Archive for November, 2012

Hubris Strikes Again and Again and Again

November 19th, 2012

As we approach Thanksgiving this week, I am moved by a series of events that have occurred over the past few days, and wonder when we, as human beings, will ever begin to GET IT.  My description for the inability to get it is often times caused by Hubris.  Don’t get me wrong, one does not run hospitals, research institutes, or work for Fortune 500 companies without experiencing this phenomena, but it typically rears its ugly head when you least expect it, and it can be lethal on so many levels.

Several months ago, I had written a blog regarding this topic, and the subject was similar.  Intelligence, experience, and large amounts of education can lead to failure due to hubris, but so too can ignorance.  One of my former CEO’s used to smile and say, “They don’t know what they don’t know.”   Inevitably, the person to whom he was referring had taken a stand on a topic about which they felt extremely confident, but, in fact, did not have the full story as to what the outcome would or could be.   In fact, his expression represented more or less the fact that they were setting themselves up to fail and fail miserably.

The old adage revolving around history  that reveals itself time and time again  is that, “Unless we pay attention to history, it will  repeat itself.”

This Thanksgiving season, take some time to contemplate those things that are most important to you, and then take a little more time to demonstrate your appreciation for those things . . . and when I say things, I don’t mean material things.  Friendships, loved ones, church, relationships, health . . . As I reflect upon the past decades, it becomes abundently clear that these are the ONLY THINGS that matter.  The rest of it is simply earning a living.

It was always my feeling that Europeans generally seem to work to live and Americans live to work . . .

Let’s take some time this week to live, to embrace those individuals that we love and to help anyone that we can to understand that intelligence, ego, self-confidence and ability are all good things, but that very few of us know everything that there is to know about every topic.   Let’s help those who are open to your experience to realize that we could all benefit from having a support network, a team, a group of friends and co-workers who can complete the Emotional Quotient categories that we do not personally understand or embrace.

So much of the pain that we see in our world comes from hubris . . . and that ego driven, intellectual effeitness can not only lead us into wars, it can pave the way to poverty, hunger, collapse, bankruptcy, and failure on so many levels.

Maybe, for some of us, a piece of humble pie would go a long way this year,but whatever the case, take some time to smell the roses, and realize that YOU did not create those roses and, by the way, will not be able to replicate them from scratch in your laboratory.


SNF Q and A

November 5th, 2012


Question:   Is the percentage of readmissions to hospitals known and is it published publicly? I have seen some percentages in journals in regards to percentage of readmissions, but no statistical analysis of various states etc

Well, it is definitely known by each hospital. One of the interesting things about the Accountable Care Act is that transparency will become more and more the norm rather than the exception. I believe that, as we all know, COPD, Heart Failure, Cancer et al are the primary reasons for readmissions. Five to seven percent of the population uses most of the Medicare dollars currently being spent. I believe that Kaiser Permanente is one of the only health systems in the U.S. that originally took a very aggressive stand on this issue. They employed a home nursing service to monitor patients after discharge to keep patients out of the hospital. SOMEONE has to watch out for that. We are also working with firms that provide oversight for these patients.

Question: How are hospitals identifying these readmissions?

We call them, “the frequent fliers.” In the past there was no reason to limit those readmissions. All of my insightful clients are working with me to introduce health and wellness activities to their outreach centers and to their community. We KNOW who they are. The other problem is that, without health insurance coverage or a primary physician, and without them taking responsibility for their own health, there is NOTHING that will keep these frequent fliers from coming back as patients. SNF’s are not big risk takers . . . when in doubt, send them to the hospital? It’s a necessary tactic for the SNF’s, but it is also something that SNF’s could partner with hospitals to address much more efficiently.

Question: Are there trends being identified in the source of these readmissions? such as nursing facility, assisted living, diagnosis?

All of the above and NONE of the above. The reason that so many hospitals will merge or sell is that the leadership often times does not know what or how to the current culture or activities and change brings risk.  Some of these are the same hospitals that did not or could not invest in Electronic Medical Records, have not looked for prevention opportunities, and have not addressed problems dealing with infection control adequately. Just a note that nursing homes are also a major source of infections in hospitals, and the hospitals will be penalized for all hospital acquired infections as well.

Question: Are hospitals communicating this information to the skilled nursing facilities in order to minimize those readmissions that are not necessary? Are there measures being put in place to better address the clinical needs in the facility proactively to prevent readmission?

Yes and no . . . if they own them, they may be.  It appears that very small steps are being introduced.

Question: SNF’s are currently not identified in the ACO rule, but do hospitals see them as a part of the continuum of care? SNF’s are a nice transition for those residents who have higher clinical needs that are not yet ready to return home. SNF’s have lower costs than hospitals and clinical staff to manage frail patients.

SNF’s have the same problems as Hospitals, and New Jersey and Florida are already implementing managed care contracts to SNF’s that will further restrict their profitability.  PA is right behind them in this managed care decision.   I recently made a proposal to a SNF listing creative ways to lower their costs, increase their profitability and partner with their local hospital systems. They opted instead to look at further staff cuts and reductions. This is the same path many hospitals are taking.  It is the easiest but not always the best way to reduce costs.  It also can reduce quality, patient and employee satisfaction.  Communications between providers must happen in order for them to survive and thrive.

The truly enlightened organizations are stepping up because they have ACO’s and see that, for example, the $240K they will be spending on personnel for the wellness facility that their employees and patients use is the cost of ONE readmission. It doesn’t take much to figure out that if you can prevent a heart attack, even stents, it’s worth a small investment, but, unfortunately, we have lived off the Medicare entitlement concept so long and been rewarded for treating illness for so long, that addressing wellness will require change. In the book “Change or Die” the statistic is that 90% of us choose DEATH over change.

One of my special areas of qualitative focus is HCHAPS. One health system that I’m aware of will be penalized about $23M because of low HCHAP scores, and THEY HAVE RELATIVELY GOOD SCORES.  Image the hospitals with HCHAP scores lower than the average prison hospital. They need to retool, treat their EMPLOYEES and their PATIENTS with respect and allow them to be treated with dignity.

Question:   Can you identify some ACO’s and is there any data in regards to their success or failure in regards to reduced costs or reimbursement gain from the Shared Savings Program? In the most recent list published ACO’s there are 88 identified.

It is too early to determine the success rates of ACO’s. The goals are very clear for them, however, and they will be rewarded handsomely if they succeed. I’m working primarily in New Jersey and Florida, and there are prime examples of forward looking organization that already have ACO’s. We have helped generate millions to build workout and wellness facilities for  patients and employees. At least one has employed Integrative Medicine employees who are treating thousands of inpatients and countless outpatients a year with acupuncture, massage, reiki, etc., and are creating a womb like environment with hands on counseling for wellness and prevention activities. Plus they are making money in many ways from these investments. I once had a CEO who used to tell our management team that, “If we can’t figure out how to do this, I guarantee that SOMEONE can and WILL figure it out.”   That is the bottom line.