Posts Tagged ‘F. Nicholas Jacobs’

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


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

October 25th, 2011

Steve Jobs - - 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 -

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.”


ACO’s or SSP’s: “Change or Die”

September 6th, 2011

Walk the Walk” author Alan Deutschman’s previous book kind of said it all in the title, “Change or Die.” In that book, Alan carefully lays out the statistical survivability matrix, and poses the question:

Alan Deutschman - Author of Change or Die and Walk the Walk - Nick Jacobs, HACHE - Healing Hospitals

Alan Deutschman

“What if you were given that choice? For real. What if it weren’t just the hyperbolic rhetoric that conflates corporate performance with life and death?…What if a well-informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think and act? If you didn’t, your time would end soon — a lot sooner than it had to. Could you change when change really mattered? When it mattered most? “

Then, he articulates the actual outcomes of studies. Talk about “tough love.”

“…The odds? You want the odds? Here are the odds that the experts are laying down, their scientifically studied odds: nine to one. That’s nine to one against you. How do you like those odds?”

So, as a nation, as healthcare leaders, as human beings in a country that is currently facing the realities of potential economic disintegration, we are faced with what can only be described as another enormous challenge: a financially unsustainable healthcare system. Regardless of your politics, regardless of your personal beliefs regarding the competency of the federal government and its ability or inability to fix anything, the law has been passed, the train is moving and it’s moving directly toward you and your hospital.

Over the past three years, we have repeatedly presented money-saving and money-making ideas to help begin to position your healthcare organization for the impending tsunami of change that has been launched. As a veteran of TQM, Six Sigma, Baldridge, and a half dozen other consultant-delivered “fixes,” I’m sure I can hear the words going round and round in your head, but, not unlike the clamor that arose from the HMO/PPO days of yesteryear, this ACO/SSP challenge has to be met and dealt with intelligently, and it has to be done in such a way as to not destroy your hospital or health system.

Let’s face it, we’re all pretty smart folks. We’ve all been in permanent white water for years, and the last thing that many of us want to take on is the ole captain of the ship without a rudder, during a hurricane while the lighthouses are being moved around on the shore.  But, once again, it’s here. It’s upon us, and we must deal with this challenge in an intelligent manner.

One possible alternative for smaller organizations is the SSP, a Shared Savings Program, the alternative put forth by CMS, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to a full-blown ACO, an Accountable Care Organization. Either way, however, SSP or ACO, the primary, overarching goal is to try to improve quality, decrease costs, and provide patient-centered care in a meaningful way. Not unlike the old HMO/PPO days, the effort requires infrastructure (and plenty of it…the average participant in the demonstrations spent about $1.7M on this one, single aspect of managing the healthcare new world order.)

What do you need? Well, you need 5,000 patients, to start. Then:

  1. Decide if you will use Medicare only or other patient groups.
  2. Determine the exact service area that you will target.  How many square miles?
  3. Decide which reimbursement model will work for your organization, i.e., an SSP that is more risk-based, or capitated.
  4. Figure out which provider groups will be involved.
  5. Examine IT reporting capabilities and process improvement methodologies.
  6. Identify patient-related strategies such as enhanced experience for the patients or faster throughput as well as reduction in errors.
  7. Then, dig deep into the organizational strategies for improvement.

Infographic: Medicare Margins - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - SunStone ConsultingLet’s face it. From 2001 until 2008, total Medicare inpatient margins for acute care hospitals have decreased every single year.  (Source: Journal of Healthcare Management)   Reimbursements have decreased while your bad debt has increased.  So, regardless of your tolerance for risk or change, cost control simply must become the culture of every healthcare organization in the United States. We have seen the variances in costs based on geography in this country and treble charges in one area as opposed to another will not go on into the future. Joel Allison, CEO of Baylor Health has stated that this movement is “All about…focusing on wellness, on prevention.” (Arnst, 2010)

We need our primary care docs, we need physician participation to a far greater degree than we currently have, and, at the same time, the physicians must be partners in the effort.  Employing physicians is also a critical element.

SunStone Management Resources can assist you in this effort on numerous levels, but the time to act is now!


Barcelona, VAT and Ambiance

August 18th, 2011

Last weekend, I traveled to Barcelona. How does one afford to spend a weekend in Barcelona in this economy with the dollar at $1.40 to one Euro, one might ask?  Points, my friends, points. When you travel enough, it’s possible to build up quite a few of these delightfully-useful but quickly-diminishing-in-value “perks,” and that’s how I got there.

Because it’s “Vacation time in Europe,” numerous hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions offer nice packages for a reasonable number of points, and because I’d never been to Barcelona or anywhere in Spain for that matter, it seemed like a good plan. Albeit brief, my 4 day journey into yet another culture was almost worth the pain of traveling. Of course, if you remember my Serbia, Nigeria, Bosnia, Netherlands and Italy blog posts, you know that I’m all about “experiences.”

Barcelona - juice seller - Flickr Photo

Barcelona: juice seller at the Mercat de la Bouqueria - Flickr photo credit: Halvorson Photo

The longer I live, the more interested I am in how other people live. Many years ago, probably 20 or so, we had an exchange student, Monica, from Barcelona who used to stand in my family room, look out the window into the rolling fields and proclaim, “Nick, Nick, I am sooo bored.”  Truthfully, I was, too.

