Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ category

What is Real and What is NOT? The Truth, or Maybe NOT . . .

April 30th, 2012

Sixty two years ago, George Orwell wrote the novel, 1984.   He described a society controlled by government where the individual had no privacy, no real freedom, and was literally put into the equivalent of a drug induced state by the pabulum of mass media television.  It was an intimidating forecast.   But now the question; how much dumber can television get with shows like:  “My Big Fat, Obnoxious Boyfriend,” “Real Housewives of  Wherever,” and “Temptation Island?” 

It was Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian educator, philosopher and academician who came up with terms like, “the global village, “medium is the message,” and the concept of the “World Wide Web” almost thirty years before Al Gore said he invented it.  Marshall described the fact that the mass media was quickly taking over our ability to think independently as we rushed into the realities of Orwell’s  Big Brother.  He explained that we would be once again living in a world of tribal drums, total interdependence and superimposed terror as opposed to thought and feelings from rational analysis.  Can you say, “Weapons of Mass Destruction?” 

The World Wide Web has placed us in a type of tribal unity for which none of us were prepared.  Why do you think tattoos are more in now than any time before 1500 B.C.?  Piercings and tattoos make you “part of the tribe.”  Hey, the majority of presidential candidate debate issues revolved around turning the clock back to the 1950’s, no web. 

It appears that, because of this tribal unity, many very obvious changes have become accepted by our current culture.  For example, according to columnist Rex Huppke, the fact that someone of any political party can say something that is completely false and stand by it makes facts meaningless and thus, dead. He goes on to theorize that, rumor and innuendo along with emphatic assertion are also part of this new communications standard. 

Dartmouth political scientist, Brendan Nyhan professes that, “In journalism, in health and education, we tend to take the attitude that more information is better, and so there’s been an assumption that if we put the correct information out there, the facts will prevail.”Nyhan says that, “Unfortunately, that’s not always true.”   Facts don’t seem to matter, and those who expose bogus facts are often more highly criticized than the person who misrepresented the truth in the first place.

We all know that the spin can change the view on any subject matter.  In many cases, it’s the quality and persuasiveness of the argument, not the facts which becomes the issue.   If you are on the right side of the spin, or if enough information can be put out there, the mass audience will be distracted from the facts, and confusion will reign supreme. 

Fact:  The United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the industrialized

Fact: Legislation has recently been proposed to take away additional funding for prenatal care. 

Fact:  The United States has fallen to “average” in international education scores and our State austerity measures include the laying off of teachers. 

Fact:  The incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world with only five percent of the world’s population, one-quarter of the world’s inmates are incarcerated in the United States. 

Fact:  Average annual cost per student for a public school education $8500; average annual cost per prisoner, $23,000. 

See, many of you will not know if you should believe these facts.  Some of you will fact check them.  Others will say, so what?   Some of you will look for my prejudices regarding this list, or you may be overwhelmed and say, “I can’t change any of this anyway.”  Most, however, will not bother to read this far. 

Twitter has become the new novelette and everything is a sound bite.   As Jimmy Kimmel said, “What’s back and white and read all over? Nothing anymore.”

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Steve, Dean and Nick: Be “Insanely Great.”

October 25th, 2011

Steve Jobs - HealingHospitals.com - Nick Jacobs, FACHE
During this time of economic uncertainty, the recent loss of creative, innovative leaders like Steve Jobs and Dr. Lee Lipsenthal adds to a collective national and personal concern over what seems like a serious lack of truly inventive and ethical leadership. Who will represent the next wave of 50-something leaders, and how will their personal characters influence upcoming generations?

One hope that I have for the future is Dr. Dean Ornish, a man who has been a personal friend, mentor and physician to both Mr. Jobs and Dr. Lipsenthal. To describe Dr. Ornish as a man of character, knowledge and creative medical vision would be akin to calling Winston Churchill a “good dinner speaker.”

