Posts Tagged ‘healthcare industry’

Rob and Lisa Werner: Healthcare in a War Zone

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

In the latest episode of the Chuck Lauer Show, presented by Alter+Care, the former publisher of Modern Healthcare discusses providing healthcare in a war zone with Rob and Lisa Werner, who spent nearly four years living in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2009 and working in healthcare.

At first, the Werners settled in Mazar i Sharif, Afghanistan’s fourth largest city, where Rob worked in tuberculosis control.  In that capacity he worked with community-based programs applying government initiatives to cure patients.  After 1 ½ years, Rob was offered a job as advisor to the manager of a women’s hospital in Kabul to oversee a grant that funded the creation of vital new programs.

Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest child and mother mortality rates, underscoring a need for improved maternal care.  At that dime one in six women would die due to complications of childbirth.  Only 13 percent of babies were delivered in hospitals or with any sort or trained medical personnel, such as midwives.  During her time in Afghanistan Lisa didn’t meet one woman who had not lost a child in her family.  One in four children would die before the age of five.  The medical priorities seem very basic to Americans familiar with modern healthcare delivery.  According to Rob, “Before we set up an oncology center, we said, we should do something about all the kids dying of diarrhea.”

Medical education is not entirely absent from Afghanistan.  For example, there is the Kabul Medical University and a few smaller schools elsewhere in the country.  The level of education they provide varies widely.  Many aspiring physicians study in Pakistan because the facilities there are better, and there are more medical resources.  Afghani nurses tend to function as patient attendants and have minimal exposure to such disciplines as pharmacology.

Although Afghanistan has been at war for decades – with the Russians in the 1980s, various warlords in the 1990s and the Taliban through 2001 – the Werners may one day return.  Their three young children are in favor of it.  In Kabul, the Werners lived in an Afghan neighborhood where most people were going about their business and daily lives.  According to Rob, “Once we got over there and got to know people we found that they are just like us – they want to raise their kids, send them to school, see them get a good education and job, marry and have kids of their own.  The majority just want to live a peaceful life.”

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

The Beryl Companies and The Beryl Institute: Beyond the Bedside Manner

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

In the second episode of the Chuck Lauer Show, presented by Alter+Care, the former publisher of Modern Healthcare discusses enhancing patient outcomes with Paul Spiegelman, Founder and CEO of The Beryl Companies, and Dr. Jason Wolf, Executive Director, of The Beryl Institute.  The Beryl Institute is the home for professionals committed to improving the patient experience and developing high performance healthcare organizations.

According to Spiegelman, he began the business with his brothers in 1986 as a bootstrap 24/7 operation whose goal was – and remains — to improve the patient experience.  Spiegelman provided outsourced call-center services to hospitals across the country to match potential patients with healthcare providers.  Although many perceive call centers as a low-morale, high-attrition, low-margins, boiler room commodity operation, Spiegelman was determined to operate his business differently.  Today, Beryl is the nation’s largest company in its niche and is five to six times more profitable than its competition.  Additionally, employee attrition is a fraction of a typical call-center environment.  Thanks to its circle of growth, Beryl has won nine awards for being one of the best places to work in America.

Spiegelman applies that attitude to their work with hospitals and other healthcare providers to assure a better patient experience and enhanced outcomes.  Their philosophy is that hospital employees who are treated with respect are more productive and minister to patients more effectively.  According to Spiegelman, “The question is, how do customers understand this and give you credit for that?  Do they understand the connection between culture and driving better service for them?”

Wolf suggests that one priority is to adopt a simple but specific definition of the patient experience as the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care (The Beryl Institute).  The focus is well beyond the clinical setting to the entire continuum of care.  This encompasses how physicians act towards the patient and how effectively nurses communicate.  A recent benchmarking study from The Beryl Institute has shown that patient experience and safety are top priorities for healthcare leaders, yet only one-third of all healthcare organizations in the U.S. currently define what a patients’ experience should be, one reason why it was important for The Beryl Institute to fashion its own unique definition.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

Ben Cutler: An Insurance Industry CEO Responds to Healthcare Reform

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Is the healthcare insurance industry the scapegoat for rising premiums?  In the inaugural episode of the Chuck Lauer Show,  presented by Alter+Care, the former publisher of Modern Healthcare Magazine talked about the insurance industry’s take on healthcare reform with Ben Cutler, Chairman and CEO of USHEALTH Group, Inc., who previously led Fortis Healthcare.  Cutler currently serves on AHIP’s Executive Committee, serves on AHIP’s Board and is also the Chairman of AHIP’s Membership Committee.  The Chuck Lauer Show is an ongoing conversation about the future of healthcare with the leaders and thinkers who are shaping a new direction for healthcare in the United States. 

