Archive for the ‘Boomers’ category

Four ways to improve access to Integrative Medicine Practices

November 13th, 2017

Licensure, regulation, medical evidence, and funding are four sure ways to speed up the process needed to allow integrative medicine practices to be embraced. If we begin with the assumption that money has a lot to do with everything medical in the United States, then we must look at the winners and losers and the WIFM’s?  (What’s in it for me?)  If you’re a practicing surgeon, and acupuncture or chiropractic care results in the patient not needing a surgery, that can be a financial threat to you. Let’s be fair, that probably doesn’t happen that often, but sometimes it does, and when it does, that’s money lost to your practice.

 

If you’ve spent four years in undergraduate school, four years in medical school, four or five years in a residency, and your educational debts amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, the last thing you need is a clinical study demonstrating through medical evidence that thousands of patients won’t need your services, and your skills will become exponentially less in the demand.

 

On the other hand, if, like ophthalmologists who surround their practices with optometrists, orthopods did the same with chiropractors and acupuncturists, could that not create a steady stream of referrals for their practices?

 

Let’s face it, there is a role for all three of those professions, and there are skill levels in every profession and duties relegated to each that both overlap and potentially conflict. So, wouldn’t it be better to have the three practice as a team of professionals working together to help you?

 

“There’s not enough medical evidence”  has been the hue and cry of the uninformed for years. Ironically, once traditional medical evidence is thoroughly interrogated, it’s not unusual to find numerous flaws in even the most accepted medical practices. We’ve seen slanted reporting in even the furthermost prestigious journals where various drugs, procedures, and devices have been proven to be ineffective years later.

 

There are over 19,000 papers that have been written and submitted to medical journals in which acupuncture has been endorsed and proven to be effective, but there never seems to be enough medical evidence for the naysayers.

 

Credentialing is a very challenging area as well.  Not unlike the highly skilled surgeon with her medical degrees from the Sorbonne in Paris that is not permitted to practice medicine in the United States, there are sometimes economic and political reasons to limit the number of practitioners allowed in the United States. In my experience, by creating a hospital-based credentials committee that specializes in integrative medicine, the nay-sayers ability to discredit highly trained practitioners with different skills will become more limited.

 

Regulation may be the most difficult challenge in this discussion because, as we have come to know very well, political power can come from political contributions, and when it comes to regulations, those with the gold have more clout than those without. That is not to say that our politicians can be encouraged to be more flexible because they can.  All it takes is for hundreds of constituents to stand in front of a Congressional office to encourage change to occur.

 

So, what are we really dealing with here?  In 1910, the AMA put out a request for proposal to determine what should be taught in the medical schools of Canada and the United States and no physician would accept that assignment.  Consequently, a Ph.D., Abraham Flexner, did, and his approach was to eliminate everything that wasn’t already proven science.  From there we have evolved to a “heal to the pill” mentality where words like root cause and placebo have been dropped from the vernacular.

 

Finally, funding is the key. It has been proven time and again that integrative medicine practices can reduce health care costs exponentially. With that in mind, every bill that comes out of Washington ignores that fact, and funding for many of these well-documented practices is not present. There were over 5000 codes in the Affordable Care Act that were intended to fund such practices as acupuncture, but when the FAQ initially was released, it said, in essence, “Don’t worry about paying these codes.”

 

If you go almost anywhere in Europe and Asia and you will see integrative practitioners thriving because their value is acknowledged and embraced. Of course, we’re not professing that a massage therapist performs open heart surgery, but we do know that Integrative medicine can help to reduce costs across the board.

 

There are many good things that can come from Integrative medicine. You just need to be open-minded.

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Random Thoughts About Things That Confuse ME

October 12th, 2015
 People have often asked me, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” In fact, I was in gym class. Six years after that, on April 4, 1968, I was in Pittsburgh when Martin Luther King was shot. I was back again in Pittsburgh on June 5, 1968 when Bobby Kennedy was killed. Finally, as a young teacher in Johnstown, on May 4, 1970, four students were killed and nine more were wounded by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University. Between the riots and civil unrest that followed these events, I was pretty sure that our world was spinning out of control, and I had just graduated from college.

