Business of Well-being

How Simple Improvements Yield Massive Gains in Health and Wellness

In the world of corporate wellness, innovation is the key to transforming the health care sector. That change can be the result of disruptive technology, medical breakthroughs, scientific applications or basic improvements involving everyday products.

Concerning the latter, there is often a convenience factor that is either the source or result of innovation, meaning: A simple, but difficult-to-initially-master, change gives people - doctors, nurses, patients and consumers alike - a radically better way of dealing with a common challenge.

From there, from these practical advances, there is a culture of wellness; the benefits make things easier, delivering a sense of how things should be, as well as a clear contrast between events prior to and immediately after the introduction of an appreciable form of innovation.

I write these words from experience, both as someone with an interest in promoting health and as an entrepreneur, who seeks to make a positive impact in a variety of fields. Indeed, my role as Founder of OdorNo, which makes Odor-Barrier disposable bags to protect against the scents of daily life such as baby diapers, pet waste, industrial trash, incontinence products and other unpleasant smells, is the ultimate proof about the union between innovation and concrete, measurable results that make the regular routine of running a household, medical office or hospital more inviting.

My broader point, therefore, is more of an admonition than anything else: It is a summons to consumer brands - to all businesses - to make practicality the barometer of excellence. Put a slightly different way, we, as a society, have a tendency to approach health care from the perspective of complexity - we search for the latest cancer treatment, the most sophisticated imaging equipment or the most advanced form of pharmacology - while overlooking the ordinary things that can immediately improve quality of life for patients, loved ones and medical personnel.

Also, to be clear: We do not have to choose simplicity at the expense of complexity - by all means, let us extend the frontier of knowledge and treatment - but we should be mindful of the opportunities that can deliver relief, right now, to those who need it.

For example: One of the fields OdorNo may explore involves the removal of medical waste, or the inclusion of our products in hospital rooms throughout the country. That single action can quickly better everything from facilities management - workers would no longer have to endure the harsh smells that are legion among all hospitals - and remake a standard room into a scentless, minus the flowers from friends and family, source of rest and recovery.

That kind of change is fast and identifiable - you can smell it; rather, you will not smell it - while addressing a direct challenge that physicians and nurses deal with on a daily basis, the ability to work through (and hold your nose amidst) the awful smells that invade an operating room, hospice building, assisted living facility, trauma unit, burn repair center or floor for intensive care.

And, in response to the question - How can something as mundane as trash removal be so pivotal to enhancing personal wellness? - my reply is simple: The greatest areas worthy of improvement typically involve the use of products that, with some adjustment, can deliver significant savings, convenience or peace of mind.

The same theory is the inspiration for the "broken windows" principle of crime control -- that the failure to address small things, like vandalism or the replacement of broken windows, invites bigger and more serious threats.

So, let us call our theory of personal wellness the "broken bags" rule of medicine: That, in the absence of adopting a superior alternative, thereby preserving the unpleasant smells of an emergency room or doctor's office, patients have a strong disincentive to seek appropriate medical care.

Why? Because, if a place stinks - if it literally reeks of blood, urine and feces - people will do everything, short of agonizing pain, to avoid entering these buildings. Remember, seeing a doctor is the result of a confluence of factors, which include: The need to receive a diagnosis and proper care, depending on the patient's condition, as well as the patient's attitude about going to the doctor's office in the first place.

If, as stated above, the office has a terrible odor - and medical waste has its own distinctive (and distinctively putrid) smell - a patient will not want to schedule an appointment, unless there is no alternative - and the symptoms are so severe that the need for a doctor is urgent - because, everything else to the contrary, the patient would never otherwise step foot in that exam room again.

That situation is a concrete example of a general phenomenon, which we know all too well, where something small or basic - the use of ordinary trash bags - can have a significantly negative influence on health care in general. Few people enjoy going to the doctor, so imagine how much greater their aversion must be when they know - and have the unfortunate experience of have smelled - the office at work, so to speak.

An environment like that, which is common in major hospitals and surgical centers, does not require the installation of some state-of-the-art ventilation system. Nor does it demand the use of deodorizing gases, which must be monitored for potential toxicity.

Those options are so excessive, and excessively expensive, that they neglect the most obvious - and immediately actionable - solution: The replacement of standard trash bags, or the red bags (which, by color alone, indicate that they contain medical waste) that hospitals and doctors must carefully remove.

If this single change can have such an influential outcome on the frequency with which patients maintain their health or get regular checkups, think of all the other improvements we can make - right now - that can reverberate throughout a company or medical organization.

My recommendation is, consequently, to create big results by making small (but revolutionary) changes. By transforming just one task - the depositing and removal of trash - we can see how we can improve results. Let us apply that principle to other fields worthy of innovation, so wellness can be a priority and reality for all.

About the Author

Garett Fortune, Founder and President of OdorNo, makers of Odor-Barrier disposable bags to protect against the scents of daily life such as baby diapers, pet waste, industrial trash, incontinence products and other unpleasant smells.

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