Regulation in healthcare is a thorny topic for most practitioners. On the one hand, regulations are in place to protect a patient’s health and safety. On the other hand, they can make it onerous, time consuming, and plain difficult to do a good job of providing care. Many countries have vastly different systems of regulating their healthcare, from the markets to the doctor’s office. This can sometimes result in faster, more affordable care, but it can also result in substandard results or even dangerous conditions.

I recently spent several weeks in Thailand, venturing overseas with my wife as a way to end the year and bring in 2020 with joy, refreshed for the work ahead of us. Words truly cannot describe the colorful views, picturesque waters, and gorgeous tableaus that greeted us. From the streets of Bangkok to the mountains of Khao Yai National Park, we experienced urban settings and wilderness treks, each vista a new experience. The last half of our journey was spent in southern Thailand on the beach, paddling the Phang Nga Bay and partying under a full moon on New Year’s Eve.

While all these places held new and wonderful sights, I noticed many differences between the systems in place overseas and those that regulate our businesses in America. In most setting in America, you’re unlikely to see thirteen people crammed into the back of a non-extended cab Nissan pickup truck, as I saw in Bangkok during the customary mass exodus to the villages for New Year’s Holiday. New constructions here are held to strict building codes, while in Thailand new hotels didn’t vent their bathrooms correctly, so gross backdrafts were common. And speed limits? In America, we may grumble at having to reduce our speed while coming into urban centers. But in Thailand, we saw trucks going twice the speed limit and getting passed left and right. Not to mention that almost anywhere in America, you can access clean drinking water at any tap. This is one we often take for granted, not realizing how rare that is in most of the world.

Being in a place that did not have the standards I am used to made me reconsider what those standards do for our systems. In our every day routine, we only see how the regulations affect our ability to do our jobs. We only see the roadblocks they create, the inefficiencies they force us to contend with. We loose sight of the environment those standards are building, the safe and healthy world they’ve been creating for decades that we now take for granted.

In Healthcare, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of regulations and standards we must follow. Having just experienced a country where the approach is much less progressive, I have a new appreciation for our approach to systemizing processes and achieving consistent results. As I move through 2020, I am going to focus on thinking about how standards help the whole system, and try to remove some of the negative perspectives I may have been holding on to unnecessarily.