It was during that time of the Vietnam War, the escalation of the Cold War, the race riots and political rallies, that a chasm began to appear between those men who still had crew cuts and white socks, and conservative hippie kids like me with my wire-frame glasses, sideburns, and mustache.

In fact, at my very first job interview, the department head, a man who was still firmly planted in the 50’s, asked me if because I was my college class president, I’d ever been involved in a campus riot. Meanwhile, there had only ever been one small demonstration at my university, and I wasn’t even on campus when it happened. But his question offended me so much that I replied, “Only the one.” Needless to say that job went to someone with a crew cut and white socks.

Throughout my life I held profound optimism that because we were a country that embraced education, espoused Judeo-Christian love, and incorporated tolerance and diversity in our stated beliefs, our philosophies would prevail and the world would become a better place. Wrong.

Because I spend much of my time on the road, Facebook is often the way I keep in touch with my virtual and real families. It keeps me apprised of changes, challenges, and the daily activities of those I both care about and want to be connected to through this last quarter of my life.

Of course, Facebook is filled with puppies, kittens, babies, and opinions, and many of those opinions remind me of the Archie Bunker character who so famously dominated the airwaves in the All in the Family sitcom of the 1970’s. That series, along with MASH and The Jefferson’s attempted to challenge the way Americans dealt with race, war, and general closed-minded prejudices.

It makes me sad when my friends, people that I love and most often respect, write posts that are passionately in support of social beliefs that embrace continued gun violence, racial prejudice, twisted religious beliefs, intolerance, greed and hatred. It would be easy to unfriend them, to write them off, and forget about them, but the teacher in me wants to try to educate them and to help them find their way. That never works because most of them are Archie Bunker’s age and older. All I’m asking is for tolerance, the embracing of diversity, and a non-violent philosophy of loving others. It’s the Golden Rule. Unfortunately, it’s often the Rule of Gold that seems to prevail.

I can tell you where I was on April 20, 1999, April 6, 2007, December 14, 2012: Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandyhook. Unfortunately, I can’t even tell you the name of the school or how many kids were killed on January 4, September 14, September 30 of this year. October 1, 2015, however, became more tangible because the hospital that cared for the wounded in Oregon is run by a friend, and Troy Polamalu’s cousin Brandon, a teacher at Umpqua Community College, was on campus at the time of the shooting.

Minimally, as a country, can’t we invest in behavioral health initiatives and enforce background checks.

Meathead really was the voice of reason on so many levels

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Along the Way…Things Became Very Interesting

January 31st, 2011

Two years ago I began this new journey, but not until a few months ago did my work in consulting really begin to take shape in a way that could never have been predicted.

As the challenges of our present economic times have become increasingly daunting, my personal and professional journey has become even more dedicated to innovation and creativity. One goal has been to provide new alternatives to past practices that will create value for patients. This means making a contribution to saving and transforming lives, while producing cost savings and financial stability, and developing new markets to enable provider growth in their missions.

Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, WA - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - Healing Hospitals - SunStone Consulting

The driving force behind my exploration began with asking how we can begin to control those out of control expenses that are currently blurring the lines between continued care for our population, and rationing or elimination of services?  But, the answer(s) must enable us to continue to add healing opportunities for our patients at every turn.

Because my creative energies have always been focused on producing more ways to generate new monies for whatever organizations I have personally represented,  it seemed somewhat foreign to me to spend more time on fiscal issues than creative alternatives.  However, with literally millions of Baby Boomers coming of age each year, it was obvious that our entire culture is at risk both fiscally and socially. Consequently, after listening carefully to my peers, several opportunities presented themselves that would address all levels of these concerns.

