Posts Tagged ‘health’

Healing Hospitals

October 18th, 2009

For the past several months, I have been searching for a new blog title. Nick’s Blog, NickJacobs.org, Ask a Hospital President, Taking the Hell out of Healthcare… none of them really told the story of my passion, my drive, my desire to change healthcare in a way that would be meaningful for every patient, every employee, and every physician.  Finally, the idea of what exactly I believe in, try to strive for, and teach hit me:  “Healing Hospitals.” Not only do I believe that we can make our hospitals healing places, I also believe that we can heal the hospitals themselves.

Nick Jacobs - HealingHospitals.com
Nick Jacobs, FACHE – HealingHospitals.com

For too many years, the Socratic style of teaching our docs has basically made many of them as tough as professional football players.  We have experienced “The Old Guard” in nursing, where, when new nurses come on board the older nurses are encouraged to “eat their young.”  We also know that the over-utilization of overhead paging, blood tests in the middle of the night, loud staff members, et al lead to what can only be described as a tense environment.

For the past 20  plus years, we have advocated a kinder, gentler hospital environment.  During that time we have introduced all types of non-traditional healing environments, integrative medicine, roving psychologists, drum circles, aroma, music, pet, and humor therapy as well as the elimination of bullies from the medical staff.

HCD-Cover-10_09These are just a few of the very effective mechanism that can be introduced to create healing environments in hospitals.  Healing gardens, labyrinyths, 24 hour visiting, double beds in the OB suites, and the beat goes on and on with decorative fountains, fireplaces, skylights, balconies, but most importantly dignity and respect amongst all staff and visitors toward patients.  So, “Healing Hospital” has multiple meanings. Healing will take place more quickly, thoroughly, and meaningfully in these facilities, and the entire staff will be charged with the promotion of healing by creating an overall healing environment.

Well, I’m sure if you type in nickjacobs.org or even Ask a Hospital President.com you’ll still get to us, but remember that our overall goal, our direction, our mission, our passion, and our job is to help you to create healing environments where infection rates drop, as will lengths of stay, readmision, restraint and mortality rates.  Call us at SunStone Consulting, LLC.  412-992-6197.

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Planetree or Bust!

October 4th, 2009

Those who have worked with me know that I have been unequivocally one of the most loyal supporters of the Planetree Philosophy of care in the world.

My former place of employment was the third Planetree hospital in the country, after Planetree’s headquarters moved to Griffin (Derby, CT.)  We were the first Planetree hospital in Pennsylvania, and that hospital, Windber Medical Center, is now one of the top ten Planetree-designated sites internationally.  After having served on the Board of Directors of Planetree for nearly eight years, having written literally dozens of blog posts and articles about Planetree,  having taught numerous online seminars for them, contributed a chapter to their latest book, and served on the Planetree Speaker’s Bureau for half a dozen years, I’m back once again with a presentation this Tuesday at the Planetree 2009 conference.  It’s called: Take Care of Your Employees and They Will Take Care of Your Patients.

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Although I was encouraged to retire from the board in order to give newer members their opportunity to participate, and am no longer a part of the Speaker’s Bureau, with no formal ties to the organization anymore, I want to assure you that my experience, passion, and commitment to humanizing healthcare, transparency, creating a nurturing environment for patients and their families could not be stronger.

Since my transition from formally running hospitals full time,  I have immersed myself deeply into the world of  helping hospitals through my consulting practice to achieve the patient, employee, and family satisfaction ratings that ensure top scores in HCHAPS which, in turn, will result in increased business, increased revenue, and increased growth for any organization.

Nick Jacobs, FACHE
Nick Jacobs, FACHE

I am including one of my lastest articles on Integrative Health written for Hospital News.  Remember, if I can help, just call, e-mail or or comment:

Integrative Medicine

Massage, Flower Essences, Spiritual Healing, Drumming, Reiki, Acupuncture, Music, Aroma, Humor, Pet, and Art Therapy; all of these healing practices were formerly referred to as Alternative or Complementary Medicine.  They deserve, however, to be referred to as Integrative Medicine. Because, when we integrate these various disciplines with other contemporary healing methodologies, the results can be amazing.

As a hospital CEO, it brought me great satisfaction to introduce all of these treatments to the healing environment of the hospital.  Many times they came amid intense resistance from both the medical staff, and some members of leadership.  In fact, after nearly 10 years of offering comprehensive exposure to Integrative Medicine, we still had a smattering of nonbelievers.  The only thing questionable about these therapies for a healthcare administrator is that the typical insurance companies don’t cover the costs of all of them and cash payments come into play.

