Posts Tagged ‘care’

Veratherm

February 3rd, 2011

For the past 25-plus years, my personal commitments, both intellectually and emotionally, have been directed toward helping to make positive changes in the healthcare system worldwide. It’s been my great pleasure to have had the opportunity to connect with such organizations as Planetree, and to work with them to enhance and promote their philosophy of integrative medicine and human touch. We have watched them grow from three to more than 600 affiliated hospitals. It has also been exciting to have had the chance to work with organizations like the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM), a truly transformational healing organization. Their laser-focused goal is to reach more and more physicians worldwide to assist them in becoming certified in the techniques of holistic and integrative healing arts.

Along with these high-touch organizations, I’ve also been privy to advancements and discoveries made within the research field. As a former hospital CEO, and Founder of a medical research institute, I have been exposed to both the peaks of promise created by medical technology and the valleys of disappointment that have evolved from those unfilled expectations generated by the promises of that same technology.

Veratherm - ThermalTherapeutic Systems, Inc. - Nick Jacobs, FACHE

The subject matter to be addressed in this next blog segment is not a false promise. This particular medical device, the VERATHERM™ system was designed, patented and FDA-cleared as a portable hyperthermic perfusion system. There are two other FDA-cleared devices that have been used for this procedure – one which has been retrofitted and the other is somewhat outdated. There are also experimental-type devices that have been pieced together for use in some research facilities and academic medical centers, but they are not FDA-cleared and cannot be marketed.

What VERATHERM™ does provide is a very real opportunity for surgeons and perfusionists to not only standardize hyperthermic perfusion in the treatment of cancer but, potentially, to help to significantly extend the lives of those patients touched by these surgeons and the use of this technology. Most recently, I have had an opportunity to not only see this medical device but also to work with the extremely passionate individual who is in charge, Raymond Vennare, CEO of Thermal Therapeutic Systems, Inc. Raymond has helped to develop and bring to market this compact and mobile perfusion system that, I believe, will contribute to helping literally hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. In my exploration of hyperthermic perfusion, however, I have discovered that only a tiny fraction of those patients who could be helped by the technique that is enabled through the use of this device have any idea that it even exists. Hence, the reason for this blog. VERATHERM™ not only does exist, but the procedure performed by these surgeons and perfusionists can also have a dramatic impact on certain types of cancers.

Please understand that my interest in hyperthermic perfusion in the treatment of cancer revolves around a commitment to those individuals – people like my father, and Raymond’s father, mother and brother who, because products like this were not available, were all lost prematurely due to different types of devastating cancers.

How does this work? After complex surgery for the removal of the tumors in specific body cavities, such cancers as the colon, appendix, stomach, lung and even some types of metastatic breast cancer, the appropriate fluids can be heated in order to perform an intraperitoneal or intrathoractic lavage. These heated fluids then are circulated through the impacted body cavity as needed to help eradicate any remaining cancer cells. Sensors and probes built directly into the VERATHERM™ Console and Disposable Kit efficiently monitor temperature, pressure and flow of heated and unheated sterile solutions while protecting the patient, physician and profusionist.

Let me close by saying one more time that, due to the procedure enabled by this medical device, the lives of many patients have been extended by as much as three-to- five years. It’s not technically impossible to do, but, as a patient, you have to know about it to request it, and only a handful of cancer centers in the entire country have begun to even look at the creative re-use of profusion equipment for non-traditional surgical lavages such as this.

You read it here first!

The Parable of the Starfish

One morning an elderly man was walking on a nearly deserted beach. He came upon a boy surrounded by thousands and thousands of starfish. As eagerly as he could, the youngster was picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean. Puzzled, the older man looked at the young boy and asked, “Little boy, what are you doing?” The youth responded without looking up, “I’m trying to save these starfish, sir.” The old man chuckled aloud, and queried, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make? Holding a starfish in his hand, the boy turned to the man and, gently tossing the starfish into the water, said, “It will make a difference to that one!”

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.