Through the combination of their proprietary software and dozens of years of combined knowledge in the healthcare finance field, SunStone Consulting, LLC, spends each and every working day addressing the challenges of finding monies that should already have been captured by hospitals and physician practices, while also creating new opportunities that have heretofore not been explored. That’s where SunStone Management Resources comes into play.

SunStone Consulting - Nick Jacobs, FACHE

We have identified new companies, new entrepreneurs and new creatives who can not only improve healthcare, but also significantly improve the bottom line of those organizations willing to embrace their programs. One such company with whom we are partnering can increase Emergency Room productivity by as much as 35 to 50%.  They can also help do the same for cancer centers and operating rooms. They utilize robotic systems that communicate patient needs and simultaneously seek out the appropriate medical services required as soon as the patient is triaged. The patient’s condition and potential requirements are communicated to every individual who will or should have contact with them throughout their hospital stay.

We have also identified what I refer to as “no brainer” opportunities. By making otherwise locked fiscal percentages  a commodity, even small and medium sized organizations can save huge dollar amounts. How? By changing out only the electronic reading devices used hospital-wide. This simple change has resulted in huge fiscal savings for clients.

Add to examples like those above the introduction of  a new invention that, in the right hands, can help to extend some types of Stage 3B and Stage IV cancer patients’ lives from months to years through a relatively simple post-surgical procedure. Also consider the invention of new materials that would support bone growth, while virtually eliminating the need for casts or even slings. Imagine a series of protocols that have brought over 40 people out of deep, irreversible comas. Then, on a completely different path, consider having access to  the cumulative knowledge garnered from over a hundred million dollar investment in breast cancer care.  (This is about to be made available to small and medium sized hospitals across the world.)

These are but a sampling of  just some of the opportunities currently driving my passion in this new healthcare world order.

You may want to make a simple inquiry into what’s behind the innovative, practical, and incredible creations of the brilliant people doing this work.  It’s not just so many words on a page.  It is the future, and the future for you and your organization could be now.

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The Problem with Experience, Intellect and Self-Assurance

September 3rd, 2010

I received this quote from a friend today:

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little.
His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.

But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side,

if he does not so much as know what they are,
he has no ground for preferring either opinion.”

–John Stuart Mill, British philosopher from his classic On Liberty, 1859

Man Looking in Mirror - Recursive - Nick Jacobs, FACHEMy new friend, Dan, has been helping me by holding up a rather small mirror, and suggesting that I explore me in that looking glass.  For the past two years, my patterns have not changed appreciably.  My work day starts very early and typically ends very late.  During those working hours, it has been my custom to continue to pursue those imaginative, creative inventions, ideas, and interventions that can help to change lives, businesses, and futures in a very positive way.  My enthusiasm for these discoveries, however, seems to get me into trouble, because I’m always trying to provide answers before anyone asks me questions.

Everywhere we go people are selling us something.  We are being inundated with opportunities to try something new, something different, something wonderful that will change our lives. We not only become callous to these approaches, we become cynical and sometimes very negative toward them.  Hence, when I try to explain that there really is plenty of money available to us to add those services and to create the type of environment that we know the Baby Boomers and their kids would love, the push back begins.

In fact, Dan held up his hand and said, “Put your hand against mine.”  Within seconds we were pushing on each other’s hands.  It’s a natural thing.  We see the hand and begin to push back on it.  Our experiences, our intellectual capacity, and our self-assurance all work against us as we assume that “we have the answers,” and that no matter what is on the table, you have experience and knowledge that allows you to counter its winning characteristics.

Dan suggested that I begin to approach things differently. He suggested that I stop telling people all of the details of my incredible discoveries and allow them to tell me where their pain resides. Allow them to tell me what hurts. Then, suggest some of the marvelous potential cures that have been so much a part of my research over the past few years.  Maybe we should all listen to Dan?