The number of patients coming to our facility had tripled through the emergency room alone as did the overall budget of the entire organization during that time period.  Those “Forest for the Trees” practical leaders still could not bring themselves to give credit to one of the major contributing factors involved in that surge of the hospital’s popularity.  Yes, of course, we also encouraged 24 hour, seven day a week visiting, had guest beds in many patient’s rooms, and served meals to the families on the medical floor where their loved one was a patient. Did all of this combine to the create a healing environment?  Of course it did, but Integrative Medicine was the heart and soul of the difference.

Their skepticism seems to fit into the cycle of questioning the validity of wellness and prevention, two comprehensively established methodologies for improving general health and well-being, proven over centuries of unofficial clinical trials.  Wellness and Prevention works, but because the insurance companies have not yet fully embraced these philosophies, then some still say that they are not valid.  Treating sickness can be as comprehensive as ensuring wellness.  For whatever reason, some of our medical and administrative leaders often confuse reimbursements with healing, and forget to add new patients and additional income from related disciplines like PT and OT to the equation.

As a nonmedical, nonscientist, it was easy for me to understand why the various integrative arts worked so well for our patients and their families.  From the old song, “All You Need is Love,” you could easily enjoy the looks on the faces of those patients and family members who used these treatments to receive sorely needed relief from whatever pain or loneliness they were experiencing.  It doesn’t matter if you’re eighty minutes or eighty years old; touch, nurturing, and love all remain critical in our lives.  Have you seen the statistics on how much better people do with pets than without, or how many babies died in orphanages due to the “failure to thrive?”

None of these ancient arts were created because the scientific method produced FDA approved results in trials of 200,000 or more.  They evolved into centuries old healing arts because they provided relief and help in a time when leeches, bleedings, and a lack of hand washing were the accepted medical treatments.  The tribal shaman, medicine man, healers, and other spiritual leaders all knew what the subtle and not so subtle impact of their work meant to their fellow human beings.

We have casually observed the use of these healing modalities on patients who have experienced restored feelings to otherwise numb feet.

We have seen them relieved from debilitating back pain, healed from hopeless wounds, saved from surgeries due to the opening of blocked intestines through acupuncture.  We have observed psychological breakthroughs from drumming that had never been reached by traditional therapy.  Truthfully, I didn’t care exactly what made our patients better, just that they were better, and the results were dramatic, with an infection rate of 1% or less, a 3.4 day length of stay, a low readmission rate, and the lowest mortality rate for adjusted morbidity in the region.

Remember, “All You Need is Love.”

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What the Heck is Going On?

September 21st, 2009

Over the years it has been my aspiration to try very hard to help you laugh, and, regardless of the depth of the topic, I’ve always looked to find humor somewhere in the message. For example, potty training, Smokey the Bear, flying DVD’s, even old dogs with no tricks.

Today, however, I am writing about an issue that may inflame some of you and prove to be very troubling to others.  It’s not my goal to do either.  I’d just like to bring into focus the crazy stuff that seems to be taking us over, a kind of Bird Brain Flu that doesn’t have a vaccine and that appears to be enveloping our nation.

You see, it is my humble opinion that we as a country have reached a new low point in dumbness.  The wild, inflammatory rhetoric, a/k/a crazy talk that’s being spouted every day, appears to be pushing the fringe players out from under their rocks and their basement fortresses.  This political flu is taking us to levels of foolishness  that are so low that even a Limbo expert couldn’t fit under the broom stick.

Tomtomorrow_GlennBeck_

Have you noticed how open public hatred and outright prejudice has become?  It’s like we’re living a rap song from Gran Torino. Each and every day we hear the ranting of media talking heads leading the charge to endorse this movement.  For those of you who have read my work over the past few years, you know that I personally am repulsed by bullies, by racists, and by those who believe they are superior to other human beings.

The new accusations and sick suggestions that are the current craze are veiled as protests regarding big government, health insurance reform, and a lack of confidence in the ship of state.  What they really seem to be, however, is fear and lack of tolerance for our President.  So what if you don’t like him?  There still have to be some limits and boundaries. Are there any more lines?

I’m telling you, the crazies are coming out from their caves.  Seriously, watch out for them.  Many of these radicals are great examples of why some animals eat their young.