Dr. Ornish and I have a long history of friendship, respect and support for each other’s work. Years ago, wanting to avoid being a heart surgery patient, I began to explore alternatives to legacy procedures and regimens. And, not unlike Steve Jobs, whose initial interest was also to avoid having his body violated by surgery, my research led me to the work of a young Dr. Dean Ornish. As soon as I learned more about his extraordinary program for coronary artery disease reversal, it was a simple decision to invest my own personal funds in one of his intensive workshops, held near his home in California.

Dean Ornish at PopTech (2009) - Camden, Maine - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - HealingHospitals.com

Dean Ornish at PopTech, Camden, Maine (2009)

 

As providence would have it, my own work resulted in what became a steady stream of research grants, and my subsequent personal decision to include Dr. Ornish in our appropriations for the next half-dozen years at the hospital and research institute where I previously served as President and CEO. Each year, I fought to have at least one million dollars invested in the Preventative Medicine Research Institute in California so that Drs. Ornish and Lipsenthal could continue to move forward in their research, as well.

Once, Dr. Ornish asked me, “Nick, what do you really want from our work together?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied, “Dean, I want to lose the question mark after the name of the town, ‘Windber.’  Whenever I tell people where we’re based,  they usually respond, ‘Windber?’…’You mean Windber, PA… the old coal mining town?’” Some history here: I had been hired by the board of rural 102-bed, acute care hospital in that historic, rural community to either radically turn it around, or shut it down. For me, the latter option was never a consideration.

Among the many transformational changes we made as part of the turnaround was to be among the first hospitals — and most probably the first rural hospital — in America to implement Dr. Ornish’s evidence-based program that arrests (and can even reverse) the effects of coronary artery disease. The results — with patients of broadly diverse ethnic backgrounds — were so successful, that we were asked to present to the World Congress on Cardiology in Belgrade, Serbia in 2007 on our outcomes and research discoveries, garnered from our experience implementing the Ornish program.

We were also instrumental in introducing the program at other sites for Highmark Blue Cross, as well as a host of other innovations and reforms at our own hospital; from live music playing, to fountains, delicious, nutritious food, cooked by classically-trained chefs, 24-hour family visitation and… wait for it… pajama bottoms for the comfort, dignity and modesty of our patients.

The goal: an environment entirely dedicated to the healing of body, mind and spirit.

The result: among other verified successes, one of the lowest hospital acquired (i.e., nosocomial) infection rates – less than 1%) in the U.S., where the national average is around 9%.

And, yes, we were profitable. Consistently profitable, quarter over quarter.

On one flight in a private plane with my board chairman and me from Cincinnati, Dr. Ornish and I had mutually planned to spend some “quality time” together – collaborating, planning and just trading stories about our experiences. Instead, he wound up honoring an emergent commitment as a personal health advisor and consultant to the leader of an Asian nation, and spent the majority of our flight in direct, one-on-one communication with this person. Awesome? That’s just the kind of guy he is.

My personal hope is that Dean Ornish will take up the mantle for both Jobs and Lipsenthal, as he takes his wellness programs to new levels through mobile apps and enterprise solutions using  iPhones and other mobile devices, and iPads and other tablets, making innovative use of social media technology. (Talk to my friend Mike Russell about that.) My further hope is that  Dr. Ornish’s success as an agent of influence and change will continue to be used in a powerful way, to not only help improve the health of the world, but to continue to positively influence public policy in the United States, as well.

Newsweek cover - Dr. Dean Ornish - Healing Hospitals - Nick Jacobs, FACHEDean Ornish has long been recognized as a leader, a man of character and a visionary, but with the loss of two of his closest friends, the pressure to perform grows exponentially greater. So, my best to you Dr. Ornish. Thanks for your confidence in my work. Keep the faith, and keep up the good fight to make a phenomenal difference in this world, thinking in insightful new ways and never resting on your laurels. As your friend  Steve Jobs famously said at his Stanford commencement address, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”…but especially the phrase he immortalized early in his career: be “insanely great.”

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One in Six

September 28th, 2011

The U.S. poverty statistics came out a few weeks ago, and things haven’t been this bad since 1993. Look to your left; look to your right. About one in every six Americans is now considered to be living below the poverty level. In 1993, the average new house was $113,000, the average income was $31,230, the average car was $13K, and tuition at Harvard was at $23,500. By 2010, you could nearly double every one of those numbers except the average family income which rose only to $50,000, instead of the $62,500 it should have been.

