Karen Wolk Feinstein launches movement toward better health care

Karen Wolk Feinstein launches movement toward better health care

Health care is not like Uber, but it should be. At least according to Karen Wolk Feinstein, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative who delivered a TEDx talk last month in Brookline, Mass., based on that assertion.

In her talk, Feinstein announced the launch of Women’s Health Activist Movement Global (WHAM Global), a national network of female health care leaders. WHAM Global is seeking to empower women to create Uber-inspired health care systems that are “transparent, respectable, accountable and equitable,” she said.

The problem of health care is something that “I have been banging my head on for 20 years,” said Feinstein, who is also president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

With its retail model that boasts transparency and ease, Uber, the transportation network company, fosters a more enjoyable experience with participants than health care does, Feinstein explained during the talk.

“Would you have taken Uber if you indicated that you needed a ride and they said, ‘We’ll be here whenever and with whatever vehicle, it might even be unsafe or unclean, your driver has two stars out of five, and don’t always expect to get to your destination?’” she posed. “This Uber nightmare would drive you away, but when you go for a ride on your health care system you’re accustomed to the nightmare. You expect it to be unreliable, possibly unsafe and definitely inefficient.”

What WHAM Global does is “get people to participate in a movement,” Feinstein added during a follow-up interview.

According to its mission, WHAM Global — which was founded by Feinstein and Joanne Conroy, CEO of the Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Mass. — will advance health care systems by “leveraging the power of technology to create and sustain an activist community unbounded by geography” and “extending the experience and knowledge of Women of Impact to a new generation of women leaders.”

“Health care underperforms and overconsumes resources,” said Conroy, who founded Women of Impact, a group of female, executive-level health care professionals, activists and lawyers. “Women are 80 percent of the health care workforce, but only 10 percent of the leadership. WHAM Global is helping more women lead and set policy.”

WHAM Global, along with Women of Impact, is seeking to “activate a lot of people to get the health care system we want,” Feinstein said.

Last week, Feinstein, Conroy and other interested parties met in Washington to strategize their move forward.

For now, WHAM Global is seeking to create a “local network of networks.”

“There are a number of groups that link women,” said Feinstein. “Our present goal is to unite a lot of those organizations.”

While the group, which is planning its first chapters in Pittsburgh, Washington and Boston, ultimately strives to reform health care systems, there is plenty of work that individuals can do now, said Feinstein. Whether it is demanding transparency, providing instant feedback of health care providers, resisting overtreatment, forming action groups, voicing their story, becoming a “citizen scientist” or fighting waste and inequality, individuals can help create health care systems that are more retail-oriented.

“I don’t think it’s utopian dreaming,” she explained. “I think we could have the customer-value ride that we don’t have right now.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at adamr@thejewishchronicle.net.

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