Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Wishes

As we look forward to New Year’s Eve and the dawning of another new year, many of us are probably contemplating our New Year’s resolutions. We will start the year freshly focused on the habits we would like to improve or on learning new skills in order to continually shape ourselves into the men and women we would like to become.

It strikes me once again that our pursuit of excellence in our CHRISTUS facilities and business groups is much the same as keeping a New Year’s resolution. Resolutions are kept not by making one initial decision, but by making many decisions in the days to come.

For instance, I bet that many of us will resolve this year to eat healthier and lose some weight. It is clear, though, that we don’t lose weight just by deciding on Jan. 1 that we will. No, we lose weight by increasing our physical activity every single day and by eating healthier foods at each and every snack and mealtime. It is the small, daily decisions that help us to reach our goals and fulfill our resolutions.

In the same way, it is the choices we make each and every day that help CHRISTUS achieve excellence. It is taking a few extra minutes to ensure a patient truly understands his or her treatment. It is double-checking our work to ensure that we are administering the correct dose or submitting correct facts and figures each and every time. It is taking a moment to speak to a resident or coworker who may need to hear a kind word.

Yes, excellence—just as our New Year’s resolutions—is achieved in small, incremental victories every day, and is therefore within reach for each and every one of us.

Best wishes to you and your families for a peaceful and happy new year. May God continue to bless our ministry.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Message

The lighted trees and glittering decorations assure one that the holiday season has arrived. The traditional Christmas shopping begins in preparation for the much-awaited gift-giving among family and friends. As we ponder some of the greatest gifts we have been given, it is probably the reality that the image of a watch, piece of jewelry, or even a bottle of cologne or sweater could quickly pop into our minds. However, after more reflection, it could be possible that for all of us – as members of the CHRISTUS family – we are reminded of the gift we received with the birth of Jesus centuries ago. Because of this, today we have not only the privilege but the awesome responsibility of carrying out His healing ministry in our acute, non-acute and international ministries – our Mission.

Speaking of gifts, I was recently given a coin by Fernando Ferraro, the first CEO of CHRISTUS Muguerza, who now works part-time with Peter Maddox in exploring international business development opportunities. This special coin reminded Fernando of the original call of Bishop Dubuis and the value of mission as he writes in the coin’s story, which follows:

The Value of a Mission

In a community high in the mountain called Pena Nevada in northern Mexico, a poor farmer named Homero, my friend, came to me and placed a coin in my hand. He asked, "How much is this coin worth?"

I looked at it and read the script that was written in English on the top of the coin’s face.

“No cash value.”

Then, I turned the coin over and saw a funny clown face stamped on the other side.

Immediately, I realized that this coin was a token coin that came from an amusement park or a fair playground and it is used to pay for children’s rides and games. I answered Homero, saying that this coin did not have any monetary value.

After answering him, he smiled and said, "I give you this coin as a present." I smiled back and thanked him for this gift. Later on, I learned the great spiritual value of this coin.

Many thoughts came to mind as I was flipping the coin, scrutinizing its two faces.

I realized that when you have a mission in life or a path to accomplish, this is a duty, and the duty has come from our faith or our conscience. This mission of duty has "no cash value," which means that these actions are fulfilling a spiritual goal. These goals do not give back any monetary rewards during our lives and that it’s a duty that makes us, by choice, fulfill and accomplish it.

In my opinion, missions in CHRISTUS Health can be paid with these illustrative coins and they should always be, figuratively speaking, in our pockets or wallets to remind us of our commitment to this mission and our spiritual goals.

I recognized another message on the other side of the coin with the funny clown face. This image told me that we have to see our mission with a child’s mind, without discrimination of any kind, with a joyful spirit, having fun with what we do even if it means making a choice or sacrifice, always looking for the feeling of joy as the result of serving. We have to see our mission from a child’s point of view and child’s heart.

Rabindranath Tagore’s poem summarizes the essence of our mission.

"I slept and dreamt that life was joy, I awoke and saw that life was service, I acted and behold, service was joy."

God has created everything, including our mission, and in making our mission joyful, we bless all creation and ourselves as well; that is why we [serve], because we have been blessed already.

Isn't a mission that compels us to perform worthwhile service perhaps the greatest gift we can receive during this holiday season? As we journey toward CHRISTUS’ 11th birthday on Feb. 1, 2010, may we all give thanks for a mission that calls us to serve; patients, consumers and residents who trust us with their health and often their very lives and the blessing of extending compassionate care to our neighbors in their time of need.

On behalf of the senior team, I wish for all of you and your families and loved ones a joyous Christmas season and for the new year of 2010 to be filled with much peace and happiness.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Health care reform at a critical juncture

Discussions on health care reform continue in the Senate, which may be on target to meet its self-imposed deadline of passing a bill by Christmas. Of course this will not be the last word—the Senate bill and House bills must be reconciled before a final bill reaches the President’s desk, so a definite picture of a final bill is still a ways off.

However, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Americans are cooling to health care reform as the debate continues to drag on. The poll found that just 37 percent of those polled believed that the quality of their care would be better under a new system constructed by reform, while 50 percent see it as better under the current set up.

I find this dichotomy interesting. I know without a doubt that miracle moments occur in our U.S. health care facilities every day. However, it is widely reported that the American health care system falls behind the health systems in other developed nations. The Commonwealth Fund’s 2007 report, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: An International Update on the Comparative Performance of American Health Care, reported that the U.S. health care system ranked “last or next-to-last on five dimensions of a high performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives” when compared with five other nations (Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom ).

