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Geisinger Leads Pack with ProvenCare

Posted by ClearDirections on August 2nd, 2011 in Accountable Care Organization, Hospital Management | No Comments

Increased quality leads to decreased costs? For most physicians and healthcare providers this statement is quite the conundrum. Yet, Geisinger Health has emerged at the forefront of the healthcare industry by embracing this idea and implementing initiatives leading to better quality care for patients at decreased costs.

The focus of Geisinger Health’s reimbursement has shifted from compensating physicians based on units of work to rewarding them based on clinical outcomes. To do this, Geisinger dedicated time to research and develop evidence-based practices for an identified set of procedures with individual steps to be followed, which they have termed ProvenCare. These “best practice steps” were then integrated into their EHR system. This process of “hardwiring” the procedural steps into the EHR system has a large impact on standardization by ensuring that physicians document and follow each step.

Taking further responsibility for clinical outcomes, Geisinger Health holds themselves accountable for costs incurred due to complications as well as for treatment associated with the complications. This “warranty plan” increases the quality of care delivered to patients by placing emphasis on following procedural steps to reduce the likelihood of complications. Although, this “warranty plan” is related to acute episodic care, when it comes to chronic disease, Geisinger Health focuses on best practices aimed at “limit[ing] disease progression.”

These are just a few of the initiatives Geisinger Health has implemented on their path to creating better quality care for their patients and improving overall healthcare. Healthcare providers interested in learning more about Geisinger Health, click here to listen to a variety of topics in the radio series presented by Geisinger Health’s CEO, Glenn Steele.

Merging Into the Consolidation Lane

Posted by ClearDirections on July 6th, 2011 in Hospital Management, Innovation, Mergers & Acquisitions | No Comments

Complex highway on ramps resemble hospital merger complexitiesWith the merger of Provena Health in Mokena, Ill., and Resurrection Health Care in Chicago now moving forward, it will be interesting to watch how quickly the merger proves whether their joint purchasing and negotiating power will rival that of Advocate Health Care, another 12-hospital system in the Chicago area. With their merger, Provena and Resurrection would create the largest Catholic system in Illinois with 12 acute care hospitals and a combined $2.7 billion in operating revenue. This pales compared to the $4.5 billion operating revenue reported by Advocate Health Care for the year ending December 2010.

After the state planning board reviews the merger in the coming months, the two systems will have significant goals to accomplish, such as merging cultures, strategic plans, electronic medical record systems, management teams, purchasing criteria, boards, measuring efficiencies gained and more.

Cost Controls May Backfire
Most hospitals see incentives to “pair up.” Changes in the insurance industry, such as lower reimbursement rates on certain products and services (including Medicaid and Medicare programs), place greater financial pressure on hospitals and health systems. Health care reform’s cost-control measures intend to benefit hospitals in so many ways, such as reducing the number of uninsured “charity” patients and providing government grants to fund quality improvements. Greater transparency also aims to lower costs to consumers by increasing competition, reducing errors and fraud, and improving coordination of care. However, these economic incentives are spurring more consolidation, which actually may decrease competition, as we likely will see in the merger of Provena and Resurrection.

When it comes down to it, hospitals must find innovative ways to reduce their operating expenses while they INCREASE their revenues. America’s healthcare system cannot shrink its way to greatness. They must invent new ways to better serve their communities.

Increased Transparency

Posted by ClearDirections on June 28th, 2011 in Accountable Care Organization, Hospital Management, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act | No Comments

HIPAA, HHS, Affordable Care Act, ACO
Recently the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) proposed new modifications to the more than decade-old HIPAA rules. The current proposal by HHS seeks to create a system that provides more information to individuals about who is accessing and using their healthcare information. These changes appear to be in line with the Affordable Care Act proposed rules, given they lead to greater accountability for entities in how they guard protected health information.

HHS proposes to alter the Privacy Rule by dividing it into two sections, one about the right of an individual to an accounting of disclosures and the other for the right of an individual to an access report. In doing so, HHS also has proposed to broaden the scope of information to be accounted for by including business associates, while at the same time narrowing the time frame to be covered when accounting for information from six years to three years. Also, currently entities are only tasked with listing the types of disclosures that are exempt from an accounting of information, but under the proposed rule, entities would also list each disclosure.

