Archive for the ‘patient-centered care’ 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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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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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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Accountable Care Organizations

April 2nd, 2011

Avery Johnson of the Wall Street Journal wrote an excellent explanatory article this week about accountable care organizations – ACO’s. They’re a potential spin out from the Health Care Reform Act which are about to begin taking shape within the U.S. healthcare system.  The four hundred plus page proposal that was released this week is now being made available for comment, but those administrators and physicians who generally get the concept already are quietly pouring through the pages of this document to determine how it can become a part of their practices.

Donald Berwick, MD, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated that ACOs were brought into effect with three major aims which are better care for individuals, better health for populations, and slower growth in costs through improvements in care.

Proposed Measures for ACO Quality-Performance Standards.

Scheduled to begin in January 2012, the primary goal of the ACO concept, not unlike other previous historical steps, such as PPO’s and HMO’s, is intended to extract about a billion dollars in costs from the existing Medicare system.  Theoretically, this model is not without merit.  Because most healthcare in the United States is still literally “a cottage industry,” simply having patient advocates help co-ordinate the care of those mega-users, the 18 Club of patients with nine physicians with whom they interact annually and nine different drugs that they take daily, should benefit tremendously.  If these patients can be directed to avoid those unneeded duplications, millions could be saved.

The government outlined rules for how doctors and hospitals can organize into new businesses to reduce Medicare costs and improve care are at the heart of the accountable-care organizations.  The new partnerships that could/should evolve from ACO’s would be aimed at controlling these costs.   They would be structured to coordinate care and their reward would be to share financially in savings with the government if they could come in lower than expected.  There is an alternative universe, however, where they would risk being penalized financially if they go over the anticipated costs.

There is no question that better synchronization of care could help to reduce both hospital readmissions and medical errors which in turn would produce Medicare savings.  In line with this, one of the primary reasons that ACOs might not work is that some of the largest health insurers in the country, including Humana, United Healthcare and Cigna, already have announced plans to form their own ACOs. Insurers say they can play an important role in ACOs because they track and collect data on patients, which is critical for coordinating care and reporting on the results.  As Jenny Gold quoted in her NPR report, “This could just be HMO in drag.” These partnerships of primary-care and specialists doctors with hospitals and clinics might help to produce a model that, although directed toward Medicare, could also have a positive impact on all of U.S. health-care.

Obviously, both hospitals and physicians are worried about ACO’s because they represent CHANGE, but it is common knowledge that if something is NOT DONE, our health care system will crash and burn.   Think of this, providers would get paid more for keeping their patients healthy and out of the hospital. What a concept.

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Sometimes it’s Better to Punch a Bear in the Face

March 27th, 2011

I’ve tried to avoid controversy, but since my reading audience has dropped by a few thousand readers after departing my previous CEO position a few years back, I doubt that this will cause me any more problems as a consultant than I’ve already caused by expressing my opinions in previous posts. So, for those of you who are still dependent upon me for financial support, I apologize.

This morning, I read an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette by John Hayes entitled “Meet Your Neighbors: The Bears,” about black bears living in Pennsylvania. The essence of the piece is that there are about 18,000 bears living among the 12,000,000 citizens of Pennsylvania, yet there are only about 1,200 bear-related complaints to authorities a year. The bigger issue, however, is that there have been no reported deaths caused by black bears. They don’t eat people.

During this same period of time, I read a post by my friend and fellow patient advocate, Dale Ann Micalizzi, referencing an article about the former president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, Paul Levy,  another nontraditional hospital CEO who espouses transparency. “Admiting Harm Protects Patients” is the article appearing in today’s Las Vegas Sun. In my book, Taking the Hell out of Healthcare, which Paul graciously endorsed on the cover page, we talk about patient rights, patient advocacy, and the need to have someone with you during your hospital stay to ensure that you are not going to become a statistic. In today’s article, Paul is recognized for the work that he did with his blog — a blog which I encouraged him to write and to keep writing — in which he challenged the hospitals of Boston to reveal their mistakes, to stop keeping the infection rates and other problem statistics secret.

