Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ category

Memories of a new puppy and Pet Therapy

December 14th, 2016

It was a brisk, early, spring, weekend morning and Joanna, then a 16-year-old, now mother of four, said that we needed a transition dog. Tessie, our part-golden, part-black lab, part-border collie was getting long in the tooth, and it was our custom to always bring a replacement puppy into the house when the older dog was beginning to head toward the rainbow bridge.

So, at Jo’s insistence, we drove to a dog pound about 23 miles away. When we got there, it was closed, but she kept pushing hard for a new puppy.

We then headed for another sanctuary for abandoned dogs, a no kill shelter. That shelter was about 31 miles in the other direction. We arrived right before closing time and were directed to a room that was filled with a half dozen beautiful, little, white puppies.

The puppy that jumped the highest and yipped the most was not our choice. It was instead it’s little brother, the most loving and cuddly of the brood. The volunteer said that he was probably part sheep dog and part poodle, but we really didn’t care what he was because he was adorable.

We paid our fee, packed him up, jumped into the car and headed home to our older dog Tessie for what would become months of mothering, teaching and unconditional love and patience. Jo named him Brody, and it fit him perfectly.

Tessie taught him how and when to go to he bathroom and, she taught him to be terrified of thunder, to bark at the meter readers, to play with the cats as if they were his very best friends, and to beg from me at the table. While Brody reminded Tessie how to play, he became her adopted puppy.

One evening, a newly roasted turkey was placed on the stove to cool. While working on my computer, I heard some noise in the kitchen. The next thing I heard was puppy feet on the steps and then a thump, puppy feet and a thump, puppy feet and a thump. Then Brody, the puppy appeared at my chair, his belly was completely distended, and he smelled of turkey breath. He and Tessie had eaten the entire thing. Kind of like the Butkus dogs on “A Christmas Story.”

Well, Brody grew to be the best dog and best friend ever. In fact, when my mother visited, she would hold complete conversations with him as if he was a human being.

In her obituary I wrote that “She often scolded her sons for not talking enough to their animals.” Somehow the Pittsburgh newspaper accidentally changed that line to “She often scalded her sons for not talking enough to their animals.” Only those who knew my mom could have ever appreciated the absurdity of that printed mistake. So, when people said they were sorry and scanned my body for burn scars, I knew why.

It was about six years after he joined us that I went on a heart healthy diet that excluded all meat, and, since I was the only sucker in the family who would sneak him table scraps, he had to follow my diet. He became a vegetarian dog. In fact, with some of the new fat free products and make believe meats, I always made it a rulethat if Brody wouldn’t eat it, I wouldn’t eat it either. That diet extended both of our lives.

After Brody died my life became doggy less, and I’ve never gotten over that disconnect, but with my schedule and all of the traveling that I do, it would not be fair to either the dog or to me.

So, I always spend considerable petting time with my daughter’s dog, Chipper, and believe me when I tell you that when I’m around, he is completely spoiled in every way because I’m just a dog kinda guy.

And in Tessie’s memory I added pet therapy at the hospital while I was a CEO, and I’m still convinced that those dogs provided as much healing as many of the drugs.

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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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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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Living the Dream – Southwest Florida Global Research Institute

January 30th, 2012

Greetings From Florida - Southwest Florida Research Institute - Nick Jacobs, FACHEI’ve been on a blog hiatus — the longest since I began writing this back in 2005, but for good reason. Another former trumpet player, Kevin Taylor and I have been working on the creation of a research institute in Southwest Florida.  It will embrace an ambitious research mission, academic excellence and become the biotech engine of what could become the future of Southwest Florida’s clinical research, environmental, aging research, behavioral health and translational medicine efforts for the region.

The structure of the not-for-profit arm of this project and the strategic direction of this new 501(c)3 corporation will be the Southwest Florida Global Research Institute.

The initial primary services outlined in this plan are to outfit and set up a tissue repository. From this hub, numerous spokes will emanate that will include opportunities for faculty-student involvement from the Florida Gulf Coast University and other Florida universities, as well as research opportunities for organizations that will eventually feed other related organizations such as an incubator and an accelerator.

It is our intent to focus on the various ideas, concepts, and programs that have been embraced by the leadership of all of the local organizations with whom we have interacted during this effort to include health systems, universities, the private and public pharmaceutical and research communities, environmental science, public health officials and political leaders.