African-American Senior Woman Wrapped in US FlagOne of my favorite comparisons has always been that of Harvard’s tuition, which hovered right around $40,000, and the cost to keep a prisoner in jan American jail for one year, by comparison: about $45,000.  Now, if you extrapolate the number of people in U.S. prisons based on the entire population of the United States, it works out to about one in every 31 adults. Between 2.3 and 2.4 million Americans are behind bars. America incarcerates nine times more people than Germany and 12 times more people than Japan. That adds up to nearly $104 billion dollars a year in U.S. prison costs alone.

The folks on Wall Street and in Washington D.C. who so cunningly helped to put us into this financial mess are, by and large, not in prison, and the percentage of inmates that are minorities is staggering. An estimated sixty-eight percent of prison inmates were members of racial or ethnic minority groups.  Are our prisons full because our minorities are bad people, or are they full because their jobless rate is 40% higher than that of Caucasians?

We’re also spending about $700 billion per year on our military. For reference, the rest of the entire world combined spends nearly that same number.  At $1.4 trillion a year, that adds up to $236 per capita worldwide on defense, and we still have 24,000 nuclear missiles lying around; enough to blow up the planet plenty of times.

According to the World Bank, over 1 billion people live in conditions of extreme poverty and 15-20 million people are starving every year.  I saw another set of figures today regarding food subsidies in the United States.  It wasn’t a figure indicating our generosity toward these one billion poor people, it was that between 1995 and 2010, our Congress voted to provide $260 billion to continue agricultural subsidies.  Okay, maybe some of that makes sense, but what about the $17 billion that is going to use the American people’s money to create artificial incentives to produce ingredients that eventually become hydrogenated fats?

We are an obese nation, yet we paradoxically continue to publicly subsidize high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats, so that our obesity, diabetes and heart disease epidemics continue unabated. Sheer folly, or is this about some really big businesses, with some really good lobbyists?

Maybe it’s time to look at things a little differently. We all know that testosterone makes us physically strong, but it also makes us more aggressive and competitive. This testosterone overload has continued to result in war and violence being accepted as the normal way to settle things, and, except for the supposed economic benefits of war, we also know that war is just crazy. It kills and maims people, and diverts resources that might be otherwise be utilized elsewhere.

We’ve seen time after time that if you are brutal and retaliatory with people, they will learn to hate and fear you. However, if you give people love, compassion and respect they will eventually return the compliment. Maybe we should take a break from all of this running-the-world stuff, and focus on doing the best that we can for the human ace.  Maybe we should walk the talk of our religious leaders for a change.

We ran a hospital like that for over a decade and it prospered economically and grew. This concept is neither rocket science nor brain surgery.  It’s the most uncommon of things in our current culture, common sense.

We cannot change the human condition – but we can change the conditions under which humans live and work!

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The Smurfs and Culture

July 29th, 2011

The other day, I was imagining a conversation between our U.S. elected officials about the Smurfs.  On one side of the aisle, the rhetoric would go something like this: “I believe that Poppa Smurf  represents Karl Marx. He is not the leader of the Smurfs but an equal who is admired by the others for his age and wisdom.”  Then they might say, “And Brainy Smurf represents Trotsky, as he is the only one who comes close to matching Papa’s intellect.  He wears round glasses, is often isolated, ridiculed for being too professorial and is even ejected from the village for his ideas.”

Photo Credit: AP/Richard Drew

Furthermore they might add, “The smurfs don’t have private property, have adopted a collective-style economy and no individual Smurf is represented as either superior or inferior to others.” Someone would yell out, “They probably even have healthcare for everyone!” Consequently, the conclusion from one side of the aisle would be that the Smurfs are Socialists and are destroying the fabric of our society.

Then the other side might say something like: “Gargamel represents capitalism and embodies all the negative attributes associated with that economic system, such as greed, ruthlessness and the pursuit of personal gratification.”  “Gargamel is the quintessential symbol of Wall Street and will take his billions in tax cuts but never create even one job,” this side would say. At the same time, they might surmise that, “Azrael represents the worker in the ruthless, free-market state that is Gargamel’s house, and his union must be busted!”  Their final conclusion would be that, “The wealthy are taking all of our money and destroying the middle class.”

