Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Future of Health Care

In April, I presented at the Four Corners MGMA Conference in Albuquerque about the future of health care in the next 10 years. I have long believed that future planning is a key to success, as the “correct future” must address the realities of the present. CHRISTUS is a very future-looking organization, and we have learned from our Futures Task Forces and future planning activities some things that I think will be helpful to blog readers as well.

I shared with the group what I consider short-term tactics to create success

• Manage and reduce labor and non-labor costs (growing “revenue line” will be almost impossible, so must focus on expense line)
• Improve patient throughput
• Better integrate physician and hospital operational improvement plans
• Renegotiate financial contracts whenever possible
• Ensure best prices/discounts for equipment, supplies, and services
• Evaluate salaries and benefit costs
• Reduce risks and monitor compliance
• Be willing to make further changes, yet unknown

• Accept uncertainty and ambiguity
• Become a quick change artist when necessary
• Commit fully to your ministry
• Behave like you’re the only owner of the business
• Hold yourself accountable for your actions and outcomes
• See yourself as a service center
• Manage your own morale, passion and optimism
• Be a fixer, not a finger-pointer
• Speed up your improvement plans
• Elevate your expectations

CHRISTUS Health’s Futures Task Force II presented 26 future facts, 3 strategic drivers, 5 strategic directions and 8 strategic enablers for CHRISTUS Health. Together, these help us glimpse at a possible health care future:
• Some diseases will be “cured” (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Cystic Fibrosis, Osteoporosis, some behavioral diagnoses, some GI cancers)
• Trauma will become the leading cause of death in people 54 years of age and younger
• Some diseases will be best treated by alternative and complementary medicine, including migraine headache and tinnitus
• Illness related to global warming will evolve
• Home health and remote monitoring become a primary care delivery tool, resulting in retail, rather than payor-orientation
• Systems move to service line organization/orientation, managed at a system level rather than regional levels with huge organizational implications
• Fully-integrated EMR and sophisticated IT networks will drive patients, physicians and payors to work together
• Innovative partnerships with payors for disease management and wellness maintenance result in major cost savings and realigned industry incentives and payment strategies
• A more innovative physician employment model which enables a sophisticated communty-based care delivery strategy
• Innovative border strategy and medical tourism fully integrated into major system offering, increasing international service offerings and fully integrating into regional and system strategies

We hope that health care reform will make the future brighter by increasing the number of insured patients, enhancing information technology, placing emphasis on wellness and prevention and encouraging physician and health system integration.

As we navigate this new reality, I encouraged the leaders at the conference to work most of all to gain buy-in to their group’s organizational vision first. Then, they may position their organizations as value-based innovators with long-term staying power. They may also do as CHRISTUS has done, and use forward-looking data and market intelligence to inform actions of today and plans for tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Are you Blind to the Truth?

Over the last eleven years, I have often said that if we are to develop action plans to mitigate the challenges on our Journey to Excellence, we must always seek the truth regarding the challenges we face.

Therefore, I believe that it is important not to be surrounded by a senior team that is loyal to a fault (i.e., people that want to tell you what you want to hear, and not what you need to hear), and why I think it is important to encourage “professional backtalking” among all our leadership groups. This is also why “the ability to have robust discussions” was identified as a critical success factor in creating outstanding teamwork in the teaming exercises completed by leaders in our regions and business units this fiscal year.

All of these messages came clearly in view recently as I read an article in the May/June 2010 edition of CEO Magazine. Entitled, “Are You Blind to the Truth?”, this article articulates “seven strategies for ferreting out critical feedback you’re not getting.” Although these strategies are not new, they are certainly worth a review and some reflection.

They remind us that, as leaders of regions and business units, we are seen as a base of power, and, “in the presence of power, even well meaning people edit themselves.” The article also stresses the importance of getting out of your office, which is clearly visible as we stress the critical nature of daily rounding to our leaders in order to bring about a multitude of operational successes.

There are some moments, while reflecting in my office, that I reaffirm that in CHRISTUS, where we have challenges, we either still do not have the right people in place, or we do not know the truth about the situation. It occurs to me that this could be the case we are facing with some of our current challenges in our patient satisfaction scores, a critical piece of our directions to excellence. Do our Associates feel safe in speaking up? Could our Associates identify their local leadership teams if they saw them? What do they see when they see these groups coming down the hall? Are our leadership teams “talking the talk,” or are they “walking the walk?”