Because he was trained as an economist and a city planner, Paul Levy was considered an outsider by his peers when he took over the troubled Deaconess hospital, but as he quickly turned it around, he did so through the eyes of an outsider. In December 2006, he published his hospital’s monthly rates of infection associated with central-line catheters, which are inserted deep into the body to rapidly administer drugs or withdraw blood. These central line infections, which can be caused by nonsterile insertion of the catheter or not removing it soon enough, are preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 250,000 central-line infections occur annually, costing $25,000 each and claiming the lives of one in four infected patients.

Dale Ann Micalizzi (L) and Paul F. Levy (R)  - Healing Hospitals - F. Nicholas Jacobs, FACHEHe then challenged the other Boston hospitals to do the same. He was accused of self-aggrandizement, egomania, and numerous other witchcraft-like things, but the bottom line was that the number of infections went down, and they went down because the staff and employees wanted to do better and wanted them to go down.

What else happened at Beth Israel Deaconess?

• Hospital mortality of 2.5 percent, which translates to one fewer death per 40 intensive-care patients.

• Cases of ventilator-associated pneumonia, from 10-24  per month in early 2006, to zero in as many months by mid-2006.

• Total days patients spent on ventilators from 350-475 per month in early 2006 to approx. 300 by mid-2007.

• The length of an average intensive care stay from 2005 through 2009, the average stay was reduced by a day to about 3 1/2 days.

(See my previous post on outrageous claims at my prior place of employment.)

Well, in today’s article about the bears, I read that “when bear attacks occur they are generally very brief, and injuries can include scratches and bites.”  Here’s the part I had not anticipated from the bear conservation officer: “Fight back, don’t play dead.  Unlike other North American Bears, black bears don’t consider people to be food.  When it realizes what you are, or gets a painful punch in the face, it is likely to go away.” I believe it’s a useful metaphor.

If you or your organization would like to hear a CEO or two speak about patient advocacy (and way better healthcare), I’m sure I know a former teacher/musician and a former city planner who would welcome the invitation.

Patient advocacy is in your hands!

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

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Excerpts and Opinions on “What Makes a Hospital Great?”

March 17th, 2011

Dr. Pauline W. Chen’s March 17th New York Times article answers the question, “What Makes a Hospital Great?” In this article, Dr. Chen finds:

Dr. Pauline W. Chen - surgeon & New York Times contributor - Nick Jacobs, FACHE

Pauline W. Chen, MD | Blog: paulinechen.typepad.com

“Hospitals have long vied for the greatest clinical reputation. Recent efforts to increase public accountability by publishing hospital results have added a statistical dimension to this battle of the health care titans. Information from most hospitals on mortality rates, readmissions and patient satisfaction is readily available on the Internet. A quick click of the green ‘compare’ button on the ‘Hospital Compare’ Web site operated by the Department of Health and Human Services gives any potential patient, or competitor, side-by-side lists of statistics from rival institutions that leaves little to the imagination. The upside of such transparency is that hospitals all over the country are eager to improve their patient outcomes. The downside is that no one really knows how.”

I’ve written often about the failed promise of technology alone, and this is reaffirmed in Dr. Chen’s findings:

“…hospitals have made huge investments in the latest and greatest in clinical care — efficient electronic medical records systems, ‘superstar’ physicians and world-class rehabilitation services. Nonetheless, large discrepancies persist between the highest and lowest-performing institutions, even with one of the starkest of the available statistics: patient deaths from heart attacks.”

As she asks why this is,  the answers have become relatively clear from a study that was released in the Annals of Internal Medicine this very week. This research indicated that it was not the expensive equipment, the evidence-based protocols, or the beautiful Ritz Carlton-like buildings. It was, instead, the culture of the organization.

Hosptials in both the top and bottom five  percent in heart attack mortality rates were queried by the study team. One hundred fifty interviews with administrators, doctors and other health care workers found that the key to good (or bad) care was “a cohesive organizational vision that focused on communication and support of all efforts to improve care.”

Elizabeth H. Bradley, Phd, Yale School of Public Health

Elizabeth H. Bradley, Phd, Yale Global Health Leadership Institute

“It’s how people communicate, the level of support and the organizational culture that trump any single intervention or any single strategy that hospitals frequently adopt,” said Elizabeth H. Bradley, Senior Author and Faculty Director of Yale University’s Global Health Leadership Institute.