Is it any wonder we can’t get a debt ceiling bill?

One of my last professional trumpet playing jobs, “Smurfs on Ice,” was nearly 25 years ago. So, Brainy, Jokey, Grouchy, Greedy, and Stinky were all part of my early years, and now they are coming back, but the world is not the same!  So, be careful Smurfettes. Don’t invest in the market, real estate or dot.coms.  Try to avoid those outrageous credit card interest rates.  Don’t, whatever you do, don’t believe what the heads of the big banks and insurance companies are saying, and, for goodness sakes, buy gold, or maybe buy precious blue stuff.

When I was a kid, I was on journey to learn. So, when my dad bought me a box of vocabulary words and helped me learn ten new words every night, it wasn’t because he wanted us to grow up and be rich.  To him, the most important thing that he could do for his children was to make sure that they got an education.  He was all about the awareness that comes from exposure to information.

It started for me as a simple challenge to read the Bobbsey Twins books, and then the Hardy Boys, and from there, works by Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Dickens, Poe, Roth, Hemmingway and Tolstoy. Going through life without all of these friends would have been an empty and lonely journey. I’ll never forget when my brother, a young teacher at the time, introduced me to his classical record collection.  Yes, I was a trumpet player, but when I discovered Mahler, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Wagner, Brahms, Handel, Stravinsky, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Bartok and Sibelius, my life was changed forever.  Between the written word and the music, the mysteries, joys, challenges and humanness that is life became more apparent to me every day.

We have migrated away from anything but basic education and our favorite pastimes are video games, celebrity magazines and reality TV shows. Maybe that’s why we seem to have lost our way in this country.  We no longer embrace a culture of open mindedness, understanding and compromise.  Is it any wonder our U.S. Representatives can’t work together?  Maybe they are simply unenlightened…Maybe they all need to spend some time with the Smurfs and read a few blue books.

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Treating People With Dignity

June 9th, 2011

As part of my continuing series of anti-bullying blog posts, this week’s post was inspired by a WDUQ/NPR interview of the authors of a book entitled: Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect: Transforming Law Enforcement and Police Training. It was written by Jack Colwell, a police veteran and trainer, and Chip Huth, who heads a SWAT team for the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. The interview was inspired by the Pittsburgh police beating of CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts) student Jordan Miles, a who hadn’t done anything wrong. The interviewer stated that this beating, and the subsequent ruling regarding its legality, has seriously eroded the support of law-abiding citizens in the African American community and beyond toward the Pittsburgh Police.

CAPA student Jordan Miles and his mother, Terez

CAPA student Jordan Miles and his mother, Terez | Photo credit: Justin Merriman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Why, in a healthcare blog, would I select this topic? It is my firm belief that treating people with respect and dignity, regardless of the situation, leads to a more harmonious environment. Chip Huth, one of the two authors interviewed by WDUQ,  commented that the he believes that the Kansas City police force’s policy of holding meetings that allow community members to express their points of view and to feel understood may open them up to understanding the police point of view. He went on to say that “after a SWAT raid…when the situation is secure, his teams sit down with the suspects and explain the terms of the search warrant, answer questions, advise of rights, etc.” Convicted felons heading off to jail have told him how much they respect the way his team treated their families.

So, read between the lines. It’s not any different from healthcare work when it comes to “Treating People With Respect and Dignity.” It is what it is, and that care and treatment must transcend all races, colors and creeds. More importantly, it crosses all professions. By analogy, think of us as the SWAT (caregiving) team. We break into your life and scare you. It’s a well known fact that those individuals who are most often sued in healthcare are those with the weakest interpersonal skills  and worst “bedside manner.” They are often mean, curt or simply uncaring in their attitude and responses. Or else they make sure that they just don’t communicate at all with the family or patient.