Engage With Grace

November 26th, 2010

Excerpts from: Chapter 18 of  Taking the Hell out of Healthcare

by Nick Jacobs

When Dying is Finally Enough


The Dichotomy of Death

On Thursday evenings from 1970 until 1975 there was a standing invitation to play pool at Jim’s Dad’s house.  Now, the truth of the matter was that, as young school teachers, most of us barely owned houses, let alone a pool table, so one of my colleagues parents’ opened their home to allow us to have some safe recreation. During those innocent days of my mid twenties, many of the world’s problems were solved. Jim’s father was a wise old philosopher in his early sixties,  a retired coal miner who loved to be around the kids.

One night, we began discussing religion, faith, and death as we mechanically yelled out lines like “16 in the side pocket.”  The discussion became particularly heated when it came to hypocrisy of our healthcare system. We kids or at least this kid listened in amazement as old Carl explained how life was in the old days. His relatives from the old country had salves and ointments, herbs and mustard plasters that took care of virtually every ailment known to man, and when they failed and death was inevitable, death was accepted. He used to laugh and say, “But now, everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

It was then that the subject changed to today where there was truly a cure for nearly everything, or so it seemed at age 23.  Get sick? Take a pill or get a shot. But then, a few weeks earlier, my father had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was given less than a three percent chance of survival. As Carl and I discussed this situation, he put his arm on my shoulder, and wished me luck. At 58, my dad was still a young man, and neither my education, my prayers, nor my love would be able to save him.

The American way of death seems to be that death is not acceptable at any age, at any time or for any reason. Death is rarely seen as the inevitable future that we all face. Our American system of death is that it should not  happen. Death is no longer accepted as part of life. Oh, yes, we hear those words, but when it is our loved one, they are very difficult to embrace or articulate.

Our medical schools, our nursing schools, our technology schools train  our students in most cases that death is failure. This is why we have a system of health care that is crumbling under our very eyes. Through drugs, machines, and other advances, we have the ability to allow individuals to live longer than ever in the history of mankind. It is absolute reality that more people will have an opportunity to live longer than 100 years of age than ever in history, but at what cost, and with what degree of quality?

Engage With Grace - The One Slide - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - Healing Hospitals - Taking the Hell Out of Healthcare

Because of our culture, we fight death until we are shocked by it, and the result is that we, as families miss the wonderful opportunity to allow our loved one a peaceful, beautiful, comforting transition.

Palliative care, a.k.a., hospice care, provides that transition.  In a hospice program, we experience love in all forms until death. Hospice provides a womb-like environment where love can replace fear, where family can be the center of that love, and where the transition can be a beautiful, healing journey for everyone involved so that it becomes a peaceful transition.

What Can You Do?

Do your personal homework. Begin to talk to your loved ones early on about their wishes.  Make those wishes as clear as you can. Do not be fearful that anyone will let you die before your time. Trust that your family or friends can support you in your intentions, and be sure that you put everything in writing that you possibly can. Most importantly, however, try to find peace with yourself.

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.

Healthcare Reform. . . It’s only just begun

March 10th, 2010

This week’s Bloomberg Business Week magazine featured a phenomenal and very personal story of healthcare that actually captures many of the challenges around healthcare reform.  The author, Amanda Bennett, takes us on a journey that she has titled, “Lessons of a $618,616 Death.”  The true title, however, should have been, “How Do You Put A Price on 17 Months?”  In this article, Ms. Bennett takes us on the step-by-step, blow-by-blow journey that ended with her husband’s death.  She and a friend painfully reconstructed every page of his medical records, every dollar paid by her insurance companies, and every charge made by the various doctors and hospitals that treated him during the last years of his life.

Business Week end-of-life issue - Nick Jacobs - healinghospitals.com
Amanda Bennett and Terence Foley

She showed 1.) the grand total of charges, $618,616, 2.) the actual monies paid by the insurance companies to the hospitals after contractual negotiations, $254,176, and 3.) the total paid by her family, $9,468. In the article, she described the 30% overhead/administration costs, the costs of experimental drugs inside and outside of trials, and the 4,750 pages of medical records that were amassed during this time. For those of us who have “spent our time” trying to live within, cope with, and better understand America’s healthcare system, there were no surprises.  For those of us who have watched a loved one take this cancer journey with all of its mysterious unknowns, there were also no surprises. Ms. Bennett’s quote, “The system has a strong bias toward action,” was, I believe, the most poignant in the entire piece.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a very healthcare-savvy individual who, when I jokingly referred to death panels, almost came across the table at me.  She did not believe it was funny.  To say that she was passionate would miss the point.  Only the day before, I had spoken with another very intelligent healthcare reform advocate who indicated that the entire concept of death panels emanated from a payment code that reimbursed physicians for simply (or in some cases finally) talking to patients about their alternatives.  I had heard other explanations, but neither mattered.  What matters is that, in many instances, we are not discussing appropriate alternatives or revealing the quality-of-life issues often overlooked before beginning long courses of experimental drugs, or oncology drugs that may not have any positive impact on the health outcome of the individual.