So, it wasn’t the affiliation with an academic medical center, whether patients were wealthy or indigent, bed size, or rural vs. urban settings that mattered in hospital mortality rates. Rather, it was the way that patient care issues were challenged that made the difference. The physicians and leaders at top-performing hospitals aggressively go after errors. They acknowledge them, and do not criticize each other. Instead, they work together to identify the sources of problems, and to fix them.

One of the most telling findings in this study was that relationships inside the hospital are primary, and the physicians and staff must be committed to making things work. Dr. Bradley said. “It isn’t expensive and it isn’t rocket science, but it requires a real commitment from everyone.”

So, the next time that you select a hospital, look up its statistics, and I guarantee you that you will be surprised. When it comes to outcomes, to nurturing or even competent care, the biggest is not always the best.

Learn More:

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Medical Homes – Defining What Patients Want

February 13th, 2011

The definition of a medical home can be confusing to those who have not been dedicated students of this terminology. As the medical home concept has been added to the healthcare landscape of  the U.S., many uninformed healthcare professionals look at each other and shrug as if they seem to expect to see villages being built with work-out facilities and critical care equipment as part of the accoutrements. Instead, the concept of the medical home (also known as the Patient Centered Medical Home – PCMH) refers to patient-centered care, a phrase that we and Planetree have been using for over thirty years.

Imagine a physician’s office or clinic where the patient’s records are reviewed prior to each visit to ensure that the necessary immunizations, tests and wellness milestones are in place and accounted for on a consistent basis. If that stretched your imagination, consider a medical support staff that communicates by secure e-mail and phone to organize the patient’s care. Add to that an electronic medical record system that tracks the patients, their tests and prescriptions. That is just the beginning of what a medical home could be and do.

One of the companies with which SunStone Management Resources is working goes so far as to add nurse- patient advocates to the mix and then assigns them to help sort through the morass of decisions every person faces with significant co-morbidity risk factors. This system not only helps the patient, it holds down costs by giving people a stable, well-coordinated patient centered medical experience. As an advocate, I believe that it will be key to stopping the loss of billions of dollars in unnecessary treatment costs that conversely leaves millions of our citizens without appropriate medical care.

These outcomes can only be achieved by developing years-long, longitudinal relationship with the primary care provider and their team, and with patient advocate nurses who are assigned to work with those teams to help sort out the redundant tests and medications that often evolve from interacting with as many as nine different specialists each year. This number of hands usually results in at least 15 office or clinic visits and countless unnecessary tests. Imagine how great it would be to have someone who can lead the patients more efficiently through this journey.

In a recent edition of Modern Healthcare, Andis Robeznieks wrote an article entitled “In Search of Medical Homes.” Interestingly, it described the evolving requirements from the National Committee for Quality Assurance for medical home standards. Some of you may remember that this journey began officially in 2008. Of course, the Joint Commission and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care were also in on the act as they began that same journey. The question posed by these organizations centers around the unique qualities of a patient-centered medical home.

Somava Stout, MD - Cambridge Medical Associates - Nick Jacobs, FACHE

Somava Stout, MD

Even though, as the article pointed out, the NCQA was experiencing success from their medical home practices business line, patients weren’t experiencing that same feeling of success, attention or comfort. According to Mr. Robeznieks this fact was eagerly confirmed by the patients as they filled out their patient satisfaction scores. The piece went on to outline the latest and greatest revisions to the NCQA standards which included, heaven forbid, a stronger voice from the patients. My favorite quote from the article was from Dr. Somava Stout, Vice President of Patient–Centered Medical Home Development for the Cambridge Health Alliance: “One of the things we do over and over again in healthcare is we don’t remember to include the patient as a partner in designing the (personal ) healthcare system.”

In summary, medical homes would provide patient-centered care that results in reduced visits to specialists and allows less expensive primary care doctors to care for the majority of people’s health care needs. This in turn would result in higher quality outcomes with greater patient satisfaction and more funds to take care of the under insured.

Sounds like a plan.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

September 9th, 2010

American Healthcare Magazine - September 6, 2010 - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - HealingHospitals.comThe Modern Healthcare edition of September 6, 2010 has a cover headline that reads: “Passing the Buck,” and the descriptor goes on to explain that “Yet a new report says workers’ share of benefit costs is skyrocketing.”  The actual opening line of the article starts with “Workers are shouldering more of the costs of health coverage than ever before amid stagnant wages and a weak economy”…

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Patient Advocacy, a subject about which I am passionate. So, this blog is about patient and employee advocacy that also provides additional resources for hospitals to help them address the current economic challenges.

