The Obligation is Real

September 21st, 2010 by Nick Jacobs Leave a reply »

On Saturday night a group of people will gather at a restaurant  for a celebration of life since graduation from high school. I won’t be there. Neither will Joe, Butch, Tommy and half a dozen others,  but their absence is for a very different reason: they have passed away. I, on the other hand, will just be passing. So, why not go this year?

Nick Jacobs, FACHE at the beach with his grandchildrenWell, it’s a kid thing. You see, part of my birthday present to each of my kids was an overnight stay at a resort with their spouses, and, low and behold, there is no one to watch three of the grandkids and the brand new chocolate lab; no one, that is, but me. Why would I sacrifice the opportunity to hang with my old buddies for the chance to change diapers, mop up housebreaking accidents, and argue over bathing and bedtime issues?  Why?  Because it was part of the commitment, that kid commitment.  They will be my kids until either I die or they do, and with that come certain obligations that are real.

Why bother you with all of this personal blog stuff?  It’s about obligations.

The other day, a bright young man met with me at lunch to ask me questions about the American Healthcare System. Interestingly enough, I don’t believe that  my answers were what he had expected. You see, we have certain beliefs about our rights to generate, earn, and receive money in this country. What is missing, however, is a realistic reward system that aligns the appropriate reimbursements with the actual needs of the country. When he asked me how many hospitals would invest in purchasing his product, one that might help to eliminate hospital infections, my response was “Not many.”

You see, with obligatory bottom line orientations, many of the hospital CEO’s and CFO’s are not anxious to spend money on a  product that might work.  More importantly, with a lack of transparency, the public exposure that most organizations have relative to this infection problem is still somewhat limited.  It was easy to explain that if “St. Elsewhere” was exposed for having a 24% infection rate, not unlike a five star hotel having bed bugs, you can darn well bet that something would be done and done quickly, but the issue is not so pressing when it is under the basket.

Over the last few years, I have lost some wonderful friends who have had fantastic surgeries at highly respected hospitals.  These surgeries would have been impossible to have in a “normal” hospital, but, having said that, two of them died and one lingered near death for two years due to the infections they acquired there.

If this was widely publicized public knowledge, might he be able to sell more product?  The question was rhetorical and the answer is absolutely, positively, yes. So, back to obligations. Why is it that we must be exposed in order to become aggressive about serious problems in our systems?  The answer is simple: It costs money, and resource allocation is the number one challenge of most hospitals.  Hence my point about our financial incentives.  If we were reimbursed, rewarded and paid, not in an unconnected, cottage industry manner, our treatment regimes and protocols would change.  If we knew that it would be our financial responsibility to amputate limbs for advanced diabetes, would we be more eager to spend money on wellness initiatives?

Truthfully, it’s our obligation, and, as our fellow human beings suffer, we are currently seeing a movement toward political groups intent upon repealing reform measures. That is a backward view of an already complex challenge. It is our obligation to help our fellow man. “Do unto others …or pray you don’t lose your health insurance.”

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