Interestingly, Ms. Bennett did indicate that for all of the time, money, and pain invested in this journey, no one could confirm that her husband’s life was actually extended by these medical experiences.

Someone once described America’s healthcare system to me like this:  You walk into Nordstrom, order several three-thousand-dollar suits, a dozen shirts and some handmade, silk Italian ties, then turn to the person beside you and say to the clerk, ‘”He is paying for this.”  Our heroine Ms. Bennett did mention the fact that her husband would probably have questioned the use of all of these funds in this manner and the relationship that these expenditures might have had on all of the other people in the world who might have been helped by these dollars.

Taking the Hell Out of Healthcare by Nick JacobsWhen healthcare reform is discussed, it is personal.  It is also deep, and it is costly, but the bottom line always comes back to this: “How do you put a price on 17 months?”  In my book Taking the Hell out of Healthcare, I discuss the journey that my father and our neighbor took together over about a 17 month period.  Both diagnosed with lung cancer, my father decided to go for it all.  He had surgery, chemo, radiation, more radiation, and more chemo.  My neighbor, a man without significant health insurance coverage, decided to spend his time with his family.  They both died on the same day.  My father died in a cold, tertiary care hospital where no clergy was present, his family members were not all able to be there with him, and it was over.  In contrast, our neighbor died peacefully in his home, surrounded by his entire family.

Ms. Bennett did say that she was glad that she was not a bureaucrat having to deal with these issues.  Frankly, I wish that she was!

Creating Functional Healing Hospitals

November 8th, 2009

Why Healing Hospitals?  Transparency.  Human Dignity.  Patient Advocacy. All of these represent a new way of administering health care in this country.  Our industrialized model of care in the mirror image of factory-like settings is no longer acceptable, viable, or an alternative.  We, as a country, as a society –as a culture, need to step up and do what is right.  Love, kindness, nurturing, and a commitment to patient advocacy are the correct ways to interact with our patients.

healing_mosaicMany organizations who embrace the various human dignity monikers such as Planetree and Eden Alternative do so for marketing clout, for positive press, or for hoped-for financial gains.  Upon meeting some of these leaders, transparency becomes a very recognizable trait because they themselves are transparent –and not in the good  sense.  Rather, they are transparently “takers” in an environment that is much better served by “givers.”

For a country that is so obsessed with standardized tests, our healthcare delivery scores are abysmal, astonishing, and asinine. Not unlike our appetite for Biggie fast food meals and Biggie drinks, our appetite for beautiful trappings without substance, for corporate jets, for the power of millions and in some cases billions of dollars in reserves has resulted in a dysfunctional health delivery system that looks at patients as widgets.

Nicholas D. Kristof - NYT photo Nicholas D. Kristof  NYT photo

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times Op-Ed columnist has written another compelling article about the  U.S. health system, in which he quotes the latest World Health Organization figures. (Download the .pdf file.) According to the WHO report, the United States ranks 37th in infant mortality (partly because of many premature births) and 34th in maternal mortality. A child in the U.S. is two-and-a-half times as likely to die by age 5 as in Singapore or Sweden, and an American woman is 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as a woman in Ireland. He then quoted another study, a recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute that looked at how well 19 developed countries succeeded in avoiding “preventable deaths,” such as those where a disease could be cured or forestalled. The U.S. ranked in last place. Dead last.

He did find one health statistic that is strikingly above average: life expectancy for Americans who have already reached the age of 65. At that point, they can expect to live longer than the average in industrialized countries. That’s because Americans above age 65 actually have universal health care coverage: Medicare, he writes. Suddenly, a diverse population with pockets of poverty is no longer such a drawback.

