Lessons in Care Coordination from Aaron Rodgers

In 2005 Aaron Rodgers sat in the draft “green room,” a likely top 10 NFL pick who fell all the way to #25, where he was selected by the Green Bay Packers -- who already had Brett Favre as their quarterback.  Even for those not intimately familiar with football, the story is known.  Or I tell myself that because I’m from Wisconsin.

What does Aaron Rodgers know about care coordination?  I’m not sure, but he did win Jeopardy recently so maybe a little bit.  Care coordination is such an ambiguous term.  To some it means the efficient process of care transitions.  To others it's the work of a call center ensuring that patients are taking care of themselves.  To others (vendors) it's a great thing to talk about because accountable care has basically made it essential in new payment models.  What is it to us at PinpointCare?  I believe it is all of those things wrapped up in a set of principles that we’ve built our company around. 

In a 20-second elevator speech, a huddle of sorts, it’s difficult to explain what a digital care coordination company provides.  What I do know is that the principles we preach at PinpointCare can easily be explained with the framework of how the Green Bay Packers approach their next football game, how Aaron Rodgers plays in that game, and the unappreciated details of Rodgers’ craft.  Bear with me as I explain the connection.


Script Your First 10 Plays – Have a Plan

As the Packers prepared for each game, its offense would get together and decide, based on the Packer’s strengths and their opponent’s weaknesses, the 10 best plays in succession.  It was a structured, serial sequence.  They would stick to this sequence unless something catastrophic happened.  They created a plan.  There was an understanding of the goals, and an intention of getting into a rhythm as a team.  Knowing and practicing the plays in advance was a great way to be efficient and very precise in their efforts.  They had a calibrated plan going into the week and everyone on the team knew it, memorized it, and eventually executed it.

We believe patients need a plan too, especially if you’re attempting to achieve great care across multiple care venues.  Can you think of time where you went in for surgery, or treatment, and the doctor handed you (paper or digital) a scripted plan?  It would show you where you were going, on which dates, and how long you were going to be at each place (based on your health and state), with a personalized and risk-rated estimate of when you’d be home.  Sound like a fantasy?  It isn’t, and it's the core of what we do.

PinpointCare is fanatical about creating care plans that spell out exactly what a patient is about to go through, and our patients very much love the idea of having that plan.  We want to create transparency for the patient in a very opaque system.  Our patients don’t walk into their game of wellness and have to listen to someone tell them second-hand what their next play is.  Our patients don’t move play-to-play in wonder.  They have a script.  They have their first 10 plays in hand even if those plays take them across different care venues and care organizations. 


Audibles Can’t Be the Only Way to Change a Play – Multiple Communication Channels Are Necessary

There is a rumor that Aaron Rodgers can change the passing play and route to Jordy Nelson simply by making eye contact.  A simple glance.  No barking of “Blue 75!” and no secret handshakes.  Audibles and hand gestures are used to change the play, of course, but every situation is different.  Let’s face it, even if you script the most brilliant first 10 plays, things change and opportunities arise.  Your plan may be to run the ball on play five, but if Jordy Nelson is 1-to-1 on the outside, Aaron Rodgers is going to give him a look that says, “Run far and fast!”

Even the most accurate care plan may change based on patient circumstances.  The patient’s needs may become greater or less, but the team needs to communicate and adjust.  In PinpointCare that communication can happen through multiple modes including dashboards, surveys, SMS notifications, or texting.  We believe in multi-modal communication that doesn’t dictate to a person how they need to communicate.  We’ll allow patients and providers to decide what mode of communication they prefer and that becomes their default.  And of course, our care plans are flexible enough to adjust mid-stream with each member of the patient’s care team receiving the updates.

Communications are the special ingredient to care coordination.  Nothing is as good as it can be without it.  All the perfect plans in the world can’t deal with what the world can throw at them.  This is fact.  Plans are made, plans change, and you better have a platform to deal with it.  


The Back Shoulder Throw – Great Design Takes Dedication

It's a thing of beauty, and an incredible strategic advantage.  Some NFL experts refer to it as “the perfect play,” or as “impossible to defend.”  In the toughest situation in the tightest games, the Packers always go to their back shoulder throw.  The receiver runs 10 yards, and before the receiver has stopped to turn around, the ball is out of Aaron Rodgers’ hand.  He’s throwing it to an exact spot, just behind the receiver, to the outside shoulder, and the timing is so perfect that no human defensive player could ever react fast enough to defend it.  It’s almost not fair. 

The play looks incredibly simple.  When you watch it, you declare, “Of course that would work!  Who wouldn’t design a play like that?”  The reality is far from that Sunday armchair declaration.  That play takes hours, months, and years of dedication to the finest details.  It means getting to know each other, it means understanding every nuance, and it means having a vision.  To make a perfectly designed play look like something obvious takes dedication that borders on fanaticism.  And like art, it will probably never be perfect.

At PinpointCare we also stress about the finest details in trying to create the “perfect” design.  We’ll never achieve it, but we’re after it.  Software is tough to design “simply” in healthcare.  There is so much information and it is difficult to decide what is necessary to a particular workflow.  What we do know is that filling the screen with tabs and scroll bars is not the answer.  As Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Does the analogy of the Packers as a beacon for good patient care coordination hold up?  I think so, but I also scream and jump around my TV on Sunday scaring my two little children.  It may not be a perfect analogy, but I do believe we need discussion and thought around what care coordination is.  In this new era of payment reform, care coordination is necessary so you should know what it is you’re after.  If you blindly stumble through this new health economy without thought to your care coordination goals, then you’ll be about as successful as the Bears.