As CEO’s (and former CEO’s), we all know a lot. We’ve experienced a lot, and if we weren’t fairly self-assured, we wouldn’t have gotten the job in the first place. So, maybe, just maybe, instead of always trying to fix everything before we really understand the details, maybe it would be good –really good to just listen for awhile.

Early aircraft listening device, Bolling AFB 1921

Early aircraft listening device, Bolling AFB, 1921

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Evolution or Devolution?

July 16th, 2010

There’s a part of me that celebrates each and every day because I’m evolving. For example . . . being a mature person usually feels pretty good.  I’m more settled, less angry, less needy, less . . . well, you get the idea.  On the other hand, I would never want to own a, vintage car.  Why?  They usually don’t have air conditioning, air bags, seat belts, or CD changers. . .with auxiliary jacks for MP3 digital audio players.  Driving one would be taking several steps backwards in safety, comfort, and style.

How else have I evolved?  Let’s see.  I have air bags.  Okay, maybe they’re not air bags,  but I have a protective coating of extra stuff around my organs. (I’ve gained at least one additional pound a year for the past 30 years.)  Oh, and I am a lot smarter, too.  In fact, my IQ test gained at least 10 points over the last few decades.  (It would probably have been 20 points higher if I hadn’t been on cholesterol medication, but I’d probably be dead and that higher IQ wouldn’t help much.)  On the other hand, the fish oil is supposed to make your brain work better.  Mom used to say, “Nicky, eat your fish.  It’s brain food.”  (Forget the fact that it was deep fried and heavily battered.)

Nick Jacobs, FACHE at the beach with his grandchildrenThis evolution thing could all be summed up by saying that I’m finally starting to mature.  Even though I’ve missed it by decades; it’s happening now.  I’m wiser.  Honestly, there couldn’t be that many things left to learn about running stuff; four decades is a lot of  experience.  I’ve learned about politics, human relations, sociopaths and wonderful souls; and I’ve learned about construction, child birth, heart attacks and ground moles.  I’ve lived through the birth of my kids, my grandkids, and my friend’s kids.  I’ve lived through the deaths of every aunt, uncle, and a few cousins; friends, neighbors, mentors and a half dozen family pets, and I’ve held both of my parents in my arms as they passed, too.

Having observed all of this, what is the devolution?

On NPR the other day, there was a short story that the American public’s view of capitalism has deteriorated.  The exact percentage of those still embracing capitalism was about 44% and those who think it’s outlived its appropriateness was around 47%.  (I guess the other 9% might have thought that capitalism had something to do with that white building in Washington D.C.)  Interestingly, before I heard this story, my impression of capitalism had devolved as well.  In fact, the litany of sins observable to me because of the extreme capitalist approach that we have embraced is long and includes:  BP, Enron, Tyco, Bernie Madoff, and the fat food industry . . . I mean, the fast food industry.

But then I read a rant by Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online:

“Every good thing capitalism helps produce — from singing careers to cures for diseases to staggering charity —  is credited to some other sphere of our lives. Every problem with capitalism, meanwhile, is laid at her feet. Except the problems with capitalism — greed, theft, etc. — aren’t capitalism’s fault, they’re humanity’s. Socialist countries have greedy thieves, too.”

So, what’s the answer?  It seems simple enough.  Once again, from Mom, “It’s moderation.”  The far right and far left seem to be providing a daily whipsaw of entertaining cable news shows from Beck to Olbermann and from Hannity to Maddow, but these extreme views are not helping us solve the problems.  In fact their rhetoric contributes to this devolution.  Does Rush really believe everything that he says or does he say it because it’s so outrageous that he can continue to earn nearly $38 million per year?  And Keith? And Glenn?

I like my air conditioning, my air bags, and my computer assisted brakes, but I’m really getting tired of “bags of air,” greedy anybodys and anythings.

Let’s be less angry, less needy, and more settled . . . come on, guys, grow up.

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Carrots or Sticks?

