Don’t Boil the Ocean: Tackling Health Care Transformation Head On


My favorite thing about the Cambia Grove team and the community we serve is our collective refusal to settle for answers that don’t make sense. That is inherently true for any changemaker, whether you are an innovator, entrepreneur or any person seeking to make improvements in their community. We all believe we must work to do things better.  

As someone who is trying to make change for the better, I have received many pieces of advice from individuals around the country. And while I love advice—it keeps me thinking and on my toes —I will admit that my least favorite piece of advice is to “stop trying to boil the ocean.” The words of caution are well meaning and intended to keep the work in an achievable scope., However, when we’re confronting big problems, we need big solutions. I heard this advice when we launched Cambia Grove’s goals in January 2018. Taking this advice to heart, I began thinking about ways we could “boil streams” instead of tackling the vast ocean that is health care. But after the federal government recently released the fourth national climate assessment report, detailing the impacts of a rapidly warming ocean and a call for large scale action, I have a new outlook on “boiling the ocean.”  

When it comes to climate change, the ocean is heating up because of our inability to act in large scale transformative ways. I have spent time working in the energy industry, and the parallels between energy and health care are eerily similar. Both industries are moving slowly towards large-scale, catastrophic disasters. Both are heavily reliant on changing business incentives, technologies, cultures and habits of nearly every individual in the country. Both present multi-faceted challenges, spanning multiple sectors of the government, nonprofit, and private business. And both are prime targets for major disruption by the technology community, but are finding little traction because of complex, inefficient systems.

Preventing the Boil

To change both the energy and health care industries, we need to take on challenges that may figuratively look as though we are “boiling the ocean."  We need to venture upstream to better understand the sources of systemic pain points, and we at Cambia Grove are doing this in health care. Over the past year, the team at Cambia Grove has worked to understand what it would take to make large-scale, transformational changes to our health care system that would encourage innovative solutions. We began by defining the health care system as the 5 Points of Health Care™, diving into each sector: payer, provider, purchaser, patient and policymaker. We have taken our learnings from each of the 5 Points of Health Care to understand how our work can help the system both adopt and adapt to innovative solutions.  

After listening to the community, we launched our Solutions Series, which applies a community-sourced methodology to identify and lower barriers to innovation. The first two topics we chose were data and incentives. Both projects have been informed by the community and have tremendous opportunity to transform the system toward one that is more person-focused and economically sustainable.

I want to thank the community for your support and guidance as we bring the 5 Points of Health Care Conference back in 2019 and continue to build out the Solution Series to enable the flow of innovation into our health care system.  

Looking Ahead

Our next step in 2019 is to map out our work over the next five years. What would a system that embraces innovation really look like? How would the technology, business incentives, and culture change? And how can Cambia Grove support this work? We will begin with a 5 Points of Health Care conference on January 23, with more events to follow throughout the first part of the year. Save the date for these important events as they will guide the work of Cambia Grove throughout 2019. 

As we close 2018 and look toward our work in 2019, I hope you join me, the team at Cambia Grove and the changemaker community we serve to take on large-scale, ambitious projects to prevent the health care “ocean” from boiling. Working together as a community will enable us all to transform the system we are currently seeking to change. We don’t want to boil the ocean, and that is exactly why we must all act now.   

- Maura


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