 8,000 nurses organized into about 500 smaller autonomous teams working together to meet their patients’ needs. These teams lead their own learning and can spend up to three percent of company revenue on training without the need for permission. A high number of Buurtzorg nurses get trained in specific medical conditions and technical equipment so they can assist new clients in the best way. The culture shift is from colleagues asking if they can learn about something to just doing it themselves. As a result, motivation increases immediately. “It is as if I just woke up, because I start again to think of all sorts of possibilities,” is what one often hears at Buurtzorg.

Buurtzorg philosophy also centers around providing the kind of care that is based on relationship building and trust. The nurses pay special attention to emotional, relational and spiritual needs. For example, a nurse senses a proud older lady has stopped inviting friends to visit because she feels bad about her sickly appearance. The nurse may call the lady’s daughter to suggest buying some new clothes.

The Buurtzorg organizational model is just one example that demonstrates how care can be holistic and responsive when employees and health professionals are empowered outside of their traditional roles.

When employees and health professionals are energized to think of their roles differently, they do differently.

Step #2: Adopt a User-Centered Design Approach through Technology

Patients have become better informed about their health through the internet, improved access to education and personal health devices like wearable fitness trackers. Many are taking their healthcare needs into their own hands and prescribing self-treatment plans. Instead of discouraging this growing trend, smart healthcare companies can devise better ways to support these well-informed and tech savvy patients.

Take UK-based Patients Know Best, for instance. It helps hospitals work with patients through an online patient portal software. The main convenience of the software is that it gathers records in a central location. Then patients can invite the caregivers they choose to collaborate with each other in one place.

Similarly, for the the increasing number of patients who want the convenience of care without having to leave home, Irish mental health care provider MyMind offers patients licensed, affordable, professional mental health care services through online video conferencing. By embracing technology, MyMind ensures self-sufficiency, connectivity and enables healthcare to come to patients instead of forcing patients to come to healthcare.

Step #3: Create Out-of-the-Box Partnerships

Partnerships, particularly non-traditional ones that create bridges across sectors, can generate surprising efficiencies that lead to big cost savings.

The Swiss pharmaceutical research and development group EspeRare, for example, pursues treatment options for rare diseases by bringing together biopharmaceutical companies and universities to explore the potential of existing therapies. Most pharmaceutical companies are not willing to invest in Research & Development (R&D) for such a small, niche market. And academia often lacks the know-how to develop drugs robustly and quickly. By bringing these two groups together for a comprehensive solution, EspeRare fills a gap while reducing R&D costs and timelines.

Companies, universities, and other organizations across sectors are increasingly recognizing the need to leverage shared value. These out-of-the-box partnerships comprise co-creation — from ideation to design to implementation.

By engaging patients in caring for their whole selves and co-creating convenient solutions that are good for the bottom line, health companies are an integral part of fulfilling the patient-centered to patient-owned mission within the changemaker health movement.

Ashoka is a global network of leading social entrepreneurs — individuals who tackle society’s complex social problems with scalable, innovative solutions. Launched in 2010 by Ashoka and the global healthcare company Boehringer Ingelheim, the Making More Health (MMH) initiative identifies, supports, and scales innovative, entrepreneurial solutions to global health challenges. To date, the MMH initiative has identified and supported 80 social entrepreneurs in the field of healthcare from across 47 countries. This article series synthesizes the emerging patterns and insights of the MMH network, as well as other social entrepreneurs working in healthcare, in order to explore the theme of changemaker health.

Full list of articles in the series:

Case Study 1: Patients Know Best: A Changemaker Health Case Study

Article 1: The Shifting Role of Patients in Today’s Healthcare System: Introducing Changemaker Health

Article 2: The Role of Co-Creation in Changemaker Health

Article 3: How Community-Led Caregiving Is Transforming Healthcare

Article 4: Tech for Changemaker Health

Article 5: Detection and Diagnosis for Changemaker Health


Changemaker Health Is Good for Patients and Even Better for Business was originally published in A New Game on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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