Archive for September, 2007

I don’t usually do this, but…

September 21st, 2007

This evening as I was looking through the web for some inspiration for a Hospital Impact blog, I came across a description of a wonderful health care experience.  It was so much fun that I wanted to share it locally, too.

Dr. Karen Donelan, Senior Scientist in Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, gave a wonderful description of her experience in the health care system.  A dear member of her family received timely access when the pcp’s answering service worked, the receptionist, technician and doctor all showed compassion and demonstrated their desire to be there for the family and the patient.  At every step information and decisions were shared, so much so that the family felt part of the care team, and finally the doctors were highly trained and had all of the right tools.   She described this as truly, significantly different care than they had ever observed with other family members.  According to Dr. Donelan, "It was seamless, high quality , accessible, compassionate and expert with a fully disclosed price and plan of treatment."

This description was so moving to me that it made me sit back in my chair and say, "This is absolutely the way it should be."

It has always been my dream that we could provide this type of care; that patient after patient, family member after family member would call, write or personally attest to this phenomenal care.  After all, why shouldn’t it be this way?  As I was reading it, I wondered if it was a major teaching facility or a wonderful, cottage type hospital in some little, rural town in Iowa. I remember reading something like this about teaching, and then saw that it was written in the 1400’s.  Maybe this was from ancient Rome or Greece?  After all, Planetree had its roots under the Sycamores where Hypocrites lectured. 

Then, I saw the punch line: It was the care that the author’s dog, Rico was given by the Veterinarian. Surprised? Don’t be.

I remember our very tough vet as he euthanized our retriever after having cared for her for 12 years.  He stood solemnly over her as he began to give her that final injection, and lowered his head, got tears in his eyes, and lovingly stroked her until her breathing stopped.  Honestly, it was one of the more moving experiences I’ve ever had, and it was with our dog.

Maybe we should all take our cues from the above description, and turn to our partners in health care, the veterinary hospitals.  Sure, they probably have to clean the puddles up in the waiting rooms a little more often, but this staff generally is there because they truly love animals, and, although we tend to forget it, try to hide it, suppress it, overlook it and cover up for it; we’re animals, too.

Finally, a friend told me about a Vet who was also a board certified MD, who practiced both professions out of different ends of his building.  I’m thinking that a bad day for him would have been when he had to say, "I’m sorry, Mrs. Jones, I just accidentally gave your husband a distemper shot!"


The Journey Into 2.0

September 14th, 2007

It was a beautiful, spring morning, and I had just "Gotten My Fix on Route 56" . . . (Well, it was actually a Chai tea from Eat n Park), but, nevertheless, my 90,000+ mile Jeep at that time was less than five minutes from work, just past the cell phone dead zone that I lovingly refer to as Radio Free Windber, when it rang.  On that particular Treo, my first of five, the caller’s personalized ring was a jazz piece that I had down loaded from the web.  Because of the jazz ditty, I Immediately knew that it was Zane, the 78 (now 80) year old, former Publicist for the Pittsburgh Symphony. Zane was living in Columbia, South Carolina, and his first words to me at 7:15 that morning were, "Hey, why aren’t you blogging?" 

To this day he denies ever calling or saying this to me, but that’s how it happened.  You can’t begin to make these kinds of things up.

Now don’t get me wrong, I knew a little bit about blogging from listening to the grand kid’s Ya Ya saying very bad things every time she watched television and her personal favorite politicians didn’t come on, didn’t win a debate or didn’t give the correct answer when it came to the economy, funding the war or world diplomacy.  She actually had informed me about the popularity of some Blogs/weblogs, currently being written about, you guessed it, politics. 

"Why?"  I said to Zane.  "I don’t know why.  Sounds like a great idea.  I’ll do it." 

A few minutes later I was on the phone with "Web Man, my personal super web hero," a professional webmaster with whom I had been working for the past half dozen years or so, Mike Russell.  Mike was responsible for helping us create a website or three, and, if anyone knew about blogging, it would be Mike.

Later that weekend, I started a hospital blog.  It was called Windberblog, but Mike also named it "Nick’s Blog."  In fact, it was the first hospital blog written by a CEO in the world.  If you’re reading this for the first time, don’t be shocked.  Hospital dudes are generally not real fond of risk taking, at least the 3,573 others with whom I have networked at one time or another.  Leading the pack in innovation is usually not a great love of theirs. 

When I tell you that this blog was hospital based, it was.  When I say it was board endorsed?  Well, that’s another story.  That didn’t happen.  In fact, it never really officially happened.  Some of my board members discovered it and liked it, but, for the most part, it’s an older group, that doesn’t hang out much online. Sometimes, it’s just better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

It actually wasn’t until I started writing funny and controversial things that it became internally well known.  Once after spending an entire week-end composing a very objective description of an upcoming major decision making process, my board chair received a call from a business leader suggesting that he fire me before I was sued, but, thank goodness, nothing was on that blog that made me particularly sue-able.  Yes, it was transparent, but that’s the part I love about this new world order. 

So, there is some little risk to this adventure.

After several months, a young Cornell grad by the name of Tony Chen, sent me an e-mail and invited me to become a guest blogger on his Hospital Impact blog at  At that time Tony was a very erudite young employee of HFMA, and the blog was intended to reach out to hospital leaders in order to give them hints on "how to be the best run hospital in the world."  That blog became my national philosophy soapbox.  It also gave me a chance to spout off about "Planetree," an international organization dedicated to the demystification of health care.  We actually considered calling it Windbercare at Windber, and, in fact, that is now what we do call it  . . . currently under the Planetree umbrella.