I am confident that our answers to these questions as we lead this scared ministry are mostly positive. But to ensure that someday we will all reach the top of the mountain on our Journey to Excellence, these obvious strategies are worth reviewing, and the questions posed are worth asking periodically. Answering the call to serve in CHRISTUS Health is both an awesome responsibility and privilege, and I continue to be honored to serve as our ministry’s team leader.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why we participate in social media

Many companies—including health care providers—have been reluctant to enter the social media sphere. But because of our commitment to transparency and serving as a national influencer, CHRISTUS has participated in social media for almost three years, utilizing a variety of sites to educate and engage our Associates and various publics.

In addition, CHRISTUS’ Futures Task Force II identified three critical drivers of the future: consumer empowerment, globalization and new advances in technology. Social media encompasses all three.

Social media includes any participatory online media where information, news, photos, videos, podcasts, groups and conversations are made public, and are often designed to encourage sharing and networking. It is important because it represents a fundamental shift in the way we communicate—organizations can no longer depend on one-way communication; consumers now expect to interact with brands and organizations in real-time, and can use the technology they already own (namely mobile devices like cell phones) and free tools to share their ideas and opinions with their social networks and the world. Consider:

Communities are being formed online in new ways, and are even being created for patients who share the same disease or chronic condition. Consumers are increasingly comfortable searching for health information online and sharing this with their health care providers. It is clear that we no longer search for the news; it finds us. Word of mouth has become world of mouth.

Therefore, it is imperative that CHRISTUS Health be engaged in building our brand and relationships online through new social media channels as well as traditional media. To this end, the CHRISTUS brand is represented extensively online, including:
• My blog
CaringBridge – A program developed for patients to build their own free, secure websites for social networking.

To assist us as we move forward to harness the power of social media tools, we have also developed a proactive strategy for social media, which is designed to serve as a roadmap, directing our interactions online, aggregating our ideas and ensuring that all our efforts in this arena are guided by a measurable, larger strategy.

We also want to ensure that we help our Associates navigate the social media sphere, and have held numerous training and educational sessions and created two additional tools to direct social media efforts and provide guidelines for our Associates as they go about their activities online. The first is a policy that ensures that all communications are consistent and in keeping with our mission, vision and strategic communications plan, but a year ago was widened in scope to include social media sites. The directive clearly states that communication on these sites cannot be done on behalf of CHRISTUS or any CHRISTUS facility without approval of system or regional Marketing/Communication departments.

To assist CHRISTUS Associates who would like to speak about CHRISTUS online on their personal time, representing themselves solely as their personal representatives, Social Media Participation Guidelines were also created to help them understand how CHRISTUS policies apply to these newer technologies for communication so they can participate with confidence in all social media platforms.

CHRISTUS Health is a leader in utilizing these tools in the health care industry, all of which will help drive our five strategic directions.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Organizations Recognition Through Individual Awards

As another individual award was announced recently, and I was reminded again of the importance of two things: a key system initiative and the importance of teamwork.

Since CHRISTUS Health was formed over 11 years ago, one of our system initiatives has been to serve as an “influencer,” creating positive change in the health care delivery processes in both the U.S. and Mexico. The pathways for exerting these influences include writing and publishing papers; speaking at local, state, national and international conferences and receiving awards and recognitions. By achieving and sustaining influential status, we have become the “go to” organization for many members of the government, media and other colleagues and organizations in the field, who seek our knowledge and advice regarding the various components of the delivery process. Examples include future planning, revenue cycle, creating “systemness” and international development.

The other important thing to remember about an individual award is that it represents much hard work and success of a team of people in the CHRISTUS family. Each time an individual award is received, the awardee should pause and identify all the people who work with him or her who caused the recognition to occur. Today, with the complexities we face in this industry, it is hard to identify any success from which only one individual is responsible.

So, having recently been included in Becker's Hospital Review's annual list of 60 Physician Leaders of Hospitals and Health Systems, I stopped to write the same note as I always do on these occasions to the CHRISTUS Senior Leadership Team:
Thanks for all you do to make me look good! You make me proud! Always remember, it is what we do collectively that continues to move us forward on our Journey to Excellence!