In the financial summary of a business plan, it is evident that the revenue from programs, grants contributions, sponsorships and subsidies must initially be the fiscal drivers behind all of the suggested work at SFGRI with a clear goal of having financial streams in place by year four of the operation to allow the organization to not only survive but also to thrive. With all relevant guidelines, requirements, restrictions, and recommendations in mind, let us begin with an analysis of each suggested area of concentration.

Southwest Florida Regional map - Nick Jacobs FACHE - HealingHospitals.comThe Southwest Florida Global Research Institute tissue repository is a key to growth for both research and biotech efforts in the region. Physician, faculty, staff and community involvement will all determine the degree of success that will ultimately emanate from this key research component, but the ultimate determinant for the success of this repository will come from professional guidance and initial oversight provided through the Clinical Breast Care Project’s Windber Research Institute Tissue Repository.

It is imperative that this program carries the most immediate gain for the overall success and future of the institute. The very essence of this initiative revolves around not only equipment and space, but also quality tissue derived through comprehensive protocols. In time, this effort could lead to an ongoing stream of funding that will help to meet the myriad fiscal needs of the other aspects of this project.

Equipment for setting up this program is relatively inexpensive, but expertise and recommendations for the actual business model are not and it is our recommendation that these efforts should be led through a consulting assignment with the Clinical Breast Care Project’s Windber Research Institute. In order to activate a comprehensive program such as this, highly skilled PhD’s and techs will be needed. Having contributed to the design of the numerous other programs and centers, we would recommend the researchers and employees at the Windber Research Institute as consultants to assist in this effort.  Under their direction, they have successfully put together and managed a similar program that has been identified by the National Cancer Institute as the only platinum quality tissue repository in the United States. They also have world-class experience in data management for the control of the tissue, as well as expertise in accounting, staffing, billing, and management systems that allow for the comprehensive management of the collected tissue.

Windber Research Institute - Image by PlanetRussell.netThe timeline for this program can be relatively immediate, but the overall effort must be seen as neutral and independent from all of the participating organizations. This tissue repository will contribute to biotech research which will enrich physician recruitment opportunities, for profit biotech spin-offs and training experiences for students in the schools of arts and science, business and public health at the local universities.`

In summary, the Southwest Florida Global Research Institute will be the centerpiece for what will become the vision of this region; care for aging, preventative medicine, auto-immune and diseases of the brain while spinning off companies to address all of these maladies and meeting these challenges. It will become part of a world-wide effort based in Southwest Florida with a singular goal —  to improve the health of humanity on many different levels.  That will be the mission of the Southwest Florida Global Research Institute.

Learn more:

Chico's in Lee County, near Ft. Myers, FL

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The Patient-Physician Connection

November 28th, 2011

With age, one sometimes begins to accumulate wisdom, and, although I am not one to focus on the woulda, shoulda, coulda opportunities that have passed me by, one regret that I surely have is that I had not met Dr. David Rakel  until about three years ago. Dr. Rakel is the Director of the University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine program.  He attended medical school at Baylor in Houston, Texas, and completed a family practice residency in Greeley, Colorado.  He is a doctor, a father, an academician, but most importantly, he is a healer.  Of all of the physicians that I have ever known – and there have literally been hundreds of them, Dr. Rakel embraces all that is good in the medical profession.

David P. Rakel, MD - Healing Hospitals - Nick Jacobs, FACHE

David P. Rakel, MD

In his presentation, “Placebo or NoCebo,” David outlined the ingredients present in a healing environment:  1. A relationship with a helping person, 2. A healing setting, 3. An explanation that gives a sense of control of a symptom.  4. A ritual procedure or plan that involves active participation of both parties – patient and clinician – that results in belief towards action.  He spoke passionately about the importance of touch, the intrinsic value of healing, and the fact that something was done with the ritual.  One of my favorite, tongue- in- cheek quotes that David had was from Voltaire: “ It is the physician’s duty to amuse the patient while nature cures the disease.”

Dr. Rakel talked about the intelligence of being positive while giving the prognosis, showing empathy, empowering the patient, and demonstrating the importance of having a connection between the physician and patient.  I’m sure that I’m not capturing all of the salient points that David carefully made, but I am sure that I understood his commitment to connection with the patient and the significance of using as many positive words as possible to convey that connection.

Once again, a great quote from Dr. Rakel revolved around the fact that you get better faster if you have unconditional love from your pet than a bad connection with your doc.  He and his research on the common cold both suggested that, “It is better to stay home and be licked by your dog, than to spend time  at a clinic with a grumpy doc!”

