Insights (Essays)

Insights (Essays) November 2013

A New Dynamic Wholeness – Both Our Minds and Our Hearts

Andrew Holt and Hugh MacLeod

The “balcony of personal reflection” is engaged. Our minds and hearts are listening and observing the many storms that are gathering. Converging together are the financial storms dashing against provincial government revenues; the chronic disease management storm overwhelming our healthcare delivery system – where acute care hospitals remain at the hub of service delivery; the quality and patient safety storm with the baby-boom generation beginning to practise medical consumerism, and demanding “patient-centred care”; the healthcare worker storm with mounting pressures for more workable solutions to the many problems created by the lack of system alignment, and the information management/knowledge transfer storm fuelled by differences in consumer, provider and funder expectations of rapidly developing new technologies and their applications to healthcare.

To achieve the promise of “the future,” changes will be required simultaneously at several levels: changes in our personal behaviour, changes in our institutional cultures and changes at the level of our healthcare systems and leadership across interdependent healthcare settings.

When contemplating complex change, sometimes it is helpful to state what is considered “common sense.” For example: people are not inanimate objects, nor are they the “virtual self” created by the many bytes of data collected about each of us, no matter how objectively this data is collected and processed. Furthermore, individuals do not behave in a particular manner simply because widely accepted theories about behaviours, economics, scientific principles, statistics or other rigorously researched area concludes they do. Although useful, all bodies of knowledge, concepts and tools are inherently incomplete … particularly at the cutting edge of our collective knowledge.

We ask: Is this part of the underlying reason why we hear about the alienation of people receiving or providing healthcare services?

The Ghost of Healthcare Consciousness emerges and states:

“You should be asking if your obsession with enhancing healthcare systems and adding to the vast array of tools used in healthcare has inadvertently marginalized the tremendous capacity of our minds and hearts to simultaneously generate piercing insights, profound comprehension and enormous compassion that is not easily captured by scientific measurement … These qualities remain the bedrock for ensuring sustainable high-quality healthcare.

“Where do our highly developed rational, analytical and technical capabilities actually work against our ability to resolve conflicting points of view in a manner that will achieve the highest possible outcome for patients within available resources?”     

Maybe the key to establishing a new dynamic wholeness in healthcare requires that we find more meaningful ways to enable caregivers and patients to apply their wisdom and courage to rebalance our use of highly refined technologies, tools and healthcare practices in the face of the many gathering storms. 

For example: in a world that is rapidly being defined by the use of social media, how do we make the best use of research findings while also creating meaningful opportunities for individuals and communities to engage directly in shaping healthcare? Healthcare which aligns with the diversity of values and healthcare needs? We are already beginning to see decision-making power shift to a new and more informed consumer.  Consider and reflect on these recent numbers presented by TELUS at a recent conference.

  • 36% of people want to see what other customers say about medication and treatment;
  • 46% use online health portals;
  • 67% use online search engines;
  • 60 to 80 million US consumers use social media to share their health experience; and
  • 830 US hospitals use social networking channels totalling over 3,300 social media sites.

In other words, a new dynamic wholeness in healthcare requires the best from both our rational minds and our compassionate hearts. Anything less will not achieve the constructive end that many seek.

We offer up the following for consideration:

  1. Once quality and patient safety enhancing tools and techniques have demonstrated their value, is there an organizational strategy to mobilize changes throughout healthcare within as short a time period as possible?   
  2. To what extent are quality and patient safety measured, monitored and rigorously evaluated in our collective information technology development plans?
  3. Do our organizations’ performance development plans routinely include continuing education of staff to enhance our collective quality and patient safety practices? 

We close with a passage from the essay, “The Patient Voice A Value Game Changer”:

“Creating a new patient safety future will require visionary leadership, competent and patient safety focused management and governance, a fully engaged workforce and a new conversation with the patient, the customer. It will also require a sound cultural and accountability change strategy. Are you disturbed by the time and organizational energy focused on the competitive association of professional, educational, administrative leadership elites as they struggle and compete for insight, influence and remedy?

“Are you disturbed that the stakeholder elites often deal with incomplete information, often resulting in counterproductive, uncoordinated and unsafe practices?”

The storm fronts are upon us … now is the time we must act with wisdom and courage to create the new dynamic wholeness of healthcare we seek. We must also learn from our mistakes.

Click here
 to see the First Series of Ghost Busting essays.
Click here to see essays from the Second Series: The Ghost of Healthcare Consciousness.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Holt … Father, Husband, Brother, Family Support for Patients, Concerned Citizen – dedicating my career to improving healthcare for as many people as possible.
Hugh MacLeod … Patient, Husband, Father, Brother, Grandfather … Concerned Citizen.


The Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI exists to raise awareness and facilitate implementation of ideas and best practices to achieve a transformation in patient safety. We envision safe healthcare for all Canadians and are driven to inspire extraordinary improvement in patient safety and quality. To help address many of the challenges mentioned in the essay above the Canadian Patient Safety Institute has tools and resources such as: Patient Safety Incident Analysis and Canadian Disclosure Guidelines. If you would like information about Patients for Patient Safety Canada – please contact


MacLeod, H. 2011. “We Have a Perfect Storm - Let’s Use It.” Longwoods Healthcare Papers 11(3).



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