Not so many years ago, I was taken to task by a group of physicians who were upset because I had written an article about those docs “who make rounds before the families are present and the patient is awake.” The good docs were indignant — and in some cases rightfully so — because they were communicators, but the “bullies” that I targeted, who were not patient centered, came at me from all directions: letters, phone calls, and attempts to have me censured by my hospital’s board. It really reminded me of the often-paraphrased Shakespearean line, “methinks he doth  protest too much.” If they were truly “caregivers,” and not technical health scientists, they would want to communicate with the patients and their families, to answer their questions, to help them understand what is happening (or about to happen) to them, and they would be sensitive so as to ensure that the fears being expressed by those involved were ameliorated about as well as could be expected under the circumstances.

If the SWAT team can kick in your door, throw in flash grenades, tie your hands behind your back, and arrest you, but take the time to heat the baby’s milk and explain to everyone involved what exactly is going on and what to expect, there will be a marked difference in response from those who are being impacted by their work. A hospital does not attain 98 or 99% patient satisfaction scores by ignoring patients and their families, treating the employees and administrators like they are minions and ignoring the kindness and respect that should be part of their jobs.

Respect - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - healthcare - anti-bullying - Healing Hospitals

Okay, I’m done. Like Aretha Franklin sang, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T / Find out what it means to me.” Look up the Jordan Miles story online, or better still, buy the Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect book and see what can happen when you treat people with dignity.

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The Food Crisis

May 24th, 2011

Each year American farmers must feed an additional 80 million people internationally.

Food is The New Oil (c) ForeignPolicy.com - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - Healing Hospitals

Image credit: ForeignPolicy.com

During the first two decades of my adult life, it was commonplace to see story after story about the starving people in places like Biafra. Some three decades later, I now understand more deeply the geopolitical ramifications of these tragedies. A friend of mine sent me an article from the May/June Foreign Policy magazine. It detailed the food supply challenges facing this planet’s  growing population. The intensity of concern that this essay raises is palpable.

The article, The New Geopolitics of Food, by Lester R. Brown, opens with an example of what a 75% increase in wheat prices might mean to the average American who spends less than 1/10th of their income at the supermarket.  The answer is…probably a ten cent increase in a loaf of bread. As a result, a $2.00 loaf of bread will become a $2.10 loaf of bread. He then contrasts that difference with the impact it would have in a place like New Delhi where that same wheat is carried home to be ground into flour. The cost of the wheat there is actually double what it was. Consequently, Brown states, the world’s poorest two billion people — who spend 50 to 70% of their income on food — will go from two to one meal a day. His evaluation of this situation is that it can, will, and has already resulted in revolutions and political upheaval.

When the reasons for these shortages are explored, it quickly becomes apparent that changes in our climate represent a major contributing factor.  Be it too much hot dry weather, too many storms contributing to excessive rainfall, or soil that is simply exhausted from a lack of nutrients caused by depleted aquifers, the result leads to food becoming the hidden driver of world politics. As land and water become more limited, as temperatures go up and world food security deteriorates, scarcity is emerging as the norm, rather than than the exception.

Infographic: The Food Price RollercoasterUntil recently, the food supply was primarily in the hands of the world markets which were primarily monitored and sometimes driven by the United Nations’ World Food Program, but because of recent shortages and population growth, several countries have taken it upon themselves to secure their food supply in nontraditional ways. We are seeing unprecedented land grabs in developing countries, and water grabs from geographies where the end result creates shortages and where grain is being directly purchased from U.S. farmers.  All of this is contributing to a global power struggle for food security.

According to Brown, “With grain stocks low and climate volatility increasing, the risks are also increasing.  We are now so close to the edge that a breakdown in the food system could come at any time.”  For example, a 40% drop in grain production in the U.S. would be equivalent to a loss of 160 million tons of grain as opposed to a 40 million ton drop in Russia from the same percentage loss.  This would be devastating to the world food supply. As long as oil is expensive, ethanol production will remain high and corn will be pulled from the food chain to the fuel chain. “Oil exporting countries that import grain would…barter oil for grain, and low income grain importers would [lose] out.”