So, why Barcelona, VAT and the “A” word? I fell in love with the city. I loved the ambiance, the food, the wines, the architecture, and the people. Maybe it was the fact that there are two million souls living there, and I never felt uneasy even once. Unlike my last trip to Chicago, where I couldn’t sleep all night because of the continuing chorus of sirens from emergency vehicles, Barcelona’s street in front of our hotel erupted in the wail of those distinctive, European sirens only
about four times, from Friday until the following Monday.

Interior of La Sagrada Familia basilicaSome of the little things that captured my attention included the walk/don’t walk sign on the streets that actually allowed you enough time to cross at your leisure without being hit by an oncoming car. The people and cab drivers were polite and, most importantly, there was a feeling of helpfulness and respect in the shops, restaurants and architectural wonders.

Of course, by Sunday evening, we had visited nearly every architectural work of Antoni Gaudí, and toured and listened to a great concert at the inspiring Palau Música Catalana. Barcelona is today one of the world’s leading tourist, economic and cultural and sports centres, and this all contributes to its status as one of the world’s leading cities.

But what about the rest of the title of this blog post? Every time we purchased something material there, the VAT tax was applied, and when I asked someone to explain it, the answer was simple, “It’s how we pay for healthcare.” Consequently, when we walked the streets over that entire weekend, we saw a total of five beggars, and three of them had a Starbucks Cup to catch the falling Euros.

The other things that we saw everywhere were dumpster-style recycling binsBarcelona: color-coded recyclying bins. And not just any bins, either. Very fancy, clean, able-to-be-picked-up-mechanically bins, that were specifically color coded for every imaginable kind of recyclables. Not rocket science, but a comment on community pride, sustainability or climate change, perhaps.

So, we’ve taken care of the creation of a pleasant ambiance on numerous levels with extraordinary architecture, beautiful tree-lined streets, recycling, healthcare, low crime and compassion for fellow human beings. We didn’t see many Mercedes, but we also didn’t see much evidence of poverty, either. The beaches in town were public, and not controlled by exclusive beachfront hotels. Barcelona’s public transportation was a pleasure — clean, comfortable and efficient, with a train to Paris that delivers you there in about three hours…and the Tapas, wine and customer service were all simply amazing.

Nationally, Spain’s unemployment rate hit 21.3%, and they are listed as one of the PIIGS:  Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain…i.e., economically-unsound EU countries. In spite of these huge challenges,  Barcelona was a great city, a great experience, and a great setting with world class arts. So, should we charter an Airbus 380, load up our U.S. Congress, and fly them to Barcelona?

Nah, it wouldn’t help.

Hmm. Maybe we should fly them to Somalia?


The Smurfs and Culture

July 29th, 2011

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

Photo Credit: AP/Richard Drew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


People and Ponies

June 26th, 2011

I’ve been periodically volunteering my weekend time to help establish an equestrian healing center where the horses help to heal the people. Although I’m not particularly connected to horses, I appreciate them and like to watch them run freely through the fields. It’s the people in this particular volunteer leadership group, however, who “make me tick.”

Over the last twenty or more years, I’ve had several opportunities to meet healers. Now, don’t get all “New Age-y” here and run out of the room screaming. These people are “pure of spirit,” and have no ulterior motives, except to help other people navigate through this sometimes relentlessly unforgiving maze that we call life. There are two doctors, an RN, two equestrian specialists and a couple of administrative types like me who simply believe that mankind is somewhat intellectually challenged, and not always capable of grasping anything that is not black and white or concrete and factual.

Surely, with all of the things that we purport to believe in religiously, it seems incomprehensible to me that we, as a group, have problems giving it up to the fact that our brains, our spirits and our hearts don’t or can’t play a larger role than that assigned to us by our Primary Care Physicians or our big Pharma companies. For the most part, we believe in an after-life, we believe in miracles, we believe in goodness, but we have problems understanding how an Autistic kid on a loving, nurturing horse can be helped. It’s because there have not been enough control groups, double blind studies or scientific documentations to support the theory, and typically those scientific theories are only scientific law until they are proven wrong, and that has happened plenty of times.

The freedom of having been a nonmedical, nonclinical, nonscientific healthcare CEO was that “I really didn’t care what made people get better; just so they got better.” Consequently, if a golden retriever licking your hand or a clown bopping you with a sponge hammer, a violinist, a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, a flower essence or aroma therapy specialist, a reiki master or a visit from your grandchild helped you, it was all good to me. Pick your passion and start to heal.

The only real way to describe this philosophy was “Open” because that’s what it was and is. One of the amazing aspects of the collection of healers that have gathered to lay the groundwork to make this amazing dream operational is that they also believe that there is much more to healing than a pill or seven pills, and they are more than willing to be open to the spirit of healing.

Of course, one of the problems with this type of work is that you have to “let go” to allow things to happen, and if you are too into the discipline of concrete and only proven science, you will not let enough of your guard down to see what can happen. The problem is that we’ve all heard about the quacks who almost religiously rip off naïve people with magic elixirs or spiritual interventions like Whoopi Goldberg called forth in the beginning of the movie “Ghosts,” but our collection of healers is filled with people who are sincere, well-trained, highly-credentialed and, believe it or not, open to understanding what may otherwise be ignored by the scientists or the traditional establishment.

So, on we roll in search of others who believe that there may be ways to help people that have not been used for several decades or centuries where the brain leads itself into healing or where the switch that turned the gene on inappropriately can be coerced into reversing that physically destructive non-decision. Life is a journey, and when I look back at all of the people who were helped because of things that sometimes make no sense to anyone else, my only response is “Yeah, that’s right.” It can happen, and with the help of other believers it will happen.


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.


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:

“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:


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.



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!”