Just last week on a trip to Washington D.C., I had to be evacuated from the Pittsburgh airport because a passenger was carrying a defused hand grenade in his suitcase.  What is the single thought that must be in the mind of any individual who believes that a weapon, even, as it turned out, an inert one, such as that grenade, would be okay to pack for your plane ride?  Let me guess.  That thought was “Duh?”

It seems that every time some poor innocent gets shot in this country, there was some fringe individual who believed that he was not only given permission to take their life, but that there was an overwhelming endorsement of his actions that would somehow vilify him from any prosecution, and reward him with glory.  Does that sound like the Jihadi 72 virgins thing to you?

Yes, we have freedom of speech.  Yes, we have the right to bear arms, but do we have the right to just be nuts in public?  Maybe instead of statins in the water system to control cholesterol, or fluoride to prevent tooth decay, we should start putting Zoloft or some other  selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in that keep the brain from becoming unbalanced.

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What’s wrong with love, kindness, and the golden rule, of doing to your neighbor as you would have them do unto you? Can’t we look for compromise without demonizing those with opposite views?

Can’t we stop endorsing or even worse stop inflaming those with extreme views?  When is enough enough?  When will we return to civility, to compromise, and to brotherhood?  Would you rather have peace, love, and rock ‘n roll, or “Go ahead. Make my day, @#%&+^@#”?

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Healthcare Reform or Health Insurance Reform?

September 12th, 2009

President Obama’s eloquent address to Congress on his proposed changes to the U.S. healthcare system was fraught with ambiguous issues that will certainly provide a feeding frenzy for opponents. When the President stated that “This country’s failure to meet this challenge year after year, decade after decade has lead us to a breaking point,” he was exactly correct. We are the only industrialized nation in the world that has not addressed this challenge.

There are too many people without coverage of any kind who use emergency rooms as their primary care physician. Unfortunately, the difference in cost between a visit to your emergency room vs. a visit to a physician’s office is exponentially different.

Q-tipsIf we, as a country, do not believe that we are paying for these patients in some real way, then we are not cognizant of how the system is being contorted in order to allow hospitals to remain solvent. When you hear individuals complain about the high cost of Q-tips in a hospital, it’s because they are being priced to help cover the losses being incurred from the millions of uninsured.

So, what is it that we must address? When the President said, “Under the present system, due to job loss or illness, many could lose their coverage,” he was totally accurate. Unfortunately, millions of Americans have come to experience this phenomena first hand, and could lose their homes, investments, and their possessions because they have no insurance. So, as President Obama appropriately questioned, “What is the best solution that is both moral and practical and best reflects the ideals and freedoms upon which our country is based?” He was clear to explain that implementation of either a Canadian-style system or an individual based system would both be a radical shift, and each represents extreme positions that would completely change the way healthcare is delivered in this country.

barack-obama-health

So, if we eliminate the extremes and concentrate on compromise, we begin to see signs of conciliation that might be embraced. For example, there appear to be very few people who would argue against providing “more security and stability to those who have health insurance.” The majority of Americans also seem to embrace the concept of providing some type of coverage for those who currently have none.

What the President and most of our elected representatives are avoiding in the conversation is talk about quality, safety, end of life care, wellness, prevention and outcome data.

Nash_inlay
David B. Nash, MD

I had the fortuitous opportunity to hear David B. Nash, MD, MBA and Dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health’s presentation on Population Health. At the risk of misquoting Dr. Nash, I will carefully attempt to touch on only a few of the facts, figures, and points that he made in his analysis of what it would take to fix the system.

One of the most profound points that Dr. Nash made was in seeking the answer to the following question:

What percent of adult Americans do all the following?

  1. Exercise 20 minutes 3x a week
  2. Don’t smoke
  3. Eat fruits and vegetables regularly
  4. Wear seatbelts regularly
  5. Are at appropriate BMI (Body Mass Index)

The answer surprised even this writer. Only 3% of American adults are following all five of these wellness and prevention guidelines, and 40% of deaths are the result of smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and alcohol use. In an interesting analysis of the President’s healthcare speech, finance author  J. André Weisbrod writes: “I see it as a Darwin Awards kind of issue. You are free to be stupid and I am free to not have to pay for your stupidity…”

Bundled payments, end-of-life counseling, evidence-based medicine, an emphasis on quality and systemic approaches to ensuring safety are only a few of the myriad suggestions recommended in Dr. Nash’s presentation.  Bottom line? The third rail of politics is limiting honest, open dialogue regarding reform, and time is running out.

