Empowering Patients & Families

 Photography by Carol Klinger
April 30, 2018

Why Am I Doing This? (Part I)

As a venture capitalist for the last 18 years, my firm has invested in medical device, diagnostic tools, and services companies. It has been very satisfying to see innovative concepts make it from idea to the market place and I will continue to support those companies. However, over the last few years I have become more and more interested in serious illness and end-of-life issues, particularly the challenges that patients and families face when making complex decisions and interacting with the healthcare system.

My career has been intertwined with the ‘human’ healthcare system from its earliest days, when as a resident in veterinary surgery I spent 3 months in a rotation in pediatric thoracic surgery at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. My logic was that the babies would be closest in size to my veterinary patients and the techniques similar. That was in fact true. My post-graduate studies were hosted by the University of California Davis Veterinary School and Medical School, resulting in a PhD in Comparative Pathology. I spent 12 years on faculty in the Department of Orthopedics, School of Medicine, Case Western University—the only woman and the only non-MD in a department of 24 orthopedic surgeons—all the while still practicing veterinary surgery. In many ways, medical science and surgical techniques are the same between veterinary medicine and human medicine (varying only somewhat with specific species physiology and size)—what is so different is the system within which each are practiced.

Our healthcare system is wonderful in many ways—providers are very well-trained, we have cutting-edge technology and the latest facilities, but it is also very complex. Some of that complexity resides in payment by third parties, whether public such as Medicare or Medicaid or private insurance companies such as Aetna, Blue Cross, United Health and others, which influences choices of both patients and providers. The combined payor-provider system has a heft and momentum of its own that sometimes are difficult for a patient or family to influence. Empowering patients, caregivers, and families to have a larger, louder, more authoritative voice in their care is the solution.