January 30th, 2010

When you do the math, you can rather quickly determine that, as the aging process continues with the Boomer generation, federal funding for health care and Social Security will become more and more scarce. At the same time, we have all read the sobering national statistics regarding unnecessary deaths from hospital missteps. The CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) previously introduced a form of pay for performance, or –more accurately– no pay for performance, which has already caused a great deal of change in the American Healthcare System.

As is widely known by now, CMS has decided to literally stop paying for the treatment costs of preventable medical complications.  This actually may seem like an intelligent idea. This approach is referred to by some as visibility for good care, and there is no doubt that it will represent the beginning of a stampede from the third-party insurance payers to follow the CMS “Big Dog.”  In fact, several companies have already announced that they will not be reimbursing hospitals for similar errors, as well.  The truth of the matter, however, is that this step does not even begin to address the problem.

The problem is not about penalizing hospitals, it’s about creating an incentive system that is not disease and sickness based.  Until the pyramid is flipped, we will not see the necessary changes to halt this financial slide to economic oblivion.

Sanjay Saint, MD, MPH

About 9% of U.S. hospitals presently use daily reminders to help physicians remember which patients have urinary catheters in place.  According to the University of Michigan’s Sanjay Saint, a professor of internal medicine, about 74% of hospitals don’t keep tabs on how long the catheters are in place.  But the real issue is that about 98% of hospitals and physicians don’t completely address issues of wellness and prevention that can allow us to remain well until we die because there is little or no incentive to do so.

Logic would dictate that because financial reimbursements will be connected to these hospital-created mistakes, infections or injuries, someone will surely pay more attention to the current misses.  But what if the entire system was based on keeping people healthy?  What if all of our focus was on exercise, appropriate food consumption, and stress management?

Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending upon your perspective – the United States has become the most proficient country in the world when it comes to capitalism, and much of capitalism is based on manipulating people to get them to consume what will bring the financial success and rewards to the corporations.  If you doubt this, just go to Eastern Europe to see what is happening in an environment with unregulated tobacco advertising.  The circle has started all over again.

In the old carrot-and-stick arrangement, there will be plenty of hits.  Wouldn’t it have been interesting, though, to reward hospitals where mistakes are almost nonexistent so that the less successful medical centers might line up to learn from them, or to reward docs and hospitals for helping to keep people healthy all the time. Carrots work, too, and with much less grief.

Carrots and (Celery) Sticks

What’s the old line?  “We’re going to beat the troops until morale improves.”

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Healing Hospitals: Get ready… Get set…

November 25th, 2009

One of Johnny Carson’s funniest ongoing “bits” (He was the guy who hosted The Tonight Show before Jay Leno) was that of Carnac the Magnificent.  Carnac was a psychic with a large elaborate turban and a plethora of envelopes, all of which were “hermetically sealed” and had been kept in “a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnalls’ porch since noon” that day.  Johnny would hold each envelope up to his head and give the answer to the question that was sealed in the envelope.

Carnac’s answer: “Sis, boom, bah.”

The question: “What sound does a sheep make when it explodes?”

Well, here’s my version.

Carnac:  “The Baby Boomers will begin to speak more and more feverishly about their wants, likes, and dislikes relative to hospital care.”

The question would be: “What will eventually make you kiss your job good-bye?”

I’m sorry.  I know it wasn’t funny, but the point is that patient choice, patient transparency, patient dignity,  billing simplicity, and — most importantly — loving, nurturing patient care and improvements in every level of quality will become the demanded norm.  Remember, we Boomers have never been laid back.  Ours is a generation of demanding “I” driven professionals who have influenced the way blue jeans are made (i.e., to fit our pear-shaped butts).  We’ve invented levels of debt that were not even thought of before.  We have influenced drug use, stock market use; you name it.  What makes any of you think that you are out of the woods with us?

nicksblog_boomercouple_golf400

It’s my further prediction that those hospitals that do not follow the path of creating healing hospitals will struggle and many may not survive.  We Boomers will contribute to more bankruptcies and closings than even the Balanced Budget Amendment.

