Why I Became a Healthcare Futurist & How it Can Benefit You & Your Team, by Dr. Josh Luke

So, you want to be a healthcare futurist? For starters, what does that even mean? Here is my take on what it means and how it can benefit you. Heck, this short read may even save you a few bucks on your health care.

In 2013, I left my job as Vice President of a health system to try my hand at professional public speaking, writing and teaching at the University of Southern California. After almost ten years as a hospital CEO, I was getting consistent requests to speak at conferences. And on top of that, the event hosts were reporting that I was one of the highest rated speakers at each event. All right!

Ten years as a hospital CEO isn’t even the strongest asset I have in being an advocate for you. I am shaped more by the experiences of my mother’s disease process.

It wasn’t much later that I heard it for the first time. I was being introduced to the audience in Chicago and, as event hosts often do, they summarized my bio in their own words and for the first time I heard someone label me “a healthcare futurist.”

I’m guessing it was dopamine or some other addictive chemical my body produces that suddenly overcame me when I first heard the term, as I was admittedly flattered! Dopamine, I’m told, is the same chemical compound that leads to addiction with nicotine or alcohol, or in the case of millennials, their cell phones and social media! 

But hey, forget about nicotine and social media. I was getting paid to speak and I enjoyed it.

Over the next few months of 2014, my presentation grew increasingly specific as to how I anticipated drastic changes in the healthcare delivery system. My executive experience combined with my commitment to teaching and studying healthcare policy led me to consistently communicate and collaborate with some of the top leaders nationally. I was rubbing elbows with health system executives, scholars, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, and even the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services themselves (as well as their Innovation Center).

I was approached by a hospital CEO after a presentation in New York and he asked, “so what does it mean to be a healthcare futurist and how do I become one?”

Then, my first book (Readmission Prevention: Solutions Across the Provider Continuum) was released and became the best-selling book from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) in 2015. ACHE even designated Readmission Prevention as one of its monthly featured CEO Circle books. What an honor!

Thus, throughout 2015 I was regularly being referred to and introduced as a “leading healthcare futurist.” Then came the big question. I was approached by a hospital CEO after a presentation in New York and he asked, “so what does it mean to be a healthcare futurist and how do I become one?”

I could not help but chuckle, and responded by saying “it’s a name others gave me, but I don’t take it lightly and candidly, the more I hear it, the more responsibility I feel to stay current on policy changes and discuss with other respected leaders their anticipated impact.” He seemed content with that answer and we engaged in a lengthy conversation specific to a topic I covered in my presentation that he was previously unfamiliar with. 

Immediately following that conversation I went online and researched “healthcare futurists” and found a few names like Ian Morrison and Dr. Atul Gawande were commonly referred to as healthcare futurists. As I dug deeper I found a few others who appeared to be aging speakers who had been branding themselves in this manner for years. Gawande, currently in the trenches of the hospitals daily rigour, is someone I have great respect for and value his positions!

Outside of Mr. Morrison and Dr. Gawande, many of these individuals, however, did not have an executive healthcare background at all. Thus, it seems to me that they were more entrenched in selling technology or innovative services, than in studying how changes in healthcare may impact you. 

Those who have seen me speak or read my articles know I routinely emphasize how millennial culture is impacting healthcare delivery. One of my common themes is to pay attention to millennial culture as it’s proving to have a drastic impact on care delivery.

Nursing home owners think of every possible name they can to avoid using the term ‘convalescent home’.

As a proud Gen-Xer who was fortunate enough to become a hospital CEO at age 32, I am now creeping into my mid-40’s. So when I see an aging healthcare futurist, it’s natural for me to question their credibility and knowledge of the impact of millennials on delivery. Would you agree?

I can back that up by sharing that very few of the aging executives who mentored me as a young hospital CEO have demonstrated any interest in learning new trends and transforming. Their eyes are on the retirement prize.

“Dr. Luke is a champion for avoiding the institutionalization of seniors when they can be cared for at home.”

So, I decided in late 2015 to officially label myself a healthcare futurist on LinkedIn and Twitter. But before doing so, I identified what the title healthcare futurist means to me.

1.      I must understand and stay current on healthcare policy updates

2.      I must reflect on my executive experience to predict how those changes will impact providers, consumers and businesses providing healthcare to employees

3.      I must prioritize consumer (patient, caregiver and family) interests in order to stay relevant, specifically affordability & access to care

4.      Perhaps most importantly, I must rely on my instincts as a personal caretaker to ensure my positions reflect not just the provider perspective (doctors and hospitals), but also the patient’s perspective.

Would you agree? How would you define it?

Tragically, my own mother’s Alzheimer’s disease has progressed to stage seven. My wife and I serve as part of her care-taking team and we treasure every moment we get with my mom. In 2015 we founded a not-for-profit and donate proceeds each year to benefit Alzheimer’s programs.

It is my role as a son and caretaker that gives me the confidence to know that my direct and pointed positions on the need for dramatic change in healthcare delivery are not driven solely by my experience as a hospital CEO. In fact, those who hear me speak will often say “Dr. Luke is a champion for avoiding the institutionalization of seniors when they can be cared for at home.” After all, when was the last time you heard an individual say “I can’t wait for the day my doctor tells me I have to be admitted to a convalescent home?” 

Never! 