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On Data Breaches

September 4th, 2009

About two years ago, I had a call from my local bank asking if I had purchased a washer and dryer… in Barcelona, Spain. Somewhere, someone had gained access to my credit card number, and used it illegally for that  purchase overseas.

It was not too long after that that another bank informed me that my card had to be canceled because of a data breach at a national chain store where I had purchased some clothing. (I have since come to learn that this data breach has already cost their parent company over $220M.) Then, a few weeks later, another card had to be canceled and re-registered.  Finally, about three months after that, restrictions were placed on still another set of cards due to similar, but entirely unrelated breaches. Three cards, three banks, multiple breaches …and my wallet was still firmly tucked in my back pocket.

Joe Carberry / David Chamberlin / FORBES magazine - data breaches - NickJacobs.org
In a recent article in Forbes Magazine, the facts and figures of this new, growing phenomena were outlined statistically so as to begin to bring some sense to the table regarding what we are facing.  The authors, Joe Carberry and David J. Chamberlin state that “Only 36% of C-level executives are confident their organizations will not suffer data breaches in the  next 12 months.”

As healthcare gears up to go completely electronic, we must remember that there are, for all practical purposes, entire countries dedicating serious efforts to breach the United States data banks.  Hackers are no longer  identified as stereotypical, 98 pound computer savants.  Many of them are professional criminals and terrorists.  As a former CEO, I always had to be cognizant of the risk, then do whatever we felt we could afford to do to help mitigate that risk.  Rarely, however, have I seen any type of comprehensive commitment to a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to this effort.

computer security1_220The laws that address data breaches involve not only civil but also criminal penalties, and the individual laws of various states are most times very different.  It doesn’t matter if your business is located in only one state. What matters is where your customers are from, and if they are a diverse group, you must comply with each
state law regulating breach notification.

SunStone Consulting, LLC, and Immersion Ltd., through their InfoLaunch suite of products, are positioned to assist you to prepare for any type of breach.  As Carberry and Chamberlin state, preparation must involve not only legal, but also communications, the C -suite, and risk management.  They further recommend the following steps:

1. Be prepared

2. Move quickly

3. Take action, and

4. Be responsible.

The  professional reputation damage that could be encountered by the hospital or physician practice that is not responsible, not prepared, slow moving, and not action-oriented can be devastating.

Are you prepared?

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Nine Trillion Dollars in the Hole?

August 22nd, 2009

Let me be the first to admit that I was and am all about change. Change has been the only consistent thing in my life.  Today, however, when the deficit projection was revealed to be nine trillion dollars over the next ten years, my non-economist mind began to wonder where this is all going?

My son-in-law is coming home in the next several days from a one year deployment that saw him in harms way in Iraq for the last eight months, and now we all sit with our fingers crossed that we will not be facing a similar deployment not too many months from now to Afghanistan.

How does one maintain two wars, keep soldiers stationed post-World War II in Italy, Germany, and Turkey, to name a few, and in South Korea plus continuing to remain in Iraq, and now push more and more into Afghanistan without bankrupting this country?  Is it possible that very very smart people are not capable of figuring out that in a down economy, the finances will continue to go south until we are, like the USSR in the Cold War, going broke?

When do we begin to see that the previous several administrations lead us into a mindset of borrowing against our future to the extent that we may not have a future, and when will we say, “Okay, enough, let’s stop feeding trillions into wars, and start trying to figure out the rest of this economic equation?”  It clearly is no longer a war on terror, but what is it?  If it is an economic war intended to create jobs a.k.a., the argument for or against the F-22 cuts, can’t we find a better way?

health_debate_specterThe people who seem the most upset about the health care debate are clearly the people who have healthcare, and the people who are least likely to speak out are the young women and children who have no coverage.  Not only will they not speak out, they also don’t, for the most part, vote.  If anyone believes that we are not in some way paying for the 46 or 47 million uninsured now, they are clearly delusional.  Ask a hospital CEO how much the facility charges for an aspirin or a Q-tip.  It’s not because these items cost so much more in a hospital setting, it’s because there is not enough money to go around when patient after patient presents at their doors without healthcare coverage.

