Planning For Our Future In Medicine

Man makes plans and God laughs

This past week our physicians group did what many companies do once a year: strategic planning. The format is pretty standard. Pick a place away from your usual site for business, gather together the leadership of your organization, develop priorities on how to make your company better and make a plan to deliver on critical results.

We’ve been doing this for the last nine years in some form or fashion. The success of these endeavors is not in where you start but where you end up. The conversations are open and, occasionally, heated. The intent is to engage the combined intellect of the group to end up in a better place than any one person could foresee or plan to achieve.

For the most part that is what occurs. As I reflect on this past week my mind is drawn to recent debates on the changes afoot in health care and how it will impact health care delivery in the future. Of course, I am also thinking about the movie “2012” and how we might not be around in 3 years to worry about anything. I hope that is not the case but you never know.

But back to strategic planning. So, why should anyone take the time to plan? Many events are out of our control: weather, acts of God, an unexpected illness or injury and any myriad of bad (and good) things which occur in our lives. If you live long enough you know of what I speak. The reason we have decided to plan is that if we are going to hope for a future, it might have a slightly higher chance of occurring if we actually worked for that future to occur.

So we set our priorities for the year and ask what we need to do to achieve these goals. Somewhere in the process of what we discuss and lay out in our plans there is an acknowledgment of the role each of us plays in that future. As we have our discussions we become engaged and energized that the possibility exists to achieve that for which we plan. In medicine so many people believe things are too far out of our control. Blame the insurance companies, the tort climate, the uninsured patients or the government. That is an easy trap. But I prefer to believe that the future belongs to those who plan with good intentions and work hard to achieve it.

One of my favorite quotes is from Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. But I like this one even better, from Ellen Goodman: I have never been especially impressed by the heroics of people who are convinced they are about to change the world. I am more awed by those who struggle to make one small difference after another.

So in this time of high rhetoric about the end of days (2012) or the end of health care as we know it, I have chosen to take some time to plan. I look forward to a future in which I will make a small difference. I have chosen to help people with whom I have the privilege to be associated plan for our future together. That future is yet to be determined. Events will unfold before us that will alter our course. Through all of the rises and falls may we continue to endeavor for that future we envision to occur. As we look forward to it may it be so with optimism and hope for a better tomorrow.