So why am I so provocative and poignant when I speak to business leaders? It’s personal, that’s why. And I have a message to share that can benefit you all, so I take pride in sharing for your benefit.

In fact, the quote above about not wanting to go to a nursing home provides a good example of the information I share when I speak at conferences for car dealers, architects, nurses, churches, healthcare leaders, sales teams or other executives. 

Nursing home owners think of every possible name they can to avoid using the term ‘convalescent home’. In fact, they try to avoid saying ‘nursing home’ as well, instead opting for non-traditional and often misleading terms such as ‘rehab facility’ or ‘skilled rehab’ simply because they know that no one wants to ever go to a ‘nursing home’.

Do ya think? Of course they don’t. But nursing home preceptors actually teach young trainees these terms — its a calculated approach. How do I know? Well years ago I was one of these young trainees. 

And what about the old semantical trick doctors use when you are in the acute hospital and can’t wait to get home? Trick? Well, it’s a manipulative play on words at a minimum when a doctor advises a patient after three days in the hospital that they are being ‘transferred’ to a skilled rehab facility as opposed to being ‘discharged’ to another facility, which is the more appropriate and accurate term.

“it’s a manipulative play on words when a doctor advises a patient that they are being ‘transferred’ to a skilled rehab facility as opposed to being ‘discharged’…”

As a patient, would you agree that the word ‘discharge’ suggests finality and closure, whereas ‘transfer’ suggests just the opposite: you’re not quite ready yet?

Imagine how you would feel if you walked into one of these convalescent homes for a tour and were greeted with a special aroma – the smell of urine from residents who are incontinent. Guess what? Incontinent and unsightly residents are often moved to the back of a nursing home or placed in a distant wing in the facility so those touring do not have to see, or smell them. These are very common tactics. 

After all, if you are touring for your own parent or grandmother, no one perceives their own parent to be as sick as the elderly individuals they witness when they tour. We all have an image of our parents as younger and heathier when this natural progression begins.

So we just took a tangent mid-way through this story to illustrate a few of these well-kept secrets that may benefit you as you help your parents navigate through their golden years. The nursing home and physician anecdotes were included to provide examples of wisdom from the industry that can help you as a consumer or business owner in the future.

So you see, a healthcare futurist. Now you know what that means as well, and there is much more where that came from. 

The story ends like this: there are plenty of ways for individuals to become more astute in regard to accessing healthcare, but I take it on as my role to provide you with many of these hidden gems. In 2016 I started to see several other friends and followers on LinkedIn all of a sudden have “Healthcare Futurist” next to their title, and decided once again to set myself apart and formalize a more progressive title for myself as one of the first executives who was willing to call out my peers. 

So, as we enter 2017, you’re now interacting with the new me, “The Voice of American Healthcare.” 

With one best-selling book and a second book written specifically to benefit the consumer (Ex-Acute: A former hospital CEO tells all on what’s wrong with American healthcare), I am willing to take on this title with the same level of self-responsibility I assumed when others started routinely referring to me as a leading national healthcare futurist. My only goal is to help you – with complete transparency and with no product or service to sell.  

Straight talk. The elephant in the room. A boots-on-the-ground, real-world approach. I call it how I see it. These are all terms others have used in recent years to describe my approach to helping consumers understand and access healthcare services.

In recent years I have shared my message on 4 continents; it has reached China, Panama, Mexico and Eastern Europe as well as all over the United States. The people I meet and the countries I visit with different delivery models all enhance my perspectives. 

I don’t claim to have all the answers about how healthcare will change, but I take great pride in helping you understand the likely changes that will impact you. If my stories and experiences can be shared to help entertain you and better explain these concepts, well, I will take that on. And on top of that, I enjoy it!

Ten years as a hospital CEO isn’t even the strongest asset I have in being an advocate for you. The truth is I am shaped more by my mother’s disease process. While my passion resonates in caring for and loving on my mother through her final years of life, my goal is to honor her by educating others about what I have learned by caring for her.

Let there be no doubt, though, that strongest asset is the network of professionals I interact with regularly on LinkedIn that are candid and willing to both disagree and offer competing innovative approaches on the future of healthcare. I plan to embrace this healthcare futurist thing, and now even more so as “The Voice of American Healthcare,” always focused on advocating for you. 

Please “share” this story with your LinkedIn network with the message, “I define a healthcare futurist as….”

I am hopeful that you will all join me and come along for the ride. I reached out to a few of my connections for input on this story and am thankful to each who submitted input – all of the input was right on! I received so much feedback, rather than include all the input in my story, I prefer to allow each follower to “’share” their thoughts on their own! So here we go, please “share” this story with your LinkedIn network with the message, “I define a healthcare futurist as….”

Can’t wait to see your definitions!

Click here to nominate Josh Luke or another writer as one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices. Josh is the author of the book Ex-Acute: A former hospital CEO tells all on what’s wrong with American healthcare, What every American needs to know. He teaches in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and serves as CSO/Sr. Health Policy Strategist for Nelson Hardiman Law.

He is an advocate for Alzheimer’s care and founded the National Readmission Prevention Collaborative in 2013. Luke is also a professional speaker sharing with all businesses how changes in healthcare will impact them and their employees. Please follow Josh on LinkedIn if these topics are of interest to you and check www.JoshLuke.org for speaking appearances.