We have acquiesced to AIG, to the very large banking institutions, to the automobile manufactures, and to numerous major financial houses.  We have placed billions of our tax dollars into their hands and have watched as their CEO’s, like that of AIG, continue to make millions in salaries with millions more in bonuses.  We have continued to wage wars that were clearly called “Republican Wars” during the last administration, and have no name now.  And we are watching our Social Security and Medicare accounts dwindle more quickly than anyone could ever have imagined.

Far be it from me to take a political stand on such complex economic matters, but it does seem very certain that our futures are tied inextricably together and, unless we slow down our expenditures, find ways to be more fiacally responsible, and, take care of our fellow man, we seem to be heading down a very destructive path.  Alan Greenspan’s admission of missing the economic targets of not too many years ago rings in my ears as he said, “I underestimated the greed.”  Maybe we have all underestimated the greed for too long.

As a professional giver of advice, let me conclude by saying that we can make this work. We can pull back the reins, slow the spending, and still move the economy.  It’s no different than managing our own personal economics; live below your means, save, take care of the necessities, and realize that not all belts can wrap around a 44″ waist. But all of this takes some serious discipline, something that our leaders seem to have been missing for a very long time.  We can’t continue to talk our way out of trouble;  serious, positive action is the key.

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Thinking at the Beach

August 13th, 2009

In January, my journey to create a new division for SunStone Consulting, LLC, began, and, with the economy in a deep slump, it appeared to be a journey fraught with almost insurmountable challenges.  How does one begin a new division during a time when most organizations were digging deeply into self-preservation mode?

Photo credit: Generation Y Travel
Outer Banks, NC | Photo credit: Generation Y Travel

The first concept that we explored was to help organizations, groups, councils, and associations assist their members while providing either a stream of income or discounts for these organizations.  Several companies responded positively to this idea: Chambers of Commerce, Hospital organizations, and others signed on for involvement in these relationships.

By March, nearly 20 companies had come on board and 12 more have followed since then.  We brought on two additional marketing specialists to assist us with these contacts.  The areas of interest ranged from Environmental to Government; software to construction projects, from hazardous waste to  fund raising, building quality initiatives into employee job descriptions; and economic development to educational training for management.

Once it was clear that this component of the new division was going to be functional and effective, we placed our focus and emphasis on direct consulting, which, due to the economy, was a much greater challenge.  This effort started very slowly as organization after organization expressed sincere interest but most also faced serious budgetary challenges.  Of course, for SunStone Consulting’s other financial divisions, because they specialize in finding the money that typically was already earned by the hospital or assisting with compliance and billing issues, business remained strong.

telemedicine_connectsDuring this time some very interesting assignments appeared including:  a university wellness program, multiple brain-oriented companies, as well as two PTSD, and two combat wound injury-related programs.  This part of the new division is now beginning to flourish with assignments ranging from the military to a hospital-based disaster recovery center, from telemedicine in rural hospitals to development efforts in Indiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and California.

As we move forward into this next quarter, it is clear that the new division will produce results through rewarding relationships for all companies involved.

Some of you have asked me how this effort relates to having been a hospital CEO, and that answer is clear.  As a CEO, my days were filled with challenges, with literally dozens of special efforts emanating from numerous areas.  For example, here is a typical  list of topics dealt with on a CEO’s agenda:   meetings regarding the following:

  • Community Fitness Center
  • Tissue Repository
  • Breast Center
  • Hospice
  • OB department expansion
  • Pharmacy
  • Operating Rooms scheduling
  • Emergency Department
  • a construction project
  • marketing efforts for a new initiative
  • finance

If you can’t multi-task, the position of CEO is not a place to be, and keeping up with these consulting clients is just as stimulating.

By March, nearly 20 companies had come on board and 12 more have followed since then.  We brought on two additional marketing specialists to assist us with these contacts.
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Non-traditional Thinking Pays Off

July 19th, 2009
health_montageWho would ever consider having 24-hour ’round-the-clock family visiting in a hospital; beds for loved ones to stay overnight; deli-style counters on the patient floors to serve hot meals to loved ones, patients, and staff; popcorn machines in the lobbies; bread baking in the hallways; live music, massage, aroma, pet, humor, and drumming therapy; decorative fountains; and special mammography gowns for modesty? We did, and that was over 12 years ago. Our patient population tripled through the emergency room. The budget tripled, and the number of employees almost tripled.

At a lecture I once attended, Dr. Leland Kaiser said, Give me the creative leader every time. They will always win over the traditional one.”

