Yes, I know — another catchy “let’s disrupt healthcare” hashtag/campaign. Is there any meat behind it? And as we go about our lives with diabetes, why should we care?

That was my reaction too, when I first started hearing about the new #FliptheClinic project, found at

On Tuesday of last week (Jan. 13) I was invited to the first of six live lab sessions planned in 2015 for this new project, which brought together 50 “healthcare thinkers” — clinicians, consultants, administrators and advocates — for an innovation workshop day held at the beautiful San Francisco Presidio site, a former Army base with sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.

The project was spearheaded by Thomas Goetz, author and former executive editor of Wired magazine, who became the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s first-ever entrepreneur in residence last Spring.

flip the clinic

The idea is an adaptation of the work of the Kahn Academy’s Flip the Classroom model — turning the traditional model on its head by doing homework in class, and lectures at home. Not long after joining the RWJF, Thomas had the idea that what we need in U.S. healthcare are similar “flips,” so he helped put together a program to seek out those ideas across the country.  #FliptheClinic includes an online brainstorming space, where people can share and collaborate on Flip ideas and a whole series of in-person forums bringing together physicians, nurses, med tech entrepreneurs, activated patients, med students, and more — essentially anyone with a stake in, and passion for, changing healthcare.

Driving the whole campaign is an outfit called Reos Partners, a creative consultancy that “helps businesses, governments, and civil society organizations address complex social challenges.”

Here’s the adorable video they put together to explain Flip the Clinic:

"We’re starting a system of experimentation and innovation — it’s permission to experiment, to try something different," Goetz says. “A Flip is a strategy to turn something around. We need both strategies and tools, so part of this program allows us to provide resources to help people follow through on valid Flip ideas they may have.”

There ought to be plenty of support to go around. The total grant funds allotted by the RWJF for Flip the Clinic top $2.3 million!! ($2,349,925 to be exact; I did the math.) That’s a lot of money to encourage people to think outside the healthcare box. I’m just crossing my fingers that at least one truly amazing, real-world-changing “Flip” is mined from this program.

The SF Lab

flip the clinic in san francisco

The Lab event I attended was based on early workshops, and was certainly fun. It was all poster boards and Post-It notes, brainstorming exercises and small group discussions. There were only a very few quick official talks in the morning, explaining the program and how we’d go about our day of open thinking.

ePatient advocate extraordinaire Hugo Campos — who also happens to live in the SF Bay Area — gave a talk briefly sharing his patient experience. For those who don’t know of him: it’s a crazy story, in which he wears a $30,000 implantable cardiac defibrillator that continually collects information about his body, yet he was barred from accessing the data — until he embarked on a mission to change that.

His story always draws oohs and aahs. And it is amazing, how he signed up on his own time and money for a med IT development class so he could understand and program his own device.

But in this case, he and I kind of wondered if people in the room were getting enough input on the less sensational, day-to-day struggles most people with chronic illnesses face. Any “Flip” worth its salt will have to help the masses.

At one point, all the attendees were asked to find a partner and go out in the sunshine for a half-hour walk. I’ll be honest; this seemed trivial to me at first. But I ended up paired up with a young UC San Francisco physician and researcher who is currently conducting one of the first-ever studies on Patient Advisory Boards: who’s using them, how are they put together, and how their input is fed back into the host organization. Brilliant! No one has any data on this yet — while these boards are popping up in industry and clinics all over the nation.

flip the clinic brainstorming

For our Flip idea, we suggested that someone try to put together a national council of these existing patient boards, so they can share best practices. We also envisioned teaching the members about the “Flip” methodology, so that each board can work on suggesting specific Flip ideas for the organization they’re advising.

At another point in the day, I joined a small group discussing “The Role of Technology in Healthcare.” Huge topic, right? And yes, we were all over the map on issues from the usefulness of apps to implementation of EHR records in clinics.

I tried to encourage the group to share examples of health technology that really “does it right,” whatever the function. They cited the following:

  • UberHealth – delivering flu shots on demand
  • Castlight Health – working with employers to deliver high-quality, affordable healthcare — with price transparency
  • Omada Health – applying technology + a team/mentoring approach to change behavior
  • CareSync – an online secure family health record site (one physician at my table raved about how good this service is; I signed up for the free version to check it out myself)

Goetz’s group focused on the “ask one question” challenge idea — the notion that in appointments, doctors should ask patients this one key thing: “What can I do to improve your care today?” Similarly, patients should have just one question or goal in mind when they visit the clinic, in order to streamline their visit and get the most out of it.

This group suggested hashtag for sharing: #IWishMyDoc… #IWishMyPatient … Love it! I kicked off the former.

There was lots of great discussion, but in all, I can’t say I heard anything brand new, or truly revolutionary. Still, the vibe of this gathering and project felt like the opposite of clinical inertia, innovation energy, which has just got to be a source of positive change.

“It’s a useful way to get smart people working in small groups on a big need,” Goetz says.

In a way, this big national healthcare brainstorm is what I’d hoped for with the Target Simplicity Challenge, but that turned out to be more a channel for Target to find something to do in its own stores to position itself as a leader in the health(care) market.

Goetz says they want to “build momentum behind the idea” of Flips, and “create shareable tools and simple strategies and plans for testing and implementing” the new ideas generated.

There are five more events planned this year, in Miami, Austin, Raleigh-Durham, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and Philadelphia. Interested? You can nominate someone to attend, or click here to apply for an invitation for yourself.

If you’re not able to score an invite to the Lab day, no worries. There’s a “Community Forum” session that takes place in the early evening after each event and the cost is just $25, including snacks and wine. See this link for more on that.

Now, let’s start thinking in terms of “Flips” for diabetes… What part of the healthcare experience would we most like to turn on its head?

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.