We’ve been watching the hundreds of hospitals out there that are marching in lock step to the past re: patient care.  It’s like observing a physician who doesn’t even try to be nice to his patients.  A year or so into the practice, they come into the president’s office and say, “Why am I not making my financial goals?”   If things don’t become softer, more gentle, more humane, our patients will vote with their feet.

Oh, sure, you may have five or so years before the dominant players, the Boomers, take over, but, believe me when I tell you that the vast majority of businesses “on the financial bubble” right now are filled with employees who have either bad or no attitudes.  Those “It’s not my job” attitudes.

Now-closed Circuit City I have carefully observed organizations like Circuit City transition from model companies to bankrupt companies.  They changed their incentive methodologies for their employees, stopped listening to them, and stood back and watched as those same employees undermined their sales by saying things like, “I don’t care what you buy.  My check doesn’t change either way.”

Walk through your hospital, and take a good look at what is going on in each department.  Are your registration people friendly and kind?  Are they sensitive to the frail elderly, young, and frightened?  Are your techs polite, nurturing, caring?  Is the receptionist friendly on the phone, or do they throw everyone into voice mail hell?  How is your executive staff?  Are they parent-to-child leaders? Reality is what is happening; not what you think is happening.

Get yourself a secret shopper or two and let them work your system.  It can be a real eye opener, a  hard dose of reality.  Are your Press Ganey scores lower than a typical prison hospital?  Do your employee surveys reflect their love and respect for their fellow employees or for their job?  Are they proud to work at your facility?  Most importantly, would they recommend your hospital to their friends and families or would they recommend it as a place of employment for their peers?

If I haven’t captured your imagination yet, maybe you’re too hardened by the present.  I heard a PBS interview today where a Pakistani land owner said that when he tried to get his men to work together to carry larger quantities of dirt from one place to another, they refused and insisted that the bucket was the only way they had ever done it. They then told him that change is too dangerous.  Check your buckets.  Make sure they don’t end up empty.

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NickJacobs.org???

April 2nd, 2009

Let me open this blog with a little housekeeping chore. Because I’ve retired from being a hospital president (Yes, they replaced me with two great people, count ‘em, two.) , I’d like to change the name of this thing. It’s not that I’ve established a P-Diddy-type Twitter following where 100,000 human beings are waiting with baited breath to see what my next move will be, it just doesn’t seem right to keep calling myself a hospital president. We know who reads this thing, and we are grateful to our loyal, talented, and brilliant followers. We also know that we can link the old blog names to get you here. So, regardless of what you typed, or what gets Googled, our genius social media maven & webmaster, Michael Russell, can help to bring you home to this site.

Okay, so as a transformational advisor, a broker of sorts, most people with whom we have consulted have described me as a person who can fix things that are broken before they actually break. Maybe we should call it the “Break it if it’s not already fixed” blog. I’d love it if it was a name that would generate millions of hits and companies would fight to advertise on it.

My first thought was to use nickjacobs in the title because there is a Nick Jacobs on Facebook who teaches Aboriginal people in Australia, and he seems popular. There is another Nick Jacobs who is a professional organist, and one who is an athlete. There’s a Nick Jacobs who is a consultant and another a paramedic in London, one who had a blog who is a yachtsman, there’s my son, the commercial real estate broker, and finally, there’s a Nick Jacobs who does pornographic movies who is not my son. Actually, that Nick Jacobs’ followers would probably be the most disappointed by this blog.

Since the .com version of nick jacobs was already taken by some guy in England, we captured nickjacobs.org, and that will work for right now.

If you have any ideas, however, that you think would really rock the blogspere, let us know and we’ll check with our domain registrar to see if it is available. In fact, if you are the winner of a Name Nick’s Blog Contest, I’d be happy to consult for free BY PHONE for at least one hour of brainstorming with you about the topic of your choice: music, healthcare, proteomics, teaching, PR/Marketing, the travel business, or even physician recruitment.