Brown concludes:

“If we cannot produce higher crop yields with less water and conserve fertile soils, many agricultural areas will cease to be viable. Each year, 1,400 square miles of land in Northern China turn to desert. If we cannot move at wartime speed to stabilize the climate, we may not be able to avoid runaway food prices. If we cannot accelerate the shift to smaller families and stabilize the world population sooner rather than later, the ranks of the hungry will almost certainly continue to expand.”

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Fracking, Beiber Fever…and Bedbugs

May 12th, 2011

Every once in a while, it’s important to write about things that are hot. (It keeps the blog numbers up.) Well, hydraulic fracking, Justin Beiber and bedbugs… yes, bedbugs are all very hot and in the news again. While the D’s and the R’s sort out the nuances of cutting $14 trillion or so from the U.S. federal budget over the next few centuries, we still have to deal with the day to day challenges of living on this planet. In Pennsylvania and New York at least, the hot news — according to the New York Times — is the radioactive water that is reportedly being forced from deep below the surface of the earth as a means of releasing natural gas reserves:

“The relatively new drilling method — known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.”

“With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.”

Of course, the essence of those two paragraphs will be the source of numerous heated discussions between environmentalists and the gas and oil lobbyists until this issue can be sorted out. In the meantime?  Well, that’s the question du jour.

On a lighter note, my five year old grandchild, Nina, is madly in love with Justin Beiber. She knows every lyric from every one of his songs and regularly either dances or does gymnastic flips to his music. On Saturday, she, her brother, sister and I worked to clean up their two car garage sized playroom. She turned on the Karaoke Machine and let it rip. We were all dancing and singing to the Bieb as we put the toys away, cleaned up the miniature kitchen, folded baby doll clothes and stacked their books.

Justin Bieber - photo credit: celebrity-gossip.net - Nick Jacobs FACHE - Healing HospitalsImagine my shock when one of my Google news alerts appeared spouting the fact that young Justin suddenly had become violently ill at one of his concerts in Manila, then quickly returned to the stage. He had been diagnosed with a bad chest infection prior to the show, but insisted on performing, having tweeted before the show, “Sick as a a dog… But the show must go on.” As a non-medical/non-science healthcare guy, the diagnosis made me a little curious, (remember, I’m a musician, too), but Yahoo Answers cleared things up for me with this patient testimonial: “I’ve spent so many years of my life convincing myself that I have emetophobia, because when I was about 11, I was sick from a chest infection and I threw up…” So, there you have it:  Justin is not the only person who gets sick from being sick. So, relax, Nina, he’s going to be okay.

Now, some additional disconcerting news. After having  personally survived a bedbug attack at a top-notch hotel in a major U.S. city last year,  I read with trepidation that it has recently been discovered that MRSA infection has now been associated with the scratching that comes after the bed bug bites.  This dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria (usually acquired from hospital visits or things like high school wrestling mats), is a strain of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus which is called Community Associated MRSA or CA-MRSA.  Because it is resistant to oxacillin, penicillin, amoxicillin and other antibiotics, it is not to be ignored.  My medical friends tell me that the best treatment for bed bug bites is to keep the area clean, use antibiotic ointments or gel and keep a close eye on the bite to ensure that it doesn’t become infected.

So, all of you frackers, Bieberbots and bedbug-dreaders …should have a sip of some Grey Goose or Courvoisier.  They’re not radioactive, may calm your fear of tossing your cookies, and would probably – in the right quantities – kill bedbugs…or at least make you stop caring if  they didn’t.  And, if you still want to learn more…well, there’s an app for that.

Bedbugs 101 mobile app - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - health 2.0 - healthcare

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Finding the Cure…for Bullying

January 21st, 2011

No workplace bullying - Nick Jacobs - healinghospitals.comThis week, NBC’s Today Show featured another story about bullying. As I have have mentioned in previous posts here and elsewhere, I believe that bullying is the quintessential cancer on our lives in places of business, in the military, politics, and relationships of all types.  The good news – actually the very good news –  is that there has been some incredible work being performed on this topic through the efforts of Dr. Matt Masiello at my former place of employment, the Windber Research Institute in Windber, PA.  Grants through the Highmark Blue Cross Foundation of Pittsburgh have fueled this initial effort and the academic and quantitative analysis being done by Clemson University has documented this work.  I believe that this joint effort is a magnificent  example of what can be done to change the future course of events currently being controlled by bullies.