Cutler, who has spent more than 30 years in the healthcare insurance industry, recalled the ongoing national debate that began nearly 20 years over HillaryCare with the objective of how to provide universal coverage for the more than 50 million uninsured Americans.  Cutler believes that the Obama administration has chosen to focus on access and doesn’t sufficiently address affordability issues.  Healthcare industry groups recognized that the day would come when reform would be a top-line issue and that we would not be well served by just saying “no”.  Cutler says “We’ve worked hard on positioning the industry to accommodate reforms and tried to be very accommodating because getting more people covered is a laudable objective.”

As the healthcare reform bill was drafted, it soon became clear that the insurance industry would have a problem with some of the issues.  Unfortunately, according to Cutler, the politicians decided they needed an enemy and “that turned out to be us.  We continue to be vilified as an industry”, a situation that could – and should — have been avoided.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will have some unintended consequences in terms of how the legislation will affect the behavior of various stakeholders who comprise the healthcare economy – consumers, providers, insurers, regulators, etc.  It is inevitable that the insurance industry will have to raise rates if they are to comply with the healthcare law, which essentially constitutes a new tax on the American people.

Cutler cites the example of the $5 billion set aside to subsidize people in high-risk pools.  The government estimated that by this time, upwards of 500,000 individuals would be enrolled in these pools.  So far, just 8,000 people have signed up, an example of where government expectations were totally unrealistic.  Additionally, there is the issue of pre-existing conditions, which the government has characterized as an industry-abusive position, and one which relates to affordability of coverage.  According to Cutler, if people buy homeowners’ insurance only after their house catches fire, the premium obviously would be higher.

RIP: The Senate’s Liberal Lion and Healthcare Reform Champion

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

ted-kennedy-dies-001Ted Kennedy’s passing deprives President Obama of a critical political ally in his efforts to reform healthcare.  In his role as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee, Kennedy fought tirelessly for decades to reform a system that today deprives 47 million Americans of affordable, accessible healthcare coverage.

In The Guardian, Michael Tomasky notes that, “The heavens somehow conspired to make this Kennedy death, however expected it might have been, nearly as heartbreaking as those of his vigorous younger brothers.  It’s not just that the great cause of the last 40 years of his life, reforming America’s healthcare system, sits at a perilous juncture, although it certainly is that, in part.  But the tragic irony of the timing is even greater, because we see in the very healthcare debate that so needed his input the precarious state of the institution to which he devoted his life, and which he shaped and influenced more than probably any other senator in history.”

Kennedy, writing in the July 27, 2009, Newsweek, declared that healthcare reform is “the cause of my life”. “In 1973, when I was first fighting in the Senate for universal coverage, we learned that my 12-year-old son Teddy had bone cancer.  He had to have his right leg amputated above the knee.  The pathology report showed that some of the cancer cells were very aggressive.  I decided his best chance for survival was a clinical trial involving massive doses of chemotherapy,” according to Kennedy.

“During those many hours at the hospital, I came to know other parents whose children had been stricken with the same deadly disease.  We all hoped that our child’s life would be saved by this experimental treatment.  Because this was part of a clinical trial, none of us paid for it.  Then the trial was declared a success and terminated before some patients had completed their treatments.  That meant families had to have insurance to cover the rest or pay for them out of pocket.  Our family had the necessary resources as well as excellent insurance coverage.”

Other heartbroken parents were not able to pay for the continued treatment and that made Kennedy realize that “No parent should suffer that torment.  Not in this country.  Not in the richest country in the world.”  So passionate was Kennedy that Americans have access to healthcare that he often paid for others’ treatment out of his own pocket when they could not afford it.

Kennedy made healthcare reform his lifelong passion, vowing “We will end the disgrace of America as the only major industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee healthcare for all of its people.”

Wherever you stand on the issue, there is no doubt that Kennedy was a great senator, a statesman that Republicans and Democrats respected and emulated.  He did not live to see the healthcare bill passed, but perhaps his death will quell partisan dissension and bring us closer to a solution.