The provision would limit the protected information to be accounted for to information believed to be most important to individuals, which would include health care and payment decisions about an individual. These records would be maintained in a designated record set. Other information would remain protected under the Privacy Rule, even though tracking in a designated record set is not required. For covered entities to maintain such records, they will need to ensure that their EHR system is up-to-date and has the capability to access and create these reports.

These changes appear to better align the HIPAA Privacy Rule with the proposed Affordable Care Act and will be important to note for covered entities. For more information about EHR systems and IT development, feel free to contact us.

We have provided a general overview here of HHS’ proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, For an in-depth reading of these changes, click here to access the proposal.

Could this be the IT ACOs need?

Posted by ClearDirections on June 22nd, 2011 in Accountable Care Organization, Hospital Management, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act | No Comments

Microsoft has been refining its health IT offering, the Amalga system, which proposes to integrate information from many different health IT systems into one platform, which allegedly will ease the pain of shifting to an ACO.. Several components of this system have been in development for several years and are reported to answer most of today’s healthcare information needs:
• Microsoft Quality Measures Manager
• Microsoft Health Vault
• Medical Imaging Module
• Readmissions Manager

Once the information is integrated within Microsoft’s Amalga system, it can be viewed and utilized in many different ways depending upon who is using the information. This will reduce redundancy currently occurring in the healthcare industry by allowing all medical professionals within a particular ACO to access patient information and medical histories.

Several different applications comprise the Amalga health IT data integration platform. Microsoft Quality Measures Manager simplifies the quality data aggregation and measurement process. Another is the Microsoft HealthVault, which is a web interface patients use to store their health data and selectively share their medical history with healthcare providers. The medical imaging module for Microsoft Amalga organizes medical images and allows them to be viewed by other healthcare providers in an ACO. Another tool is the Readmissions Manager, which tracks details about readmissions of patients to aid in understanding the causes of patient readmissions.

This brief overview of Microsoft Amalga gives us a sense that the über IT solution for ACO may be here or is yet to come. In either case, it appears that this software platform may speed healthcare leaders’ move toward ACO readiness. Check it out at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsofthealth/products/microsoft-amalga.aspx.

Innovate Through Pain

Posted by ClearDirections on June 1st, 2011 in Accountable Care Organization, Hospital Management, Innovation | No Comments

Innovation. This buzzword appears to be the key to success in any sector of business today, including healthcare. The ability to thrive in today’s dynamic and fast-paced business environment relies heavily on an organization’s ability to create a competitive advantage by utilizing innovative and cost-effective initiatives. Intuit is a good example of a company that has leveraged its assets to create and devise innovative products and services in the same way healthcare can.

The D4D (Design for Delight) design process implemented by Intuit focuses on identifying and learning from consumers.* The process begins with the “painstorm” in which the company observes and detects customer pain points or problems that should be address and alleviated. After identifying the relevant pain points, a “sol-jam” session is held, where the company challenges the employees to identify solutions that address consumer pain points. Once the solutions are discussed and narrowed down to a relevant few, the company then embarks on the third step in the process, “code-jam.” It is this process that sets Intuit apart and has the most impact on the innovation process.

During this last phase, the company directs their focus toward quickly developing and implementing a rudimentary product or service with the intent of generating feedback from consumers to see how well the product alleviates the target pain point. Intuit recognizes that identifying whether or not a product or service alleviates customer pain points is the most important aspect of the innovation process. Therefore, instead of investing heavily up front on creating a product or service that may meet consumer needs, Intuit focuses on creating and testing a basic form of the product to ensure that it, in fact, does what it is intended to do.

With respect to the healthcare industry, this innovation process may have the largest impact on process improvement by decreasing the lag time between identifying patient pain points in the process and creating new processes to alleviate those problems. As healthcare providers work to alleviate patient pain points, they will simultaneously increase customer loyalty. This is just one way in which healthcare providers could utilize this innovative tool. The process also could be implemented internally by recognizing organizational level pain points for employees and identifying solutions to alleviating those problems. Overall, this simple framework has the potential to fuel innovation in the healthcare industry. For more information on how we help our clients position themselves through innovation, call us at 888-316-1761 or email info@mycleardirections.com.

