Who's Ready to Dive In?

Have you ever taught a kid to swim? My family and I are getting ready to spend a week in Mexico with lots of pools and ocean time. To prepare, my six-year-old son Kian has spent his summer learning how to swim.  As I watch him learn, I have been amazed by his adventurous spirit and determination to succeed.  When he first started, he was afraid to put his face in the water. Now, just a few weeks later, he is jumping into pools with reckless abandon.

As we grow into adulthood, most of us avoid these types of situations that push us outside of our comfort zone.  I think about this daily as I talk with colleagues about the risks we will need to take and courage we’ll need to cultivate in order to fundamentally change how we provide health care here in California. For safety net providers, new delivery models and financing mechanisms are uncomfortable territory – just as swimming underwater was for Kian. He took a leap of faith, and we need to do the same. 

The Affordable Care Act is pushing providers to think and act differently in order to take full advantage of what the law has to offer. Changes in the marketplace and austere budget times require new thinking, new approaches, and bold action.  It will not be enough to do the same thing better.  Instead, the focus must be on how to take the plunge and embrace a new reality. It’s scary at first, to think about moving away from the system of care we’ve had for decades.  However, despite being scary, it will ultimately lead to new and better ways of providing the kind of care that patients deserve.

Like Kian learning to swim, transforming California’s safety net will require trying things out, even if they don’t feel right or safe. There will be times when new approaches won’t work, just like when Kian’s first attempt to swim beneath the surface resulted in him swallowing a bunch of water.  But we have to take chances in order to move forward. Risk-taking has advanced the human race, helped a six-year-old boy learn to swim, and it’s what all of us will need to do in order to realize a new health care delivery system.

As our vacation nears, I’m looking forward to seeing my son swimming in the ocean, knowing that his risk-taking and hard work have paid off.  My hope is that those of us working to transform California’s health care delivery system will have that same confidence and adventurous spirit to take the risks needed for us to succeed in creating a stronger health safety net that we all know is possible. Who’s ready to dive in?

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