My daughter hears with a cochlear implant. My 17 year old son, born with a digestive system problem that would have been lethal 50 years before his birth, now referees his dad's hockey games. Thanks to a heart-lung transplant, my first cousin lived to see her son grow from age 2 to age 12. Aggressive medical and surgical management of heart disease has enabled my dad to live beyond, by many years, the age when heart disease claimed the lives of his father and older brothers.
I think my family is probably a lot like yours. We're full of people who are the beneficiaries of medically-mediated miracles. When I visualize what modern medicine is capable of, the image is profound, mature, purposeful. It pulls from the best of what humans--energies harnessed and God-given talents extended on behalf of others--can do. Maybe it looks like this:
In the day to day business of healthcare, though, the challenge of engineering a system where safe, effective, and accessible care is realized can flummox mere mortals.
Don Berwick talked about the imperative of seeing the big picture earlier this week at IHI's National Forum. (I didn't attend this year, but benefitted from the summary Paul Levy shared on his blog.) If you didn't hear Berwick's words, Levy's post is worth a read.