*Roger L. Martin, “The Innovation Catalysts,” Harvard Business Review (June 2011).

3 ACO Initiatives to Know

Posted by ClearDirections on May 25th, 2011 in Accountable Care Organization, Hospital Management, Legislation, Uncategorized | No Comments

On Tuesday, May 17, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revealed three new Accountable Care Organization initiatives including the Pioneer ACO Model, Accelerated Development Learning Sessions, and the Advanced Payment ACO Model.

The Pioneer ACO Model has been designed for established ACOs that have already begun managing and coordinating care for patients.  To aid in reducing costs and improving quality, this model was developed to work in conjunction with private payers as well.  For more information about the Pioneer ACO Model, visit http://innovations.cms.gov/areas-of-focus/seamless-and-coordinated-care-models/pioneer-aco.

The Accelerated Development Learning Sessions initiative has been devised with the intent of providing educational programs for providers who are interested in developing an ACO.  There will be four learning sessions throughout 2011, the initial session dates are provided below and later session dates will be announced throughout the year.

The Advanced Payment ACO Model initiative is intended to provide savings to ACOs early in the process to help them cover initial costs associated with establishing and developing their organization.

Each of these initiatives has particular deadlines and important dates associated with them, which healthcare providers should be knowledgeable about.

June 10th

  • Due date for the Letter of Intent for organizations interested in the Pioneer ACO Model.

June 17th

  • The Innovation Center will accept comments about the advanced payment initiative until this date.  Comments can be submitted to advpayACO@cms.hhs.gov

June 20-22, 2011

  • First Accelerated Development Learning Session in Minneapolis, MN.  This session is free and also available on webcast.  The registration website is https://acoregister.rti.org.

July 18th

  • Application deadline for the Pioneer ACO Model.

We will continue to help you stay abreast of ACO news and deadlines in our blog.  You’ll also find on our “Articles and Talks” page links to the proposed regulation and commentary.

 

Interview with Kathleen Benner Part III: Doctors Need to Listen More Than 18 Seconds

Posted by ClearDirections on April 12th, 2011 in Communication, Financial, Hospital Management, Innovation, Lack of Coordination | No Comments

After reading about Kathleen Benner, the vibrant and energetic president of Hospital Companions and Empowering Pages, both of which are based in Hinsdale, IL, in a Crain’s Chicago Business article last year, I connected with her to find ways to help her healthcare startup. She also is an attorney and mother of three with her entrepreneur husband, all who keep her balanced. To view more about her healthcare businesses, visit http://hospitalcompanions.com/ and http://empoweringpages.com/. Her companies’ mission is to bring peace of mind to both the patients and families they serve. Read on to hear more about her ideas to help you become a “Best Competitor.”

Stillman: Any other overall suggestions for improving America’s healthcare system, not just looking at the patient experience?

Benner: Of course. I can’t say it loudly enough: medical malpractice reform. It’s coming from a legal background and reading some of the cases. Yes, there are some horrendous things that happen, of course. But, we have to reform that system. It is dragging on costs. It is putting insurance companies in a much more difficult position and the doctor in a much more difficult position. That would be my first recommendation.

I have never written to a senator or President before, but when they were doing the healthcare reform talk, I wrote to the President, to my senators and my representatives and said, “How are you not talking about medical malpractice reform as an integral part of this?” To be able to improve, you have to remove the shackles of malpractice.

The other issue is insurance portability. My husband and I are both self-employed, so our healthcare insurance is our single largest payment every month. I don’t know why I can’t shop in North Dakota for insurance. You know what I mean? Why can’t we compete across state lines? More competition seems to be better. These companies already exist. They’re already providing this type of a service.

You know, my parents went through the same thing when were moving from Illinois to Florida when they had to obtain new insurance from Florida. I think that the portability of your insurance and to be able to compete over state lines would help the healthcare system, because again, you’re going to be approaching costs at that point. More competition would lead to better insurance programs being developed.