Learning how to convert your hospital to the standards of  Healing Hospitals is not rocket science.  It is, however, not without tough decisions, aggressive doses of nonconformity, a passion and commitment to patient advocacy, and a strong desire to improve infection, readmission, restraint, and mortality rates.  It can be done, but it takes guts, a break from the conventional, unconventional wisdom, and a willingness to do what is not only right …but also what is very, very smart.

WHO Report – Primary Health Care: Now More Than Ever

View more documents from Nick Jacobs.

In My Opinion, It’s Tinker Bell Dust!

June 4th, 2009

Everyone has seen the media reports on the $1.7 trillion of cost cuts being projected by health care leaders over the next decade, but does anyone really believe it? According to this group, the premises embraced that will lead to these cuts are based upon improving care for chronic diseases, reducing unnecessary care, and streamlining administrative costs. Included in this wish/promise list are cutbacks, commitments to permit fewer Caesarean sections, better back pain management, less use of antibiotics and a reduction in diagnostic imaging tests.

U.S. President Obama meets with health care executives at the White House on May 11 (Pete Souza)
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with healthcare executives at the White House on May 11 (Photo credit: Pete Souza)

The groups involved have made commitments to try to reduce medical errors, begin the use of common insurance forms, to initiate a reduction in patient re-admissions, to improve the efficiency of drug development, and to promote the expansion of in-home care. (The majority of the preceding information comes from an article by Janet Adamy entitled “Health Groups Detail Plans to Reduce Costs,” in the June 2nd Wall Street Journal. )

If you are reading this, and you are a health care professional, it may be reminiscent of listening to your three hundred fifty pound, five foot tall neighbor describing how he is going to get back into his size 34 Levi’s. It also reminds me of a conversation that I had about 22 years ago when a hospital vice president said to me, “We are going to begin putting  computers into the hospital, and they will reduce costs, lower the need for staff, and contribute to much higher efficiencies.” What part of this equation didn’t happen? Even at the little hospital from which I just retired, we went from two, to three, to four… to about a dozen experts in every aspect of computer technology, and IT has been a dominant part of the capital budget for over a dozen years. So, what’s wrong with this scenario? As the equipment became more sophisticated, more well trained experts were needed. The higher the cost of the equipment, the greater the overhead required for maintenance, and the larger the demand became for everyone in the facility to be computerized.

It is not my intention to be a complete cynic, but isn’t it true that tens of thousands of people who have become used to a certain standard of living will be controlling these cuts? If we could have improved chronic disease care, why wouldn’t we have done that already? It’s all about the reimbursement system. We are still reimbursing for sickness rather than wellness. How do we line up the incentives so that statements like “we will permit fewer Caesarean sections or we will initiate better back pain management” will not ring hollow as words directed toward placating the new President? Nowhere in the equation is there any reference to initiating tort reform. As long as doctors, hospitals, and other clinicians have to practice defensive medicine, we will not be able to reduce tests. We will not be able to reduce unnecessary costs.

pixie-dustl1Yes, of course a reduction in medical errors would be great. So would common insurance forms, and fewer re-admissions. I’m sure we will see our peers work diligently toward those ends, but, unless or until incentives are aligned, the system will continue to roll along pretty much as is. I’m not sure why the President hasn’t called me yet. Maybe it’s because he knows how I feel about tort reform. Maybe it’s because he knows that I’ll say that the list articulated in the opening paragraph is filled with smoke, or maybe it’s because, like all government-touted initiatives, it’s not supposed to actually come completely into play until two and possibly six years after he leaves office. That philosophy certainly didn’t work for our former Presidents, and, unless someone gets really serious about changing the way healthcare is delivered in the United States, these pledges will be just what they appear to be, “Tinker Bell dust!”

Engage With Grace

November 27th, 2008
The One Slide

The One Slide

Several dozen bloggers in the health care field and beyond are today engaged in a blog rally*, simultaneously posting the item below to encourage conversation about a topic that’s often avoided but needs to be addressed in every family: How we want to die. I’ve written about this before, with regard to my mother. Please try it, using the slide above as a discussion guide. It’s not that hard to have the conversation with your loved ones once you get started.