His recommendations to his residents and to all of the physicians to whom he lectures is that the physician needs to display empathy, compassion, patience and the ability to listen.  His counsel to meditate revolved around the need for us to get out of our chaos and influence self-healing mechanisms.  He described this journey from awareness to awakening to authenticity and finally to awe where the closer that we get to authenticity, the more beautiful our lives become.

Dr. Rakel then launched into numerous studies that evolved around the placebo effect such as the study where arthroscopic knee surgeries were “faked,” but resulted in positive outcomes.  By referring to obesity as working toward optimal weight; chronic pain as myofascial health, depression (and this is my favorite) as potentially happy, the patients are not labeled with negative implications, and we accomplish a shift in our intentions.  Not unlike what Newton, Einstein and Stephen Hawkins have done in physics, perceptions have been shifted by changing the manner in which we observe things.  He said, “How about if we tell the patient that they are potentially happy rather than clinically depressed?” Our intention is reflective of our future.

Finally, Dr. Rakel suggested that physicians protect time in their schedules, create space, create positive patient expectations, be fully present and listen to the patient, that they offer support and collaboration and create a plan by using words that heal rather than words that harm.

Right on. Thanks, Dr. Rakel.

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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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Going “Rogue” – An Open Letter to Healthcare CEOs

October 17th, 2011

For the past three years, I have had a chance to dig heavily into the future, and I’m pretty convinced that the old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” has never been more true than in today’s healthcare environment.  What was a given before in healthcare management may no longer be so in the future, and since most hospitals only Chief Innovation Officer is the President him or herself, their tasks of visualizing, understanding, deciding and directing the future of the organization will be shifting even more heavily from quantitative deciding-and-directing to the more qualitative visualizing-and-understanding side of this leadership equation.

Although I understand the reluctance of most CEO’s to be on the bleeding edge of creativity, my experiences at my former positions can significantly reduce or mitigate the majority of risk from any decision regarding innovation.

Our new competitive environment has an insatiable appetite for information, access and connectivity and it’s a well known fact that a periodic injection of chaos fosters creativity and forces your co-workers to leverage technology.   Because most organizations already have an environment that is built on trust and collaboration, injecting a little creativity can put their CEOs in more of a position to be the orchestrator and the inspirer.

That Used to be Us That Used to be Us is the new book by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum in which they analyze four specific challenges Americans face as a nation—globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation’s chronic deficits, and our pattern of excessive energy consumption—and spell out what they believe needs to be done to sustain the American dream, and achieve true supremacy based on innovation and excellence.

As an innovator and futurist,  several sections of this book captured my imagination and brought closure to a myriad of beliefs that I have instinctively embraced over the past few decades.  When my responsibilities revolved around the CEO position, I always saw my job as being a contributor to an environment where creative decisions were embraced allowed to happen and then those innovators were rewarded and inspired to keep going.

As the co-founder of a Research Institute, one issue that continually resonates with me is that  “We don’t have enough ‘rogue’ CEO’s in healthcare administration to take risks so that the rest can benefit from both their successes and knowledge.”

Well, fortunately, I’m your guy.

For the last several years I have been out there implementing unusual things, and many of these disruptive ideas are coming to pass in a big way.  I was the first hospital CEO to blog, starting in 2005 (HealingHospitals.com), was an early Planetree board member, created the first breast cancer research center dedicated to the Department of Defense, and filled my hospital with Integrative Medicine, hotel amenities, and music.

Below, I’ve listed thirteen new examples of areas of innovation, in which we’ve been working for the past three years, as well as numerous ways to pay for these initiatives.

 Thirteen Examples of Disruptive Technologies and Practices That Hospitals Need to Understand 

  1. Robotic algorithmic software that improves emergency room flow by 37 to 50 percent.
  2. Financial transaction software that reduces electronic transfer fees exponentially (25% of health care income is from electronic transfers.)
  3. Utilization of nurses and actuaries as patient advocates to significantly reduce your employee health costs.
  4. Preventative medicine reimbursements that can double a physician’s income and add bottom line profits to hospitals.
  5. Treble growth potential of your organization through adding Integrative Medicine
  6. Diabetic retinopathy telemedicine for Family and Internal Medicine docs.
  7. Proteomic and genomic testing creating new “hospital income.”
  8. Peritoneal lavage that extends Stage 4 cancer patients from three months to five years or more.
  9. Bone scaffolding that supports bone growth and virtually eliminates bone infection.
  10. Special bandages that protect and stem cell cocktail sprays that heal burn wounds
  11.  Access to a cancer consortium that allows small and medium hospitals to become Certified Cancer Centers
  12. Hospitals paid “not to play” during an energy crisis as a back-up to the power grid.
  13. Green hazardous waste disposal costing 25% less than traditional methods

If you’d like to learn more about any adopting any of the concepts above, or receive a leadership presentation that will enable your staff to see the opportunities (rather than just the threats) in our current, uncertain environment, here’s where to find me.