However, the attempt to reform the health care delivery system in the U.S. can never be a discussion solely about costs or benefits or insurance plans. Those things are all important discussions to have, but they are not the most critical. This is why I have said from the beginning that those in our country who are having discussions about the shape and direction of reform should have them around a table with a picture of a patient and his or her family in the center. It is imperative that we remember that health care reform—just like health care delivery—is about people and their lives.

Ezra Klein, a blogger for The Washington Post, reminds us that we may want to start referring to these bills a “150,000-plus-life health care plan,” as he calculates that, based on the Institute of Medicine and Urban Institute’s data, this is the number of lives lost due to lack of insurance over 10 years.

The bills under consideration by Congress may not be perfect, and may have to be re-examined in 8 to 10 years. However, the process of moving toward accessible care for all Americans is an important one, which is why CHRISTUS continues to do our best to stay involved.

CHRISTUS’ Journey to Excellence and experience providing care for all those who need it, regardless of their ability to pay, positions us well to understand the far-reaching impacts of reform. CHRISTUS operates in some of the states with the highest uninsured numbers in the country, and has been forced to create more effective ways to provide care within the structures that exist in the very different states and even countries where we operate, aiming to become the low cost, high quality provider in each of our markets.

So we continue to work to tell our story. Because it is CHRISTUS Health’s mission to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, we are called to support the life and dignity of every person from conception to natural death. Consequently, we are committed to bringing swift fundamental change to the health care system of the United States.

In regard to the Senate legislation, we are supportive of the principles articulated by the Catholic Health Association and broader reform measures articulated by the Bishop’s Conference in their document entitled, A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform. In addition to these, we support the following principles, which we believe are embraced by the Senate bill:

• Oversight: Health providers must be accountable for demonstrating that the care they provide is high quality and cost-effective. We believe that reimbursement systems should reward quality, not quantity, of care.
• Standardization and Collaboration: CHRISTUS supports efforts to reduce barriers among all health care providers so that standardization exists in the provision of care and to ensure that care is better coordinated among providers.
• Workforce Initiatives: An expansion of health coverage must address the need for a workforce to meet the primary care needs of a population that previously could or did not access preventive care.
• Future Planning: A bill crafted now may fit the country’s needs for approximately the next several years, but given the advances we expect to see in medicine, science and technology, it may not be sufficient for the future. . Therefore we must anticipate revisiting health care reform in the future. Your legislation should include language which easily facilitates and anticipates needed changes and adaptations.
• Cost and Coverage: CHRISTUS agrees with Congress’ call on employers, individuals, unions, suppliers, insurers and other providers to do their part to contribute to health reform so that premium subsidies will put coverage within reach of those who could not otherwise afford it. We also support current advocacy efforts to provide additional subsidies to those with incomes from 133 to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, as well as to increase the number of people with health care coverage and/or scale back the proposed reductions in Medicare and Medicaid disproportionate share hospital funding (DSH).

Let there be no uncertainty – CHRISTUS supports health reform as the ultimate issue for promoting the health and well-being of our nation and those that reside here. It is morally and ethically right, and it is good for our economy and national security.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Positive health care news

Since most health news these days seems to carry the urgency or complexity of discussions on reform, disappointing statistics or lists of behaviors to avoid, it’s nice to hear some good news for a change! Melinda Beck of the Wall Street Journal recently published a list of 20 health care advances to be thankful for this season. They include:

• Life expectancy in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 77.9 years in 2007, the latest year for which statistics are available, continuing a long upward trend. (That's 75.3 years for men and 80.4 years for women.)
• Three out of 10 U.S. schoolchildren aged 5 to 17 in 2007 did not miss a single day of school because of illness or injury during the preceding 12 months.
• The proportion of undernourished children world-wide under five years of age declined to 20% in 2005 from 27% in 1990.

These advances will undoubtedly continue to reduce the need for acute, inpatient health care resources, supporting CHRISTUS’ move to expand our portfolio to include one-third non-acute care. Most importantly, though, Melinda’s article highlighted the fact that life from a wellness perspective is getting measurably better for many people here and abroad.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Reaffirmation of the Importance of the CHRISTUS Health Enterprise Risk Management Program

Approximately two years ago, we evolved our traditional risk management into a strong, system-wide enterprise risk management program. We recognized that in our economically complex health care environment, risk was moving far beyond medical liabilities. The importance of this transition is highlighted in an article featured in the October 2009 edition of Risk Management magazine.

Entitled “Eyes Wide Open,” this article explains clearly how by examining macro trends, companies can identify emerging risks. Identical to our goal for establishing a strong enterprise risk management program, the author indicates that,
. . .Risk taking should be understood and risks should be appropriately managed. Having the ability to recognize new risks as they emerge has become increasingly important in today’s evolving economic, social and political landscape. By examining macro trends, organizations can help identify many emerging risks early on, which will allow for more proactive risk management.

By utilizing a survey of potential risk areas completed by an array of CHRISTUS leaders from our system departments, regions and business units, 18 critical risk areas were identified and prioritized utilizing the four major drivers of risk outlined in the final page of the article, which include:
Impact: What effect will the event or scenario have on the company?
Velocity: How quickly will the event or scenario impact the company?
Materiality: Can the effect of the event or scenario be overcome with existing resources, or would it require a
significant change in the business model, skill set and mind-set?
Reputation: What is the possibility of adverse publicity or damage to the company’s reputation?

Having the enterprise risk management program in place and presently working on the six highest ranking risk areas identifies CHRISTUS Health as a leader in this area so crucial to our future success.