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Pits and ladders: embracing the chaos of healthcare

Pits and ladders: embracing the chaos of healthcare By Chris Bevolo
posted Mar 28, 2023

In the iconic television series Game of Thrones, there is a conversation early in the first season that both captures the theme for the entire eight-season show, but also the mindset needed in today’s healthcare environment. Two main characters are discussing their behind-the-scenes machinations to protect the kingdom they serve. In the battle of wits, one describes the potential devastating result of their actions:

“What do we have left once we abandon the lie? Chaos. A gaping pit waiting to swallow us all.”

His adversary smiles, and responds:

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.”

The chaos of healthcare

For hospital and health system leaders, describing the current state of their industry as a pit of chaos might even seem like an understatement. Transformation. Financial stress. Increased competition. Upset consumers. And that was before the single most disruptive force in healthcare in more than a century – the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic turned things upside down, and now systems are facing greater financial distress, more intense competition from new entrants, exploding negativity related to their role in rising healthcare costs, and even more demanding consumers. A pit of chaos indeed.

But the above exchange from Game of Thrones shows us the mindset we need. The mindset that turns chaos from a pit to a ladder.

Searching for the other side

As our industry emerges from the pandemic, we’re at an inflection point where consumers, payers, providers, and innovators are all trying to figure out something new. Something different. Something better. Yet those efforts are often at cross-purposes, or with different goals, motivations, or incentives. All of this change can feel like certainly feel like chaos, and often one step forward, three steps back.

Yet some healthcare organizations are seeking to reimagine their roles, reinvent their businesses, and transform their impact on health in the U.S. Because those brands who can make their way through the upheaval will be the healthcare leaders of tomorrow. And there isn’t just one way through. There are dozens, maybe hundreds. The question in this moment is less what the path forward looks like, or even how to build the path. The question right now for most is: do you see this situation as an insurmountable challenge, or do you see it as the ultimate opportunity?

A pit or a ladder. It’s your choice, but the choice you make will impact you for years to come.