Every year when we looked at our medical insurance costs at my hospital, a politically incorrect friend would jokingly suggest that we begin an annual, required participation August Tennis Tournament for our high-utilization employees, but only after the temperatures reached at least 95 degrees.  “It would be a thinning of the herd,” he would jokingly say with an elf-like smile on his face.  We would then get serious and dig into a long list of creative ideas aimed at helping contain these costs so that we would not have to lower benefits or pass the charges on to the employees.

Included in these lists were some rather simple ideas such as offering, in a structured manner, the wellness options covered under our health insurance umbrella and generally rewarding our employees for taking better care of themselves.  We significantly reduced fees for the workout facility (1/3 of the regular cost ), provided personalized counseling from our dietitians, had a weight loss contest and gave rewards for taking classes on stress management, smoking cessation, diabetes control and exercise.

We offered psychological counseling for our employees who were suffering from stress related issues.  Our food service vendor, CURA, made sure that “no transfats” were a part of the hospital’s meals, that there were always low-fat vegetarian choices on every menu, that snacks were reasonable and that our vending machines had healthy choices. We also celebrated life and work on a regular basis.   We had cook-outs, off-stage break rooms, massage, aroma, Reiki, pet and music therapy.  We provided drum circles, non-denominational spiritual services and meditation classes; kick boxing, Pilates, pool therapy, and employee parties.

So, short of forced tennis matches, how else can we control these costs?  The following is a summary of a program that SunStone Consulting is currently offering with two other business partners, CBIZ and InforMed.

Over the past 6 years, the average annual health insurance cost increase for InforMed-supported patient advocacy programs has run at 4.5%, compared to the 10-12% trend for all employers.  In the case where a hospital with 1,500 employees is paying out about $10,000,000 a year for employee health insurance, a 5% savings over a three year period would generate $3.3 million in savings.  Let me repeat that:  By lowering those  premium increases by 5%, there would be over three million extra dollars available for hospital financial needs and co-pays and deductibles for the employees would not have to continue to escalate by 13 to 15% annually.

The Patient Advocate logo (California) - Nick Jacobs, FACHEThe care management “engagement” rate of all the major insurance companies is about 30%. That means that the insurance company-based “help programs” are about 1/3 effective in even reaching the employees.  This non-insurance company based program, however, has a 70% engagement rate of identified large claimants, more than double the insurance company’s rate, and with over 1 million employees in this program, they produce a 98% patient satisfaction rate.

By employing local, trained, patient advocacy nurses, paying physicians a monthly stipend out of the savings to help manage these patient/employees, and then helping those high utilization patients legitimately navigate through the nine to fifteen physicians with whom they interact on an annual basis, health systems are seeing tremendous savings.  (Kind of the Best of Managed Care scenario.)

These are clear, actionable items that will positively change a bottom line quickly and permanently without having to increase the financial burden on the employees.

Why not try it?  It works.

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A Speech to the Risk Managers at RM&PSI

August 27th, 2010

The RM&PSI is a national leader in clinical risk management practices and patient safety programs for health care institutions and providers.

RM&PSI, the Risk Management and Patient Safety Institute provided a forum for me to not only give a speech today on patient advocacy, but also to passionately press for its members to take up the cause of transparency, patient and patient family support, and healthcare quality.  Yes, the speech touched on Social Media tools as a means of reinforcing the message, but it was really all about patient adovcacy.  The RM&PSI is a national leader in clinical risk management practices and patient safety programs for health care institutions and providers.  It primarily focuses its efforts on clinical risk reduction strategies, quality patient outcomes and health care provider education.

Their conference was held in Traverse City, Michigan which functions as the major commercial area for a seven county area and is one of Northern Lower Michigan’s two anchor cities.  Tourism is a key industry and the area features freshwater beaches, vineyards, a National Lakeshore, downhill skiing areas, and numerous forests. But when you’re there to make a speech, it simply features nice people, a hotel room, and a conference room.  (So much for the sun, sand, golf and gambling.)

