Healing Hospitals: Get ready… Get set…

November 25th, 2009 by Nick Jacobs Leave a reply »

One of Johnny Carson’s funniest ongoing “bits” (He was the guy who hosted The Tonight Show before Jay Leno) was that of Carnac the Magnificent.  Carnac was a psychic with a large elaborate turban and a plethora of envelopes, all of which were “hermetically sealed” and had been kept in “a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnalls’ porch since noon” that day.  Johnny would hold each envelope up to his head and give the answer to the question that was sealed in the envelope.

Carnac’s answer: “Sis, boom, bah.”

The question: “What sound does a sheep make when it explodes?”

Well, here’s my version.

Carnac:  “The Baby Boomers will begin to speak more and more feverishly about their wants, likes, and dislikes relative to hospital care.”

The question would be: “What will eventually make you kiss your job good-bye?”

I’m sorry.  I know it wasn’t funny, but the point is that patient choice, patient transparency, patient dignity,  billing simplicity, and — most importantly — loving, nurturing patient care and improvements in every level of quality will become the demanded norm.  Remember, we Boomers have never been laid back.  Ours is a generation of demanding “I” driven professionals who have influenced the way blue jeans are made (i.e., to fit our pear-shaped butts).  We’ve invented levels of debt that were not even thought of before.  We have influenced drug use, stock market use; you name it.  What makes any of you think that you are out of the woods with us?


It’s my further prediction that those hospitals that do not follow the path of creating healing hospitals will struggle and many may not survive.  We Boomers will contribute to more bankruptcies and closings than even the Balanced Budget Amendment.

We’ve been watching the hundreds of hospitals out there that are marching in lock step to the past re: patient care.  It’s like observing a physician who doesn’t even try to be nice to his patients.  A year or so into the practice, they come into the president’s office and say, “Why am I not making my financial goals?”   If things don’t become softer, more gentle, more humane, our patients will vote with their feet.

Oh, sure, you may have five or so years before the dominant players, the Boomers, take over, but, believe me when I tell you that the vast majority of businesses “on the financial bubble” right now are filled with employees who have either bad or no attitudes.  Those “It’s not my job” attitudes.

Now-closed Circuit City I have carefully observed organizations like Circuit City transition from model companies to bankrupt companies.  They changed their incentive methodologies for their employees, stopped listening to them, and stood back and watched as those same employees undermined their sales by saying things like, “I don’t care what you buy.  My check doesn’t change either way.”

Walk through your hospital, and take a good look at what is going on in each department.  Are your registration people friendly and kind?  Are they sensitive to the frail elderly, young, and frightened?  Are your techs polite, nurturing, caring?  Is the receptionist friendly on the phone, or do they throw everyone into voice mail hell?  How is your executive staff?  Are they parent-to-child leaders? Reality is what is happening; not what you think is happening.

Get yourself a secret shopper or two and let them work your system.  It can be a real eye opener, a  hard dose of reality.  Are your Press Ganey scores lower than a typical prison hospital?  Do your employee surveys reflect their love and respect for their fellow employees or for their job?  Are they proud to work at your facility?  Most importantly, would they recommend your hospital to their friends and families or would they recommend it as a place of employment for their peers?

If I haven’t captured your imagination yet, maybe you’re too hardened by the present.  I heard a PBS interview today where a Pakistani land owner said that when he tried to get his men to work together to carry larger quantities of dirt from one place to another, they refused and insisted that the bucket was the only way they had ever done it. They then told him that change is too dangerous.  Check your buckets.  Make sure they don’t end up empty.



  1. PGsucks says:

    I have heard about the amount of amount of money PG makes off hospitals for these simplified surveys and “consultative services”. They make their money off of hospital executives wanting to brag about their scores. On the back-end they get enormous discounts from the postal service and paper suppliers. This really is capitalism at its best and healthcare at its worst. My advice – write your own surveys and use the money on real improvements, like cleaner facilities, more staff or better service. This is a no-brainer to me – and my friend who quit there.

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