The Healthcare Polymath

Last century was the century of the professional. It was also the century of the cog. The human being who played a well-defined, mechanical role in a big machine.

20th Century hospitals – which were actually 19th Century factories tarted up with submissive nurses, white linens and sterile rules – don’t meet the needs of today’s patients.

The operations management view of the world which emerged out of the Industrial Age, which in turn emerged out of the printed book, saw things in lines – “the lines of the page”. Thus the people who worked in factories and hospitals were expected to work within the lines.

But it’s becoming clearer now, more than ever, that people don’t bring forth their best within boxes. In fact the mechanical environment kills creativity. Machines are machines, people are people.

The Web is now assaulting the factory. The Web isn’t linear. The Web is not just lines of text, but sounds and sights and video. People can network and connect and collaborate in ways not possible last century – the fractal, not the factory, is the engine of today’s economics.

Enter: Informational Osmosis and the Healthcare Polymath.

Nurses can now hear the stories of other nurses living half-way across the globe working in totally different fields of nursing.

Same with physicians.

What’s more, physicians and nurses can now trade their varied stories – can now create small or large communities to push the envelop. No need for permission, nor need to work within the lines – if they see a revolution to be created, they can make it happen.

A physician no longer has to be a physician. A nurse no longer has to be a nurse.

Each can be a writer, a web designer, an online community leader, a technological innovator…an artist who can tweet her latest work to anybody in the world. And each can suffuse their work to create remarkable experiences for the people they serve.

This informational osmosis means that what used to be the professional can now mature into something more organic and powerful: the Polymath.

The polymath didn’t do so well last century. The dominant economic structure was the factory. That condition benefited the cog. Now the factory is collapsing. And the cog is unemployed and unemployable.

It’s not easy being a polymath – but it doesn’t require anybody to be a genius. No, it just means having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and art and accomplishment and caring.

The polymath keeps us from Single Vision and Newton’s Sleep.

What will the future of medicine look like? Will we still have the rigid lines among the nurse and physician and information systems engineer?

The future of Healthcare rests upon the polymaths – the courageous status-quo busters, the dreamers waving pointed flags toward the horizon, the human alarm clocks of a sleeping world.

The polymaths run the playgrounds of ideas that make our lives anew.

Healthcare’s days of the sterile factory are numbered.

Time and space were once thought to be linear – fixed and rigid elements of our universe.

Fortunately, we had a young polymath destroy that false assumption which retarded physics for millennia. We now know that time and space are bendable.

Same thing with Healthcare.

Imagine where we’d be today if Newton bothered to treat time as a variable instead of a constant. How many variables in medicine are we treating as constants?

We need the polymaths to destroy the old factories and to create the new playgrounds.