Nick Jacobs, FACHE - F. Nicholas Jacobs - Healing Hospitals - Sunstone Consulting

Nick Jacobs, FACHE

This opportunity was unusual for me because my typical speech-making effort includes a trip in, a speech, and a trip back out.  This time, however, they graciously invited me to attend both days of the two day event, and my eyes were opened even wider to the quality of the dedicated people who perform these “risk management” and quality assurance  jobs for our healthcare systems.  The people were absolutely delightful; warm, welcoming, open and honest, and it was a particular pleasure being the wrap-up speaker for the conference because I had been given the opportunity to listen to two days of presenters, to take notes, and literally to recraft my presentation to embrace the tenor and tone of their overall seminar.

The one thing that came out loud and clear for me is that our C’s (CEO’s, CFO’s, CMO’S, CNO’s, etc.) must carry the flag for our risk managers and quality assurance professionals. By being transparent; open, honest, caring and kind, we can make a real difference.  It is about taking care of our caregivers and taking care of managing the expectations of our patients and their families while supporting quality at all costs.

Thanks, RM&PSI for your invitation, your warm welcome and  your kind response to my work.  It is what I live my life to do.  It is what we need to be about.\

Free Resources from RM&PSI:

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Could We Do It Better?

August 8th, 2010

Several months ago, I met a white-haired gentleman of average stature at a meeting.  When I asked him what he did, he replied, “I’m a patient advocate.”  “So am I,” I said. “I even wrote a book, Taking the Hell out of Healthcare’ about it.  “Yes,” he continues, “but I found a way to make a living from doing this.”  His name is Harry and he is an actuary.  In those yin and yang posters, that would put us at opposite ends of the proverbial left brain/right brain spheres.  He had analyzed health care records for about thirty years and could prove what we all know, that between 5 and 7% of our employees use up about 80% of our healthcare dollars. That, my friends, is not rocket science.   All you need to do is hang around some sick people for a while, and you’ll realize that “our system” is set up to keep doing things to them over and over again.  Usually, it’s not to help them eliminate the problem, but to maintain their life in a chronically challenged situation.

Ryan Is An Actuary.  Look It Up. Flickr photo credit: evaxebra - © all rights reserved

Flickr photo credit: evaxebra © all rights reserved

So, I asked Harry what he does, and he indicated that he hires nurses, pays doctors and employs “MANAGED CARE’S GREATEST HITS.”   Now every health insurance company in the world will claim the same thing, but everyone who has ever been turned down for anything by any health insurance company knows that: 1.) the bottom line reason was usually their bottom line, or: 2.) it’s a nurse against your doc, and your doc has not employed all of the verbal and intellectual tricks to convince him or her to allow you to have the test or take the drug that he thinks you need.

Harry went on to explain that these “5  percenters”  usually have anywhere from nine to fifteen docs with whom they interact on a yearly basis, and, not coincidentally, these physicians usually don’t do a great deal of interacting with each other, hence the need for patient advocates.  This is where Harry’s nurses come into the picture.  He assigns a nurse to each high-risk patient, allows the patient to pick their “favorite quarterback doc,” and then pays that physician to help hold down the duplication of unnecessary tests.  Makes sense, huh?  I can just hear my Internal Medicine physician saying, “Nick, you don’t need those 13 other chest x-rays this month, the first one will do fine for all of us.”

Interestingly enough, this system WORKS, and it works pretty darn well because it’s not about saving money for the insurance company;  it’s not about depriving the patient of needed tests;  it’s not about controlling the patient, or preventing him or her from having what they need, but it is about eliminating wholly unnecessary tests, meds, and procedures.  Harry had letter after letter from grateful patients, families, and employers thanking his people for helping them navigate their way through the maze of this very complex, sometimes-disconnected, procedure-oriented system.

The other interesting thing is that Harry likes to go to a town and start first with the hospitals, because their employees are the most comfortable with using everything, and have the easiest access to the most doctors.  It’s a great way to prove  the system works.  From that point on, he then works to bring all of the major employers into the fold, and ties them into the primary hospitals.  It’s something that only an actuary could have accomplished, because, as Harry readily states, “It’s taken me about 30 years to perfect this system.”  The patient is protected from being over-tested in an indiscriminate manner; the hospitals or businesses save a considerable amount of money, thus limiting reases in their annual healthcare costs, and the savings are cumulative over the years.  So, why not try something that will improve the employee morale, patient satisfaction, and quality?

If you are interested in learning more about this program, give me a call.

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