By | March 2, 2016

Mind. Blown.

I attended the Open Minds Performance Management Institute conference in mid-February. In the last session, something Monica Oss said really stuck with me.  She asked us all on average how many years does it take to implement the latest intervention/Evidence Based Practice so that ~50% of clients are receiving said intervention.

The answer is 17 years.

Let that sink in.


There is an almost 17 year delay from when a technique or medication is proven effective to when the majority of clients/patients receive it.


That means the latest and greatest in behavioral health treatment is from 1999.

Can you remember what you were doing, who you were back then?  How much has our world changed? Ourselves?  How much research and knowledge have we accumulated since then but we just aren’t using it.  It’s like writing an essay in college as if you were in kindergarten.

There are of course many reasons for this delay, some unavoidable like FDA approval for a new medication, however others are within our sphere of influence.  I think we often get stuck in what is tried and true, what is comfortable, how we’ve always done things.  This reminded me of a recent movie experience I had.

I saw Star Wars Episode 7 shortly after it came out in theaters in December 2015 and it motivated me to create my first meme:

I’m no movie snob or connoisseur, in fact one could argue my movie tastes aren’t that great and I like just about anything entertaining (Mom, I’m talking to you). I tend to favor action/adventure, sci-fi and comic book super heroes (I saw Die Hard 5 on opening night, if that tells you anything about me).

That said, what made me dislike episode 7 so much was the lack of imagination or innovation.  J.J. Abrams did the same thing with Star Trek: Into Darkness.  Here are two franchises that are successful, innovative, long lasting and have entertained all ages for almost 50 years.  They aren’t perfect but both have fantastic characters and a universe/reality that is ripe with opportunity.  Rebooting both franchises gave the filmmakers a great opportunity to take a solid foundation, a proven success and innovate it – add  something new, take it somewhere it hasn’t been before (pun intended).  Instead, both movies just rehashed old stories and basically gave the audience a big fat sense of Déjà vu (this isn’t a movie review post, for sarcastic, funny, intelligent and not quite clean for kids movie reviews, go here.


What does J.J. Abrams have to do with Healthcare?

What does this have to do with the human services industry?  How does sci-fi and my disappointment in the great J.J. Abrams have anything to do with healthcare?  Well, it’s just like what I said before, we get safe and risk aversive, we stick with what we know and struggle to try something new.

The phrase “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” is very applicable. We should keep what is valuable but toss out what isn’t as great as it could be and introduce something new. Think of it as starting with a solid foundation and then swap a few things out, try something else. We have to push ourselves to be innovative in order to achieve excellence. I’m not saying go out there and try things that are untested or totally unknown, but letting go of the “way we’ve always done it” and risking a little is how we reduce that 17 year lag time and provide better care to the people we serve.


Change is constant

Our industry isn’t what it was back when Star Trek and Star Wars hit the screens.  We’ve changed; we know more than we did; we’re defining success differently and we’ve become more business/technology savvy.  The people we serve have changed. “Patients” of today are more demanding and knowledgeable about their healthcare and are taking ownership of it. Nothing about the changes and progression in the last 50 years represents moving backwards; we are better and smarter than we used to be about healthcare.

The great thing about our industry is that you have a variety of people in your organization, all ages, all walks of life, with a variety of experience levels.  As frustrating as “the multigenerational workforce” can be at times, it’s also a great source of collaboration and innovation.  Even the younger, inexperienced, recent college grad can have a valuable opinion and perspective on an aspect of our business.  Finding ways to encourage new ideas or discussion of what’s out there and a willingness to challenge the status quo might be easier than you think. We were all the new kid on the block once and we know what it feels like to be dismissed, ignored or have our opinions tossed out because we aren’t experienced, older, licensed or whatever else we’ve heard.

Just like how the Star Trek and Star Wars reboots could have pleased and delighted the multi-generational audience (the baby boomers all the way down to the millennials), we can be innovative with “how we do things” and create something even better than before.


Know of someone or an organization doing something innovative in our industry?  Share below, we all need to be inspired and see examples from others.

Kristi McClure, LCSW

Kristi has more than 20 years of experience in the health and human service industry, the majority of that time working as a direct practitioner with children, adolescents and adults in both outpatient and residential/inpatient settings. She has worked with Relias for over 10 years, initially working with customers on getting the most out of Relias products, then managing the content products for HHS, and now as the Strategic Marketing Manager for Health and Human Services.

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