We make choices throughout our lives – where we want to live, what types of activities will fill our days, with whom we spend our time. These choices are often a balance between our desires and our means, but at the end of the day, they are decisions made with intent. But when it comes to how we want to be treated at the end our lives, often we don’t express our intent or tell our loved ones about it.

This has real consequences. 73% of Americans would prefer to die at home, but up to 50% die in hospital. More than 80% of Californians say their loved ones “know exactly” or have a “good idea” of what their wishes would be if they were in a persistent coma, but only 50% say they’ve talked to them about their preferences.

But our end of life experiences are about a lot more than statistics. They’re about all of us. So the first thing we need to do is start talking.

Engage With Grace: The One Slide Project was designed with one simple goal: to help get the conversation about end of life experience started. The idea is simple: Create a tool to help get people talking. One Slide, with just five questions on it. Five questions designed to help get us talking with each other, with our loved ones, about our preferences. And we’re asking people to share this One Slide – wherever and whenever they can…at a presentation, at dinner, at their book club. Just One Slide, just five questions.

Lets start a global discussion that, until now, most of us haven’t had.

Here is what we are asking you: Download The One Slide (that’s it above) and share it at any opportunity – with colleagues, family, friends. Think of the slide as currency and donate just two minutes whenever you can. Commit to being able to answer these five questions about end of life experience for yourself, and for your loved ones. Then commit to helping others do the same. Get this conversation started.

Let’s start a viral movement driven by the change we as individuals can effect…and the incredibly positive impact we could have collectively. Help ensure that all of us – and the people we care for – can end our lives in the same purposeful way we live them.

Just One Slide, just one goal. Think of the enormous difference we can make together.

(To learn more please go to www.engagewithgrace.org. This post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team. )

Something’s Gotta Give, Something’s Gotta Give, Something’s Gotta Give!

November 1st, 2008

My Facebook friend, Anne Zieger, editor of Fierce Health Finance, wrote a compelling piece the other day regarding the potential demise of hundreds of hospitals. Her prediction is based upon some very valid financial realities, and we are witnessing them locally as well as nationally. Not unlike the little banks in our area that seemed to have been insulated from Wall Street’s collapse, some of these national problems seem to be washing over some of the smaller hospitals with relatively minimal damage. Yes, many of us have seen as much as a 10% decrease in elective, outpatient procedures.

In fact, while visiting a really upscale mall for a photo session with my two year old granddaughter, Lucy, an employee engaged me in a conversation about the rotten economy. About five minutes into the conversation, she indicated that there are currently 150 stores in the chain for which she works, and that only five percent of them made budget last month. Portrait pictures must fall into the category of a luxury as their business is severely impacted by this economy. More directly, however, she indicated that she needed stitches removed the other day, and that, “she did it herself” rather than spend the $20 co-pay.

So, are we seeing decreases in important tests? Are we seeing patients avoiding emergency room visits? Are we seeing patients cutting their prescriptions in half? Yes, to all of these questions. Anne, however, seemed to be talking about the “big boys,” where their millions or billions in investments have recently tanked. If you are so big that your income from running the hospital is not a major source of protection, and your income from your investments is propping you up, then the problems begin to manifest themselves exponentially.

“Some hospitals are responding by digging into their investment income more deeply than usual, using it to finance capital projects, or even meet operational needs. Others are issuing bonds with the scary codicil that they’ll buy them back if finicky investors want to dump them,” states Zieger in her column.

She further goes on to explain that “both of these situations put a huge squeeze on hospitals’ long-term viability. One robs from their long-term assets to solve medium-term problems, while the other puts the hospitals at risk of being bled dry by investors who get spooked.”

Well, wouldn’t ya know? Yes, we are seeing a few challenges due to decreased electives, but not because we were living off of our investments. The other good news is that, because we froze our fixed pensions several years ago, we are seeing very little impact upon them from the huge drop in those investments as well. Unlike many of our larger peers, neither of these issues is similar. Between the drops in the market, the loss of pension funds, the decrease in electives, and the down-grading of their viability by the bond markets, their challenges look galactic in size compared to ours.

Sometimes smaller is just safer.

In Their Own Words: Patients, staff and physicians on their experiences at Nick’s Planetree hospital

October 5th, 2008

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: hospital medical)