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Patient Advocacy on the Cusp of the Tipping Point
A tipping point: a dictionary definition will tell you that it means “the crisis stage in a process, when significant change takes place.” And for patient and health advocacy – we are almost there. Almost at the tipping point. I first learned the term when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book by that title, The Tipping Point. I learned that the term is borrowed from epidemiology. That is, when a contagious organism infects enough people to go from just a few sick people, to hundreds, or thousands or millions – the tipping point occurs in that modicum of space or time, when all of a sudden it switches from almost epidemic to being an epidemic. It’s when that threshold is crossed. Another way of looking at it comes from Hollywood – when an “overnight success” is recognized, even though he or she has been acting, singing or performing for many years prior to that point. But that point between when few know who s/he is and millions recognize his/her name – that’s the tipping point. Tipping points don’t happen by themselves. They require a set of circumstances that make the tip happen. Gladwell describes types of people who make them happen: connectors, mavens and salesmen, all of whom have a role in helping a concept cross that threshold to become mainstream. In the past week, two people have shared links that indicate to me that we are almost there. Both are quotations from well-known or well-regarded people who have identified or described what patient advocates are doing, thereby moving us closer to the mainstream. These aren’t people who are involved in patient advocacy, meaning these quotations are in no way self-serving. They are observational – and powerful. The first quotation comes from Dr. David Lawrence, the retired CEO of Kaiser Health System. The crisis he identifies is the total dysfunction of the American health care system, and he states that he believes it will be entrepreneurs, not the government, who will fix the system. Among the entrepreneurial ideas he focuses on are two advocacy services: Triage, or helping consumers determine whether…