The Today Show story that I saw featured the Massachusetts school where, due to cyber-bullying, a young girl committed suicide last year.  Apparently, another girl is now having the same experience at the same school. With the help of programs like this comprehensive anti-bullying program, the former Secretary of Education from PA, Jerry Zahorchak, (now Superintendent of the Allentown PA school system), embraced the effort to quell and discourage this type of destructive behavior.  And the program, under the direction of Dr. Matt Masiello has successfully been introduced across the  entire State of PA. (Matt had started the Allegheny County’s Goods for Guns program in 1994, when he was the head of pediatric intensive care at Allegheny General Hospital. To date, this program is responsible for collecting more than 11,000 illegal guns from the streets of Pittsburgh.) Matt has had the same success with this anti-bullying program. Now, both Massachusetts and Maryland are looking into embracing this effort.

This anti-bullying program is based on a European program with which Dr. Masiello had become familiar.  This is a school system-wide effort that is very well documented and results in tremendous awareness and reduction of bullying at all grade levels.

The trainers bring a group of teachers and administrators together in the school system, and then “train the trainers” as to how this effort can become part of the philosophy of the school.  They start the training in the spring, typically launch the school wide effort in the fall and run it for at least a year. During that time, detailed records are kept measuring outcomes.

Matt Masiello, MD - Windber Research Institute - Nick Jacobs - Taking the Hell OUt of Healthcare

Matt Masiello, MD

Matt is a wonderful physician, a truly giving person and a saint of a man who is the only U.S. representative on the board of the World Health Organization’s Health Promoting Hospitals program. I hired him before I left Windber Research Institute, and he has worked tirelessly to address both this problem and the problems of childhood obesity.

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Olweus.org on the web, @Olweus on Twitter) has impacted more than 400 school districts and 20% of all school-aged children in Pennsylvania. It has also had up to a 50% reduction in student reports of bullying …and bullying others.

For more information, please contact me or Dr. Matthew Masiello at the Windber Research Institute.

Michael & Marisa’s anti-bullying song – “The Same”

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Making Sense of Tucson

January 11th, 2011

It was 1991 when one of  my professors at Carnegie Mellon University began discussing health policy in the United States.  He told us about Arizona, where the state government had decided to stop paying for transplants.  Then he went on to explain that desperate families were moving from Arizona to Pittsburgh, just so they could establish residency in Pennsylvania, and their loved one could receive a transplant.

At around that same time, an outspoken politician from Colorado, former Governor Richard Lamm, who ran for President of the United States on the Reform Party, described the travesty of Medicare vs. Medicaid.   He described the older generation as committing “generational murder” because, even though many times there was no hope  for their survival, for extending their life or for having any quality to their life, we, as a nation, spend 60% of our Medicare dollars on the last  30 or so days of life.  He advocated being honest and allowing people to decide if they wanted palliative care.

What he also pointed out was that, as a country, we continue to have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the industrial world. The reason, he theorized, was because the seniors voted and the young mothers didn’t and no politician would dare vote against that senior coalition.  (This is not about death panels, it is about honesty in healthcare. It is about transparency and explaining the facts to the families so that they could make rational decisions.) None of his words were well received, but nevertheless, they were filled with candor and embraced very difficult ethical views.

Giffords Tucson tragedy - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - Healing Hospitals

The bottom line?  It is a very sad situation when we have to, in effect, sentence people to death at any age because resources are not available to save them, but this is emphatically not about rationing of care, because rationing infers giving everyone a little less.  This is about making a government decision to take away everything. So, this is about making rational  resource allocation, not based upon the number of votes needed to get re-elected, but based on the value of a life at any and all ages.

Finally, the elephant in the room?  Those people killed and wounded in Arizona were killed and wounded because of a man who is most likely mentally ill.  We, as a country, must begin to address this mental health issue with parity, with commitment and without judgment.  No family is without some member who is suffering from some mental health issue, but  this discussion is still ignored, hidden or buried.