Well, yesterday, I met a creative leader. This young business entrepreneur was only about 34 years old. He owned a construction business that specialized in concrete. You know, poured basements, slabs, sidewalks, and driveways. When we discussed the current business climate, he smiled and said, “I’ve done okay.” Well, we all know that the construction business is literally on the skids right now and has been since the crash last year. NPR news ran a segment on Thursday about the 12,000 new government jobs being created in the Washington DC/Northern VA area. Seemed like good news until they said that these jobs represented only about a third of the more than 30,000 construction jobs that had been lost to date there.

When I asked our young rock star how he did it, he smiled and said, “I got this idea.” The number of times that those words have come out of my mouth is virtually immeasurable. Yet someone else has later described the related actions as an accidentally brilliant strategy. My response to him was, “So, what was the idea?” He smiled and said, “As soon as I got a bill, I paid it, that day, that minute, that instant.” As an employee of an accounting-type firm, my mind began to race with the traditional thoughts of “Oh, my gosh, how foolish. He could be getting interest on his money for 30, 60, or even 90 days, and he is paying his bills when they arrive?,” I thought to myself.

He then began to explain the outcome of his decision. “My suppliers love me, and because they don’t have to add in late fees, collection costs, lost interest, or simply lost money from late or uncollectable accounts receivable, this practice got their attention. Because they, in his words, “loved him,” he was able to negotiate better pick-up times for the concrete. This made him more flexible and productive as the trucks arrived at 8:00 AM with the morning’s first load of cement. The suppliers were also willing to negotiate lower prices for him than they could for the other contractors with whom he competed. Why? Because he paid them promptly every time.

He then went on to say that because his costs were lower than the other contractors, he could lower his prices to the builders with whom he wanted to do serious business, and, instead of the six or eight regulars that kept him going in the good times, he was now able to attract about 28 builders who wanted to work with him because he was on time, did good work, and, of course, was less expensive.

So, when he told me that he was doing okay, it meant that none of his employees had lost their jobs, his income had not gone down, and his business was virtually booming in an economy that has meant bankruptcy for more traditional construction oriented businesses. The really great news, however, is that this guy is a long lost, distant cousin about whom I had never known until just a month ago. So, I guess creativity runs in the family. Oh, yeah, and he’s a heck of a musician, too. Seems like Leland was right.

A Blueprint for Transformational Change: Nick Jacobs’ 2009 Graduate School address at St. Francis University’s 2009 commencement ceremonies

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Don’t Drink the Water?

July 8th, 2009

Ever wonder about this whole water, nutrition, thrown-away-or-passed-through-pill thing?  I was talking to a friend who was explaining her box filled with powered, bio accessible supplements to me.   You know, the kind you drink in a milk shake in the morning.  She explained that her house had a septic system and that the annual visit by the septic maintenance truck was usually an occasion to discuss topics that the rest of us don’t get into on any given day.  Interestingly, she asked the septic  guy if things have changed “down there” over the years. (I know, I know. Too much information.)

His answer was terse.  He said, “Yep, all we see now when we start our work is pills, undigested pills.”  I’ve written blog posts about the lack of filtration capability built (or not built) into our water purification systems, and suggested that you move to Chicago if you have high cholesterol because there are so many lipids in the water.

Nicholas D. Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times has always been one of my literary heroes.  His coverage of Darfur, his reports on the Iraq war, Afghanistan, China, and gender rights issues have all captured my attention and admiration.  His column last Sunday in The New York Times, It’s Time to Learn from Frogs, was deeply disturbing and raised issues that should capture not only our imaginations but also should tickle our most profound concerns.

three legged frog
Photo credit: Discovery Channel/TreeHugger.com

For those of you who did not read it, the basic thesis was one of caution as we see our amphibian friends sprouting extra legs and some developing stunted genitals, while some of their fish companions are devolving into intersex fish that display female characteristics and produce eggs.  The reason for these changes is being attributed to a class of chemicals that scientists refer to as endocrine disruptors.  Some are passed into the environment through the urine of human females on estrogen treatments.  Although these theories for the disruptive changes in nature are still only theories, we have also begun to see a serious percentage of male babies  (7%) being born with undescended testicles and 1 percent being born with the urethra exiting the penis improperly.  Obesity may also be impacted by chemicals that contributors.