Remember, Hospital Impact is already taken, and, because my last three consulting jobs have been with a newspaper, a nonprofit arts oragnization, and a chain of hotels, we don’t want to think too restrictively. Gotta earn a little money, too.

When we ran the breast center, we found that the website got more hits than anyone could imagine. The problem was that the readers were mostly thirteen-year-old boys who probably weren’t too interested in running a hospital. After Miss America had visited us, the hits went up exponentially when those two searches were combined. Somehow, I don’t think that Nick Jacobs’ Breast Center for Miss America would probably get me the type of following I’m currently hoping to attract. On the other hand?

A very good friend recently asked me to write a brief bio about what my new life is like, and it struck me that it is very much like my old life but without any restrictions. This is what I wrote:

While teaching junior high school instrumental music in the early 1970’s, Nick Jacobs made an extraordinary discovery. He learned that, by empowering his students and surrounding them with positive influences, he no longer was providing a service or even an experience for them.

What this entirely unique teaching style resulted in was a method for helping to transform students. By providing with both passion and commitment the tools needed by them to undertake their journey, his involvement with the students became a means of dramatically helping them to make whatever positive life changes they were seeking.

It was during that early period in his career that he also discovered that this formula could work to positively change lives in almost any aspect of living as he ran an arts organization, a convention bureau, and finally a hospital and research institute.

Since that time he has dedicated his personal work to helping others make their lives better, and that is exactly what he is doing in his position as an international executive consultant with SunStone Consulting, LLC.

Maybe that will give you something to chew on? Okay, something on which to chew.

SunStone Consulting. With more than 20 years experience in executive hospital leadership, Nick has an acknowledged reputation for innovation and patient-centered care approaches to health and healing.

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The Not-So-Merry-Go-Round

March 7th, 2009

Dr. Wayne Jonas, President and CEO of the Samueli Institute, a friend and mentor, testified before the U.S. Senate on February 23, 2009 regarding his views for creating a path to health care reform. Dr. Jonas, a well respected member of the Washington D.C. health community formerly served as the Director of the Medical Research Fellowship at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), a Director of a World Health Organization Collaborating Center of Traditional Medicine and a member of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy.

Wayne B. Jonas, M.D.

Wayne B. Jonas, M.D.

It is not my intent to copy this testimony, but only to accentuate some of the salient points contained within his work. Let’s begin by looking at some chilling facts. By 2082, healthcare expenditures will represent 49% of our Gross National Product. This is due to the fact that in 2011, the baby boomers will begin to turn 65 when, in the words of Dr. Jonas, “an avalanche of aging care needs…will bury the current Medicare system.”

Obviously, this is a case where more of the same is not necessarily better and, unless or until the system changes, and we fashion a new vision to create health, we will bankrupt our country. Dr. Jonas then went into the facts and figures that those of us in health care who believe in wellness, integrative medicine, and a holistic approach to healing have known for years. Seventy percent of chronic illness is due primarily to lifestyle and environmental issues, including proper substance use (smoking, alcohol, drugs, diet, and environmental chemicals), adequate exercise and sleep, stress and resilience management, social integration and support, and selective disease screening and immunization.

We are on a not-so-merry-go-round, which has an entire system of illness incentives that are improperly reimbursed, improperly addressed, and inappropriately segmented as if each part of our body was not a component of the whole. It is time to begin to throw the switch and to teach our patients what we already know so that wellness, wholeness, and health can be given a new definition.

Dr. Jonas specializes in Systems Wellness. Dr. Leroy Hood specializes in Systems Biology. We as a country need to demand that our medical schools embrace both concepts as, like indigenous man, we begin to realize that our brains do have something to do with our bodies, as we realize that our commodity driven society does not always promote the BEST food, the BEST exercise, the BEST of anything but, instead, because of the quarterly reports to the stock holders, promotes the most lucrative.