It was almost a year later that Mike Russell suggested something called "YouTube."  After about one weekend of exploring that site, we began transferring our advertisements, videos and speeches there.  That went on until we had approximately 15 or so samples of our work under the moniker of Windbercare.  (Is moniker a word?)

It was about the same time that Toby Bloomberg from Diva Marketing contacted me via e-mail for an interview that she ran on her blog, then Bob Coffield’s Health law blog, Trusted MD, HIStalk and several other bloggers linked to us and began to recognize our work and interact with us.  We were invited to speak in Washington, Las Vegas and now Chicago regarding blogging, and word of our work began to spread in other directions as well with podcasts from HealthLeaders and others. 

A new, local weekly newspaper invited me to write a comedy column for them.  Yes, it was gratis, but they let me tag it with our windberblog info, and hits on Windbercare and Nick’s Blog, began to grow as my popularity soared as a local folk hero for these fun, baby boomer, kid-raising, memories at under Nick Jacobs.

That, of course led to some of my blogs being picked up by Blue H News, an industry newspaper that goes to every hospital, except ours . . . but I’m sure it’s an oversight.  George Page, the editor liked my stuff and only rejects about 50% of what I write.  Hospital News of Western PA, Atlanta, Chicago and South Florida began accepting my submissions and I became a regular contributor there.  The Johnstown Tribune Democrat  has begun to print my weekly business-oriented articles, and Tony got me a gig writing for the website that is managed by Hylton and Francois. That’s my international soapbox. 

Two weeks ago Tony also got me hooked on  That’s been just for fun . . . so far.

Long story long?  This stuff works.  Although it would be misleading to give full and complete credit to the blog, it sure has helped to elevate knowledge about our organization.  Paul Levy of Beth Deaconess does his own blog now and is a CEO.  The difference between Paul and me is that it is his personal blog, and he is living in a big city, my continuous fantasy. 

Someday, maybe someone will pay me to write this stuff, or we’ll get sponsors, but it has been a real trip into Web 2.0, social networking.  I haven’t felt this good about myself since I played trumpet for a living.  As they used to say back in the 60’s,"It”s hip to be cool." 


Marketing and other random thoughts

September 2nd, 2007

Quote from Imelda Marcos: “Doesn’t the fight for survival also justify swindle and theft? In self defense, anything goes.”

Quote from Nick Jacobs: "Gosh, I hope not!"

So much of what we are experiencing everyday feels a little uncomfortable . . .

This is not a political blog.  It is not intended to be.  It is intended, however, to encourage you to explore the real vs. the perceived.  It is intended to point out things that have been bothering me for quite some time as a human being

Windber is a Planetree facility.  That means that we embrace the concept of body, mind and spirit; the demystification of healthcare; the concept of not leaving your dignity at the door.  We call it WindbercareTM. Some of our competitors would have you believe that whatever they say they do creates a special center for healing.  We say: come here, then go somewhere else, and feel the difference.

We have a multiple slice PET/CT scanner.  If you’re a lay person, that probably means almost nothing to you.  It’s technical. a PET scanner is one diagnostic machine, and a CAT scanner is another piece of diagnostic  equipment. Combined, they become an extremely powerful tool.  As an FYI, a multiple-slice CT scanner is not the same tool as a PET/CT.  At least for now, Windber Medical Center is the only PET/CT available for many miles around.

How about a three-Tesla MRI?  What is that?  It is a magnet for an MRI that is twice as powerful as any magnet in this area.  Twice as powerful. Here numbers really do count.  So who cares?  Anyone who needs an MRI scan should care.  It is twice as dynamic as a 1.5 T magnet, the standard magnet available in this area.  Brain scans and breast scans are phenomenal on this piece of equipment.  In fact, we have brain surgeons from Pittsburgh and physicians from Johns Hopkins in Maryland who send their patients to Windber.  The University of Pittsburgh has two magnets like this, West Virginia University has one… and the only other one in this part of the country is here in Windber.

Ge_openmri On that same note, what is an open MRI?  It is a piece of equipment that has been developed for people who are anxious, obese or who want an examination of small parts of the body.  The major difference for the patient is that there is no tunnel, the device does not surround the patient being tested. By comparison, even a large bore MRI is NOT open.  To my knowledge, the closest open MRI in this area is in Indiana, PA.

Our infection rate at Windber Medical Center is less than 1%. Try that on for size. If you come to Windber for surgery, there is better than a 99% chance that you won’t get a hospital borne infection. Ask our competitors what their infection rates are. Then make a decision. Your life could depend on it.

Finally, the physician who says to you, "We can only do this surgery at ANOTHER hospital because they are the only ones with the equipment necessary for me to do this work," often times is not telling you, the patient, the entire truth.  There are only a small percentage of procedures that cannot be done at Windber Medical Center.  As is the case in most hospitals, if need be, the factory representatives will actually bring equipment directly to us for specific specialty surgeries, but most of the time when we track back that physician excuse, we find out that all of the equipment was already here. 

The real excuse is "If I don’t do a certain number of surgeries at a competitive hospital, I will no longer have a block of time for my other surgeries. It is a use it or lose it philosophy imposed upon them by larger facilities. Consequently, the physician says, "I’ll tell you that they don’t have the proper equipment," and what he doesn’t say is, "I’ll do that in order to preserve my block elsewhere."

The little secret seems to be… "In self defense, anything goes.”  So, ask, and don’t always assume that the answer is not just better for your health. Because, sometimes, it’s just better for their business.

Okay, I feel a little better now that you know.