By Tamara StClaire
(From the editor: Images from The Walking Gallery, above and within this article, are courtesy of Regina Holliday.)
If you’ve ever attended a big healthcare conference, like HIMSS, Health 2.0 or Health Datapalooza, you’ve probably seen people walking around the show floor with images painted on the back of their suit jackets. After your initial confusion wore off, you hopefully stopped the individual to ask them about the interesting and unexpected artwork.
That’s the intention and vision of Regina Holliday, the founder of The Walking Gallery: to visually represent the experience of patients in healthcare, spur conversations on the topic and ultimately act as a catalyst for change and improvement.
At HIMSS 2016 this March, Regina Holliday will be painting from the Xerox booth on the show floor. I had a chance to chat with Regina about how The Walking Gallery got started, and how she is combining art and healthcare to make the world a better place.
How did The Walking Gallery start, and how has it grown over the years?
I finished a big mural in Washington D.C. in the fall of 2009, and then I was a bit stuck; it was too cold to continue painting outdoors! A Twitter user actually reached out and asked me to paint on the back of her jacket so she could represent patients at a medical conference, and that’s when The Walking Gallery was really born. People saw these art jackets and the incoming requests continued to snowball.
It wasn’t very formal until the spring of 2011, when the first real Walking Gallery was held in conjunction with Health Datapalooza in Washington D.C. It was a rush to paint 56 jackets within a single month leading up to the conference!
We’ve grown a lot since then, and now have 367 gallery members wearing a total of 403 jackets.
Do any of the stories you’ve painted stand out in particular as the most powerful or impactful?
They are all impactful – each jacket pulls on your heart strings in its own unique way.
Someone asked me once if I could paint uplifting and happy pictures. But unfortunately, many patients’ healthcare experiences are sad in tone. It’s great when everything works out and goes well, but sadly that doesn’t happen every time. And when it doesn’t go well, there is a valuable lesson to learn from it.
If we don’t share these healthcare stories, we run the terrible risk of not learning from them.
In your opinion, why is patient advocacy so integral to the healthcare industry at this moment?
Patient advocacy is important because it breathes a real element into healthcare – it personalizes the industry.
Right now, we’re at a point where the industry needs to collectively decide whether we will push forward on the current path of reform and innovation, or if we will reset and forge a new path in a new direction. The voice of the patient cannot be absent from that conversation, so the activists cannot back down right now. Activists need to stand up, because we are making decisions that are going to embody the future of healthcare.
Xerox believes that healthcare can work better. What does the future of healthcare look like to you?
As I said, I think we are on a cusp right now. What’s necessary in order for us to get to the next level is by learning to say “yes” and try new things!
The future of healthcare is one in which stakeholders are courageous and take the bold steps necessary to improve the patient experience.
What healthcare topic do you think will receive the most buzz at the conference this year?
I think it’s still going to be the future of meaningful use. After the recent announcement by Andy Slavitt at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, I think there are plenty of people with questions about what will happen with the program moving forward.
Regina Holliday is an ambitious activist who has had – and will continue to make – an enormous impact on the healthcare industry. She is currently raising funds that will help her open a physical Walking Gallery center – a place where art, creativity and medicine can all come together. Besides that, her ultimate goal for 2016 is to have a member of the Walking Gallery in all 50 states.
If you’re attending HIMSS this year, please come see Regina in the Xerox booth, #8005.
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