We know that drinking a soft drink with 10 teaspoons of sugar is not exactly healthful. We clearly understand that quadruple cheese anything might eventually catch up with us, or that Uncle Buck’s 72 oz. steak can’t really be good for your arteries. Fried and buttered everything, a total lack of exercise, and more stress than anyone can ever dream of will not extend our lives. There is a reason why most of our physicians die ten years before their patients. Between the battles to get their degrees, the incredibly long hours, the pressure of dealing in life and death issues, and the demands of dealing with a broken healthcare system, they need stress management as much as anyone.

How much further down must we go as a country before we begin to realize that millions of dollars, dozens of expensive toys, mansions, and rich food are not true measurements of success? During a visit to the Netherlands a few years ago, I told my host that I would be back in August. She looked at me, smiled, and said, “Don’t bother. The entire country will be on vacation,” and they were. Many European countries take 52 paid days off per year. Sure, their cars are smaller or they use bikes and generally they may own less clothing, but they are living longer, healthier lives.

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A view from both sides of the street

September 17th, 2008

What do you do when you don’t have enough money to do what you need to do for you or your family’s health? I know, it’s a redundant question? You go without, delay or borrow from your future in the form of debt. According to Reed Abelson and Milt Freudenheim of the New York Times in their recent article Even the Insured Feel the Strain of Health Costs, as employers struggle to keep up with mounting costs to cover their employees, the average cost of an annual health care premium for that employee has nearly doubled since 2001, from $1800 to nearly $3300 a year.

Example after example is delineated in the Times article regarding those individuals who just can’t afford the challenges presented by the rising food and gasoline prices. Those featured families and individuals skip meds, wait longer to take sick children to their pediatrician or are facing staggering bills from health care institutions. According to the accounting firm, Deloitte, the average American income that goes toward health care expenses is now approaching 1/5 of their total household spending annually.

As a hospital administrator, it is never easy to listen to the general public throw stones at the medical industrial establishment, but when it comes to fancy, esoteric diagnostic tools, unproven drugs that can cost $6000 a dose or the very best physicians known to man, bring ‘em on becomes the hue and cry as we, the health care consumer wants nothing but the best for ourselves and our families. This is America. We deserve it.

Of course, if you are looking for elective surgery and you happen to live in England, you will wait on average 1.5 years for that intervention, and if you are in Scotland, it will be very close to 2.5 years before that same surgery is available.

My Democratic friends embrace the hope of the future through proposed health plans that insure the masses. My Republican friends warn of the horrible train wreck those plans will cause in hospital emergency rooms as every George, Dick and Conde will make their way to our hospitals with no barrier in place to prevent them from over running our already strained bastions of care.

Regardless of your political bent, it does seem unconscionable that we have nearly 48,000,000 uninsured accounted for by the government. Most of these uninsured are young, single moms and kids who either can’t or choose not to vote. (No one has ever believed that to be a co-incidence.) This figure also does not include the underinsured and quite possibly may not include any of the 50,000,000 illegal aliens. We are the only industrialized nation in the free world that does not have a true health policy for our citizens.

So what is the answer? The iron triangle of the best, fastest and cheapest health care is something that cannot exist in a system that is still hanging on ever so completely to an acute care based model when the vast majority of our health care challenges are now chronic care cases. We 78,000,000 Baby Boomers are taking more pills to control our varied maladies than existed in total just 20 years ago. Ask your pharmacist how many drugs there are now compared to 1988.

One very real answer to this health problem sometimes seems too simple. Our nearly $2 trillion in yearly health care expenditures includes less than four percent of its total dollars for preventative care. Much of our problems are about wellness.

So, wash your hands, drop some weight, exercise, cut out the saturated fats, stop smoking and live a less stressful life by doing something other than stare at the television…or else just wait for that little blue pill that will help you be skinny, tan and sexy, and then sell the family car to pay for it.

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