Why Are Hospitals The Way They Are? from Nick Jacobs, FACHE on Vimeo.

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Look, Up In The Sky…

October 7th, 2011

I have to admit that the 12-credit, continuing education course I signed up for was not supposed to be fun. In fact, I fully expected it to be two full days of classroom work, in a room with no windows, followed by exactly zero recreation time. I knew it would include a working breakfast, working lunch and a couple of bathroom breaks. I’ve done this before in places like Hawaii, Fort Lauderdale, Cape Cod; you name it. And,  because of my work schedule, I usually fly in, take (or teach) the course, sleep in some no-nonsense business hotel, then head home the following day. What have I been thinking about for all of these years?

Vintage New Mexico Postcard - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - HealingHospitals.comWhen I arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Sunday and went to the rental car agency desk for my trip to Santa Fe, I should have guessed that something big was going on that week. The service representative told me that she could not rent me the compact car that I had ordered, but, in fact, had to rent me one of those black Secret Service type RV’s that hold eight people, a few rocket launchers and a small quad, but she’d cut me a break on the price. When I asked her about gas mileage, she put her head down and said something like, “Drill, Baby, drill.”  The helpful young lady informed me that the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival was taking place throughout the week, and there were virtually no rooms and very few rental cars available anywhere in the area.

Because I had run a visitors bureau in the 80’s, I had seen pictures of hundreds of hot air balloons floating over New Mexico and knew there was such an event, but didn’t realize it was, you know, this week.

My course was being offered by an organization called the American College of Healthcare Executives; the recipient of many thousands of my dollars over the last 25 years.  You see, they provide you with a credential that some hospital CEO’s have, and even when you’ve stopped running hospitals, it is important to keep paying them and taking courses in order to maintain the credential until at least six months after your death.

Albuquerque Baloon Festival - Humpty DumptyOne of the unusual things about this credential is that it is spelled FACHE.  My former assistant once asked me why I signed my name as Nick Jacobs, FACHE, but she pronounced it “fake.”  It actually means Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, but, really, her pronunciation was more fun…and a great conversation starter, too.

The rain started during my 5:00 AM trip to Santa Fe and continued for two days.  So, because the balloons always fly very early in the morning, I never saw even one of them, but on my way to the airport this morning in the shuttle, I overheard a man and his wife discussing “the cow.” He went on and on about how big “the cow” was. It never dawned on me that he was talking about a cow balloon.  Finally, when he said, “Those were the biggest set of udders I’d ever seen,” I had to interrupt and question this discussion.  At that point he explained to me that the basket was in front of the udders, but I still didn’t get it until he laughed and said, “Heck, man, it was a hot air balloon the size of the Astrodome.”  Hence, the title of this post.

I’m glad New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, isn’t wine country. Could you imagine finishing that 22nd sample of some great vintage, walking outside and seeing that colossal, airborne cow coming at you?

The course was great, the hotels were clean, and the people were nice, but missing that cow has me really upset.  I mean, how many chances do you have in your lifetime to see 600 hot air balloons flying overhead?  How many days in a lifetime provide a person with that type of visual opportunity?

It’s time to stop and smell some roses. From now on, I’m only going to go to courses that end at noon.

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In Memoriam, Dr. Lee Lipsenthal

September 22nd, 2011

We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find…God.
—Joseph Campbell

Such has been my experience with Dr. Lee Lipsenthal. Lee was the co-founder of Finding Balance in a Medical Life, a recognized leader, teacher and pioneer in the field of provider wellness. He was internationally known for his research work with my friend Dr. Dean Ornish in preventive cardiology. He was also well known in the field of Integrative Health, and past president of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine.

Lee Lipsenthal, MD - Enjoy Every Sandwich - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - HealingHospitals.comAlthough Lee’s entrance into medicine was traditional, (a BS from George Washington University, his MD from Howard and an internship and residency at the Medical College of Pennsylvania), he started on his truth path of healing as a resident, where he developed the first multi-disciplinary cardiac rehabilitation program in Philadelphia, a plan that addressed stress reduction, exercise and nutrition teaching.