As the founder and former CEO of a research institute, our scientists constantly reminded me that 75% of our cancers were produced from the environment.  As we saw completely substantiated reasons in our economy to add man-made chemicals to retard spoilage, discourage bug infestations, and produce larger chicken breasts, or more attractive fruits and vegetables, the cascade of potential consequences caused by these decisions were never really known to us.

Mr. Kristof ends his op-ed by stating that “Those deformed frogs and intersex fish – not to mention the growing number of deformities in newborn boys-should jolt us once again.”

Could someone pass the “Fresh Mountain Spring Water?”  Oh, yeah, the one that’s full of heavy metals from the acid rains.  You know, that Grey Goose is looking better every day.

For further reading:

What Are Endocrine Disruptors?

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Healthcare Reform? Blow it up, and Start from Scratch!

June 20th, 2009

Healthcare Reform? The premise and the incentives are wrong.  We treat sickness (which can be a good thing), however, we do it to the almost total exclusion of encouraging and incenting wellness. While in the Netherlands a few years ago, I asked a very comfortably-situated business person why she and her entire family all rode bikes. She smiled and explained that the millions of bikes in the Netherlands are a way of life because they keep people healthy.  Of course, we don’t have to ride bikes, but why not?  “It is much less costly.  It gets us where we want to go, and it is so much better for our bodies,” she said.

Photo credit: Amsterdamize
Photo credit: Amsterdamize

After going to doctor after doctor in my early thirties and then again in my early forties for a recurring and seriously painful back problem, someone suggested a Chicago-trained chiropractor.  After a very quick, one time manipulation, he said, “Follow me, please.”  When we descended the stars of his office, in front of me was literally an entire homemade work out facility.  This particular center seemed to emphasize strength training.   The Doc walked me over to a row of three machines and said, “If you use these three machine or their equivalent, just the way I show you, you will never have to come back here again.”  Then he said, “Oh, and if you drop fifteen pounds, you may be able to get off those blood pressure pills, stop taking that stomach medicine, and feel better about yourself in the process.”

The Dr. Dean Ornish Coronary Artery Disease Reversal Program is completely about health and prevention.  It is about wellness; treating yourself with the love and respect that you deserve, being kind to yourself, yet being disciplined enough to get you where you need to be in order to enjoy a healthy, pain free life.

We spend only 4% of our health care dollars on prevention.  That may sound like a lot to some of you, but do the math.  Take 4% and multiple it times $2.2 trillion …or possibly soon $3 or $4.0 trillion.  Every physician should endorse a workout facility and work to send you there, and every physician should receive bonuses for having you use it.  A primary care physician in Britain can make about $320K a year, which includes incentives directed toward encouraging healthy living for their patients.  Our primary care docs make, what, $130,000, $150,000, $180,00 in comparison?   Would you really care if your physician could make almost twice as much if you were living a wonderful, healthful, reduced stress life?

There is absolutely NO DOUBT in my mind that the reason I’m typing this here today and not deceased at age 58, like my father, is because of the work of people like Drs. Ornish, Benson, Jonas, and Weil.   It is not because of my old donut shop, the nachos and cheese, the automobiles, my Lazy Boy, or the grueling work habits that we Americans think of as normal.

And what about death?  I have to tell you that death happens to all of us.  (Sorry.)  When it happens may depend a great deal upon our recognition of that fact, but it is not avoidable.  So, why is it that we, as a society, reject death as evil, and ignore its possible existence?  How could we cut billions and billions of wasted healthcare dollars?  Hospice is the answer.  Don’t commission oncologists for drug use when there is absolutely no hope that the patient will live.  Don’t pay radiologists for radiation treatments that will not work in preventing death.  Don’t reward hospitals financially for readmission after readmission for people who should have been told to mark  their DNR’s months earlier.  Face death as part of life.

healthy_food

Finally, look at the food and restaurant industry.   For every restaurant or food company that pulls a killer food and replaces it with the reasonable alternatives, reward them through the $3 or $4 trillion health budget.  You can buy veggie hot dogs on the streets of Toronto.  (Try Morning Star Farms brand veggie hot dogs.  They rock.)

In closing; diet, exercise, stress management, balanced lives, less capitalistic rewarding of killer diets, higher reimbursements in healthcare for the “right stuff,” and acknowledgement that this will eventually end, can make it all work so much better, so much cheaper, so much easier.  Did you have your pneumonia shot yet?  Well, actually, you may not need one if you start taking care of yourself.  I’m going downstairs to workout now.

Next time?  Tort reform.

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