Telligen Chief Medical Officer, Paul Mulhausen: On driving the vision for healthcare change

By Heather Seftel-Kirk, FedHealthIT Contributing Author

This week we spoke with Paul Mulhausen, M.D., Chief Medical Officer with Telligen about engaging with professional disciplines, the importance of giving personally, and the opportunity to be part of the conversation.

Mulhausen spent the majority of his medical practice working as an academic clinician educator, specializing in geriatrics and internal medicine. Along the way, he came to understand there were gaps in the system, and determined there was a better way. As Chief Medical Officer with Telligen he is part of the company’s strategizing, messaging, and helps build sound healthcare evidence into products and services. He is also part of local, regional and national collaborative efforts working towards transformation in healthcare and Health IT.

“We aren’t talking about a revolution, but of incremental, meaningful change moving healthcare in the right direction.”
Change isn’t easy

Mulhausen says a big part his job is driving the vision for change by reminding people of the vision, helping articulate the vision, and reminding people of why the vision is so important. “We aren’t talking about a revolution, but of incremental, meaningful change moving healthcare in the right direction.”

He says his own involvement in this greater movement began with a curiosity about the work and his basic belief in the concept of participation, resulting in smart change. “Things can change if people are engaged. I believe people and organizations can learn and that the people who deliver healthcare are smart and want to do the right thing. We all have to be engaged though, to understand the evolution of the vision and the language of the vision.”

Transformation within healthcare can be especially difficult, he says, because the medical community tends to be safe, ingrained to ‘do no harm’. This means any change and active engagement must focus on unintended consequences, and effective due diligence, and that takes time. It must also focus beyond technological competence to the humanism, empathy and engagement at the heart of medicine.

“There are also those in Health IT who believe medicine must adapt to the technology, when in fact it is technology that must adapt to medicine. Those who believe otherwise do not truly understand the doctor-patient relationship and the benefit of human interaction, empathy and compassion.”

Being part of the conversation

Mulhausen says he regularly encounters visionaries – people and organizations – who don’t know they are. “It can be hard for people to stand up, to say what they think because they fear sounding stupid, or they fear they will embarrass themselves, or because they fear what they say won’t be acceptable.”

It is important to understand though that it is most likely that people won’t remember what was said, but rather, that something was said. “Once in a while someone says something really profound but more often, what is recognized is that someone spoke up, that they became part of the conversation and engaged in the movement towards transformation.”

He says speaking your ideas aloud can also help clarify their meaning, and that sharing can help identify and gain support, and can help distinct groups find common ground.

Getting involved

For his part, Mulhausen says when he was considering career options, he sought an organization that he could be part of, and where he could do more for the people who work in the industry and the patients they serve. He also remains connected to the professional organizations he is part of. “That’s important, I think. For people who want to do well to remain engaged with their professional discipline, whatever it is. Regardless of the positions we hold, we have to be sharing to help move the culture along, to be part of establishing best practices. If we set ourselves in a bubble of prestige, we miss too much.”

That same principle, he says, applies to giving back to the community. He says too many people are happy to give to a community but not to engage in the community. And, while there is nothing wrong with giving money, being personally engaged and personally generous, meeting the people, playing the games, really being part of the process, is even more valuable.

“Just as in medicine, where sometimes the process of input distracts from the attention to and interaction with the patient, so too is the joy of being involved lost when people are involved from a distance.”

 

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