He then went on to become the Director of Cardiovascular Services for the Benjamin Franklin Clinic in Philadelphia, as well as a staff physician at The Pennsylvania Hospital. In this role, he developed treatment programs for patients with heart disease or risk of heart disease; he developed corporate wellness programs for national companies, and consulted on patients with cholesterol disorders at the hospital.

But who was the real Lee Lipsenthal? Lee was a hero who embraced the adventure and led the way for us all. In an incredibly selfless and positive way, like all heroes, Lee “lost himself and then gave himself to all of us.” He mastered the transformation of consciousness, and taught us all to look deeply inside ourselves. Lee’s life and teaching was always about the powers of life and their modulations through the action of man, and Lee’s actions led us all to a better place; a place of healing, love and understanding. He did this through his words, his music, his soul and his heart.

Lee Lipsenthal, MDLee captured the imaginations of many of us and gently drew us into his circle of positive influence where he provided a psychological center for our lives, he fed our individual and collective souls and he helped us to experience life at its fullest. He often took us to the edge of self-discovery, but he always took us to a place of peace and love. He could literally show us the “belly of the whale,” and then bring us back to a deeper understanding of our lives, our abilities and our spirits.

In many ways he helped us transcend our humanities so that we all could emerge into a deeper reality of serving our fellow man. He taught us that, as a person, if we don’t listen to the demands of our own spiritual and interior life, we will drift dangerously off-center.

Lee was our center. Lee was our friend, our mentor, our spiritual guide and our hero.

Lee passed this week, surrounded by his wonderful, loving family, and our hearts are breaking from the loss, but also reveling in the joy of having known him, having shared him and always loving him.

Learn more about Lee’s extraordinary journey, and his wonderful book, Enjoy Every Sandwich below.

You will be inspired and moved.

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On Cancer Research, Incentives and Cures

September 18th, 2011

From a blog entitled TTAG, The Truth About Genetics, comes a scathing indictment of the American Cancer Society. Truthfully, some of the contents are infuriating, but especially so, because as a co-founder of a research institute, I’ve lived them. First hand. When I saw that  the American Cancer Society’s two CEOs make a combined $1.6 million dollars in salary, I wasn’t shocked. Heck, the president of a 120 bed hospital who retired recently made almost that much. ACS is a big organization with lots of moving parts. It takes talented people to run big organizations, and they typically don’t work just for food.

From the TTAG  blog:

Today, ACS’s revenue is $1 billion, and the amount that goes to research is a measly 16%. Research is not the primary goal of ACS, and one of the great things they do is help patients undergoing chemotherapy by buying them plane tickets and paying for their costs. But, even when you consider other program costs like cancer treatment for patients, ACS has the lowest score for charities in terms of efficiency: 1-2 stars out of 4. (24.78%, according to CharityNavigator.org)

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Once again, no surprise. The main issue that I had with the ACS was that their research funding, as meager as it is, goes to the “Good Ole Boys,” the group that is already part of the NIH/NCI club. Okay, you say, they have to have some standards. The Komen people don’t follow that same “Good Ole Boy” path, and thank goodness. They look for good science wherever they can find it.

So, what’s the real reason that I get upset? I sometimes think I’ve written too many posts about this already, but let me say it one more time: Unless and until we realign the system that currently is used to fund basic science in this country, we will never find true cures for cancer. There is very little to no incentive to cooperate, to work together, to encourage scientists to share and to reward them with grants for cooperating.  In fact, the entire system actively discourages it. It is a “Diva”-based system, that encourages silos of power around individuals.

Bottom line? We have a healthcare system that does not support wellness and prevention, but  instead financially rewards sickness and continuous testing and care for what may have been preventable ailments, and we have a research system that discourages cooperation and collaboration. We have a pharmaceutical industry that is interested in financial blockbusters…just like the movie industry.  We have a political system that caused our country’s credit rating to be downgraded and the price of money to escalate, and finally, we have an infastructure that is crumbling.

The good news, however, is that we still are the United States of America, and if we work together T-O-G-E-T-H-E-R  this can all be fixed.  It’s time for those of us who understand this to be heard.

Health 2.0 Leadership (1 of 2) from Nick Jacobs, FACHE on Vimeo.

Sandpaper sheets, green jello and patients who leave with infections they didn’t have when they were admitted. Hospitals DON’T have to be this way. Nick Jacobs FACHE reveals how, as CEO, he transformed a rural, critical care hospital from near bankruptcy to a consistently profitable, internationally-recognized model of patient-centered care and innovation. By creating a hospital environment that embodies healing in every aspect of its operations, Nick’s hospital also achieved one of the lowest acquired (nosocomial) infection rates in the U.S. for five years running.

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