Healthcare Industry Offers Cost Savings

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Healthcare providers will slash up to $1.7 trillion in costs over the next 10 years by enhancing the care of chronic diseases, reorganizing administrative procedures and eliminating unnecessary treatments.medical_bill

This is a sneak peak at how healthcare systems, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, medical device manufacturers and other stakeholders plan to respond to President Barack Obama’s request that the industry find ways to control patient costs.  Among the American Medical Association’s (AMA) suggestions are cutting overused – and often unnecessary — procedures, such as Caesarean sections.  The savings are crucial to funding the Obama administration’s proposed health system overhaul.

A new White House study states that reforming healthcare will increase the nation’s GDP by two percent in 2020 and eight percent in 2030, cut unemployment and save families an average of $2,600 a year by 2020.  Without healthcare reform, the number of uninsured Americans will rise to 72 million by 2040, compared with 46 million today.

Christina Romer, chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, said “The one thing that’s happened relative to the 1990s is the nightmare scenario is getting closer.”  Other recommendations include reducing medical errors, using common insurance forms, improving physician performance standards, readmitting fewer patients to hospitals, improving drug development efficiency and expanding in-home care for patients with long-term illnesses.

Charles S. Lauer: Defining Leadership in Healthcare

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

lauertrilogylarge1The healthcare industry has lost its soul, and must return to its roots of healing people.  This is the opinion of Charles S. Lauer, the retired publisher of Modern Healthcare magazine, best-selling author, and an acclaimed lecturer on leadership and success in the healthcare industry.

In a recent interview for the Alter+Care Podcasts on Healthcare (hyperlink here), Lauer states that healthcare has become a business.  As a result, hospital CEOs must have great financial acumen, but a focus on healthcare financial metrics can take a leader away from the core mission of healthcare.

When asked to identify an individual who demonstrates real leadership in healthcare, Lauer cites Dr. Edward Eckenhoff, who is the founder, President and CEO of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C.  A paraplegic since a college auto accident, Eckenhoff is working to teach seriously injured war veterans how to walk again.

The Pharmacist Is In.

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Another sign of the healthcare industry’s growth trajectory is the news that Roosevelt University is opening a College of Pharmacy at its Schaumburg, IL, campus.  According to Dean George MacKinnon III, the college’s initial courses will begin in the fall of 2011 and enroll approximately 65 students.

Pharmacology is a high-demand, well-paying field, thanks to the aging American population and the healthcare industry’s increasing dependence on prescription drugs.  The United States spends $986 million annually on prescription42-18496211 drugs – the highest in the world.  Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that pharmacy jobs will grow by 22 percent between 2006 and 2016 – a rate that translates to solid career prospects in a demanding field.

Michael Patton, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, notes that the shortage of qualified pharmacists means that new graduates can easily find $100,000 a year jobs with very little effort.  They may be aggressively recruited by nationally branded pharmacy companies that offer lucrative incentive packages such as signing bonuses and student loan repayment programs.

Roosevelt is speeding up the training process by offering a three-year program versus the traditional four-year curriculum.  With tuition expected to run between $30,000 and $40,000 per year, this will let new pharmacists enter the workforce sooner rather than later.

I’ve Got One Word for You – “Healthcare”

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

If Benjamin Braddock graduated from340x1 college today, the clueless Mr. Robinson would likely tell him to go into healthcare – not plastics — as he advised the befuddled young man in the classic 1967 movie “The Graduate”.

Although the economy is shedding jobs at an alarming rate, the healthcare industry added 371,600 jobs during 2008.  That momentum has not slowed, despite the fiscal crisis and recession.  While the economy lost 1.9 million jobs during the fourth quarter of 2008, healthcare added 93,200 jobs.  Hospitals hired 11,900 new workers in December, bringing the nation’s total hospital workforce up to approximately 4.71 million.  Physicians’ offices hired 5,600 more staff, bringing that workforce up to nearly 2.3 million employees.

Ambulatory-care centers saw 1,100 jobs vanish during December, a 0.2 percent loss.  Still, that fast-growing sector grew to 521,700 jobs during all of 2008, a 1.7 percent increase compared with the previous year.

“The only major private industry sector that continued to add a significant number of jobs was healthcare”, notes Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to a new Ernst & Young study on business risk, the global war for talent will be top of the mind for CEOs.  Nowhere will this be more evident than in healthcare.  There remains a chronic shortage of surgeons and family-practice doctors.  Part of this is because U.S. medical schools held enrollment to 16,000 students a year from 1980 to 2005, fearing a glut of doctors under managed care.  Perhaps the hiring by hospitals is a correction to 25 years of no-growth within certain specialties and the continuing dearth of nurses.