Dream Big sign at The Peres Center for Peace & Innovation
Dream Big sign at The Peres Center for Peace & Innovation

Getting big, bold things done requires determination and resilience.

Dreaming big was on my mind as I boarded my flight home after spending a few days in Israel last month. I traveled to Israel with Corewell Health and Henry Ford colleagues, and others from Michigan, to gain insights from Israeli culture, innovative start-ups and the country’s health care system.

Tina Freese Decker
Tina Freese Decker Nathan Vicar | Detroit Jewish News

Beyond the technical insights we gleaned, larger, cultural themes — determination and resilience — especially stood out. Those attributes were central, not only to the health care field, but also to every story I heard about life in Israel. They were evident in every organization and in every person we met.

After an exhausting, yet energizing, journey and on the long flight home, I was finally able to reflect on what we can learn from Israel’s approach to health care and innovation, and how we can apply those learnings at home, here in Michigan.

It is remarkable that a small country that has so few natural resources, is only 75 years old and has been in a nearly continuous period of conflict has amazing outcomes for health, finding ways to become self-sufficient in growing its own food, and is known and sought after for driving innovation.

I am inspired by this focus on improving society, of Israel’s beauty, the cultural traditions and the congeniality of its people. In fact, I admire the citizens for this determination, resilience, partnership and innovation.

The consistent theme from every person was a focus on the betterment of society. Health care and insurance coverage clearly spoke this language. Health care in Israel is organized and funded by the government. There is the option to participate in other tiers of coverage, mainly for greater access, which a majority of citizens purchase.

The most compelling part of their system is its holistic approach. For instance, 99 per-cent of citizens maintain their health care coverage in the same HMO and the same health care system for life. It is a true community, with a neighbor-to-neighbor emphasis and the understanding that healthy individuals beget a healthy society. This creates an incentive to invest in population health and care for individuals early on, thus avoiding potentially serious illnesses in the future. The focus on long-term health of a population is an enormous benefit and achieves the goal of bettering society.

So, how can health care in the U.S. apply these themes and deliver better outcomes for our communities? We must first start with addressing health equity and access to care. We have significant inequities in health outcomes today. Eliminating these inequities and widening access is no easy task, though it is the hill we must climb.

Some health care organizations, including Corewell Health, have a priority to truly improve the health of our communities. This will require partnerships, determination and resilience — all elements of Israel’s culture.

I believe we can impact equity and access in health care. To do so, we must embrace community partnerships, finding win-win solutions to address social, cultural, racial disparities and other challenges that affect health. We must listen and seek to understand our communities, ensuring we are helping each person achieve their best health and quality of life. And we must not be discouraged by the difficulty of this lofty goal. Here determination and resilience, so prominently modeled in Israel, must be essential themes for us in Michigan.

We have shown this determination and resilience before. We don’t have to look very hard to see it in our work. We displayed both during the pandemic. With all of our hospital partners, Michigan is recognized as a leading innovator in quality and safety collaboratives. We have strong health systems, many of which are partnered with health plans to coordinate care and coverage.

As Corewell Health, we are proud of our integrated model that offers insurance coverage and care together, allowing us to focus on prevention and primary care, thus reducing costs. Our integrated model also allows us to address long-term health needs and inequities, as well as improve access. All of this requires determination, resilience and innovation.

Innovation is a key part of the culture in Israel. We met with numerous health tech start-ups — some that we have already partnered with in Michigan, some that have ideas we are following up on, and others that are pushing every boundary.

I believe innovation starts with a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo and deep curiosity. This is where Israel and the U.S. have a commonality. We cannot be OK with the current situation, and thus we must invest in people and nurture their creativity to develop new ideas and ways to better our society and improve the health of our communities.

Innovation comes in all forms, big and small. It is trialing ground-breaking research on remote surgeries and new therapies. It is exploring new, virtual ways to monitor health. It is creating better experiences and simpler billing processes.

Just like my father says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This sense of determination and resilience is enabling and freeing. And it is saving lives.

At the end of our trip, we visited the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. “Dream Big” was the theme of the center. It was noticeable throughout the center, and one could not miss the huge artistic design of the message outside the building. This is where the U.S. needs to invest — dreaming big for our society.

Now, a few weeks later, I am still reflecting on my experience and grateful for the time I had to explore the awe-inspiring cultural landmarks and health care environment with others from Michigan.

I am also energized by the potential opportunities we have in Michigan. We have similar elements in our culture. We must unapologetically embrace this determination, resilience, partnerships and innovation for the betterment of Michigan and the United States. I know we can. And, as we do, we will see great benefits and positive impact on our state and our residents, just like Israel has experienced for its citizens.

Determination, resilience, a sense of community and dreaming big and bold: The lessons from our journey give me hope for the future of health care, of technology and of the continuing partnership between our two countries. As we dream big for our society, we can all pursue better health.

Tina Freese Decker is president and CEO of Corewell Health™, a leading integrated health system that strives to provide simple, affordable, equitable and exceptional care and coverage to millions of Michigan residents. She leads more than 60,000 colleagues who are passionate about the relentless pursuit of better health for their communities.

Previous articleStudent Corner: You Are Never Too Young to Repair the World
Next articleFrom Disappointment to Elation