Finding joy in evaluation?

Imagination. Creativity. Joy.

These aren’t the first words that come to mind when I think of the challenges facing our health system. But recent experiences are helping me see otherwise. Jacob Scott, whom you may not know but really should, told the TEDMED crowd this week that the creative thoughts and ideas that come from the “three pounds of Jell-O” between our ears is what drives discovery and innovation in health and science. And our current system does not foster imagination, he argued.

We watched many of TEDMED’s speakers on a live streamed feed into CHI’s offices at 17th and Grant this week.

Many of the speakers, such as Scott, Cookie Monster and the dance troupe Traces, certainly encouraged out-of-the-box thinking on health. But even Don Berwick, the visionary ex-Medicare chief whom you may already know and who was not at TEDMED, referred to Grand Junction as a “joyous” example of where the health care system is heading in a Washington Post article last month.

The transformations underway in our health system—improving quality and outcomes, lowering costs and promoting health and prevention—carry significant implications for patients, communities, providers and the state and nation’s economies.

High stakes such as these require efforts that draw upon research and evidence that demonstrate efficacy. Bringing imagination and creative thinking to these issues may yield impressive, joyous results; but unless the impact of these ideas are measured and evaluated, the opportunity to expand and scale these efforts is lost. If, as TEDMED speakers suggested, we need more imagination, then we also need to understand how these creative ideas work and how they can achieve the transformations we need in population health and health care.

At CHI, we gather evidence-based data to help policymakers and health leaders make informed decisions. There are many smart people in Colorado working to address the health and health care challenges in our state.

This is what we learned from TEDMED: Be creative, use imagination, and don’t forget to evaluate!

Got an idea already but not sure how to measure it? Let us know how we can help.

Sara Schmitt is the director of community health policy at CHI.