So, when the pundits ask if it is about the rhetoric? We don’t know. When they ask if it is about the availability of weapons and ammunition?  The answer seems to fall under that same category. BUT, when the question is properly directed toward mental health?  The answer seems to be absolutely, yes without a doubt.

During this time of reflection, let’s get serious about the very real and very big challenges that this nation faces. We must, as a nation, take these challenges head-on and deal with “problem solving,” and if this Congress does not begin to take action and begin to solve problems, then we must vote again in May and November to continue to make our voices heard.

Unless we can begin to talk with each other with dignity and respect, we will not make progress.  Until we begin to respect the other person’s point of view and understand that debates are healthy again, we will not make progress. Our leaders need to debate, but at the end of that debate, it is essential that they walk out of the room together and agree that they are all here to do a job, and that job is to solve problems.

My heart goes out to all of those families who were impacted by this awful tragedy.

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Wikileaks and Transparency

December 9th, 2010

LONDON (Dec. 8th) —Held without bail in Wandsworth prison, Julian Assange has been deprived of his trusty laptop, so the WikiLeaks founder can’t supply an inside scoop on life behind bars. But if the pro-transparency campaigner could leak just one word about conditions in Britain’s biggest jail, he would probably settle for “cramped.”   (via AOL NEWS)

Wikileaks' Julian Assange at TED - Nick Jacobs, FACHE

At my last CEO position, there were about 650 employees on the hospital side and another 50 at the research institute, but in the position that I held as the Chief Communications officer immediately before that,  there were over 4,500 employees.  Any one of those employees could  potentially have become PFC Bradley Manning.  Manning is the young man being accused of leaking millions of pieces of information to Assange’s Wikileaks. Every disgruntled, well-intentioned and sometimes naive employee who either had an “axe to grind” or who simply embraced a philosophy of openness would have potentially presented a major problem to any organization that was built around secrecy at all costs.

In my 20+ years as a hospital administrator, there were hundreds no, thousands of incidents that could have been “leaked” to family, friends and the media regarding incidents that may or may not have been problematic.  My memory goes immediately to an online discussion forum where the death of Congressman John P. Murtha was being dissected by a group of Bethesda Residents;  specifically, young U.S. Navy physicians who were venting and expressing their fears regarding their “being held responsible for the death of this powerful Congressman.”  The amazing thing to me was the it was a running dialogue that was, yes, online. The discussion topic thread was etitled Did we kill Congressman Murtha? The anonymous user names went through case-by-case analysis of other undeserving patients who did not emerge with their lives from surgeries at the hospital over the previous weeks and months.  These were individuals who, according to their estimations, should have. Imagine my shock when I came upon the casual page which, at minimum represented a potential HIPAA violation.

Well, it’s all about transparency, my friends, and this movement is only the beginning.  Unlike Kevorkian’s efforts which were almost single-handed, this is a movement, a viral, well-funded, philosophical movement that feels like “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” And it’s ”coming to a theater near you.”   Not unlike the content of the sensitive documents that have been appearing online recently where peoples’ lives are at stake,  hospitals and physician offices face many of the same realities every day.  How many people, like PFC Manning, may not be truly insane or wish to destroy the government, but simply believe that their assistance in exposing the truth will “set us free?

Transparent Butterfly - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - Healing HospitalsAs business leaders not many decades ago, we were urged to treat every e-mail and every comment as if it was being reported by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes.  Of course, not many of us did, nor could we stick to that difficult rule of communicating, but think of the potential ramifications if Mr. Wallace had been as potentially ever-present as Mr. Assange.

What is my formula for success?  It’s always been the same.  Be as transparent as you can possibly be. Seems simple, but try it sometime. Don’t break the law. Don’t give out information that is inappropriate as in personally destructive regarding individuals, but be as open about your operation as you can possibly be.  Encourage an environment of openness when it comes to issues, mistakes, etc. and the frustration levels will go down, down, down…sometimes to the point of having employees telling you, “I wish I didn’t know so much.  Life was easier when I was in the dark.”  That’s when you’ll know you are beginning to provide a truly transparent business environment.

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