Stillman: I have to admit, I never had to think about that in terms of switching from state to state. I wasn’t aware that when you move that you would have to switch insurance.

Benner: The other thing that’s crazy is the volume of patients physicians see in a day. Some physicians I know are seeing 45 to 65 patients a day. How do you provide personalized, effective healthcare to 45 to 65 people a day?

Stillman: That’s pretty much the norm, and some think nothing of it. I agree. How could you possibly connect with 45 to 65 people in one day, and affect their health status in a meaningful way? At some point, it would seem impossible for them to see their patients as anything more than widgets. I have to imagine at the end of a long week, some think, “How many more are we just going to touch and get through the assembly line so I can get out of here?”

Benner: Yes. I read a study that a doctor lets a patient talk for 18 seconds before he or she typically interrupts them. That’s the average. So, some doctors are treating people literally how they present in that moment, but they’re not looking any further back or forward in the lives of their patients. And, that’s not really healthcare. That may be medical care. That’s not healthcare.

Stillman: Wow, 18 seconds. That’s an interesting statistic. Certainly if you want to have a competitive edge as a physician, let your patients talk, and listen. That’s easy.

Benner: They don’t have time. And, you know when people talk, and I know this as an attorney, too, you’ll get a lot of superfluous information. And, you’re trying to dig through it just for what’s important. You want the bullet point. But, that’s not an effective way to get the information a physician needs to effectively treat a patient, right?

In our next post, you’ll hear more of our interview with Kathleen Benner of Hospital Companions and Empowering Pages. Subscribe to the Best Competitor Blog to read stimulating ideas for improving the American healthcare system and ways hospitals, systems, large medical groups and healthcare product manufacturers can better compete in today’s marketplace. We welcome your suggestions for future interview subjects or topics. Simply leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Do you have what it takes to be part of an ACO?

Posted by ClearDirections on April 9th, 2011 in Accountable Care Organization, Financial, Hospital Management, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act | No Comments

Reading the 460+ pages of proposed ACO regulations (42 CFR Part 425 to be exact) has been a daunting task, but a necessary one for those of us who will lead the world of healthcare through this unprecedented sea change to our system. To help you wrap your organization’s strategy around this new concept, we will break down the salient parts of the regs for our readers, bit by bit.

One of the most important features of the new regs is the “three-legged stool” of the Shared Savings Program:
– to provide better care for individuals;
– to encourage better health for the whole population; and
– to lower the growth of healthcare expenditures.

The Shared Savings Program promotes accountability for a patient population’s health, coordinates patient care and encourages providers to invest in infrastructure and redesigned care processes for high quality and efficient service delivery. This Shared Savings Program will be in place by January 1, 2012, according to the proposed regs. Now, the key is how to qualify to participate in the Shared Savings Program.

The new regs outline several requirements to be eligible to be part of an ACO. Providers must be willing to:

1. Become accountable for the quality, cost and overall care of the Medicare FFS beneficiaries assigned to them;

2. Enter into an agreement to participate in the ACO for at least three years;

3. Have a formal legal structure that allows the organization to receive and distribute payments for share savings to the participating providers;

4. Include enough primary care ACO professionals sufficient for the number of beneficiaries assigned to the ACO, and each ACO will have a minimum of at least 5,000 beneficiaries assigned to it;

5. Provide CMS with any information the government deems necessary to support three things: the assignment of Medicare beneficiaries to the ACO, the implementation of quality and other reporting requirements, and the determination of payments for shared savings;

6. Have in place a leadership and management structure that includes clinical and administrative systems;

7. Define processes to promote evidence-based medicine and patient engagement, report on quality and cost measures, and coordinate care (i.e., telehealth and remote patient monitoring); and

8. Demonstrate that they meet patient-centeredness criteria specified by CMS (think HCAHPS), such as the use of patient and caregiver assessments or the use of individualized plans.

Just a few things … right? Well, take a day to digest this portion of the regs and we’ll explain later how CMS has proposed very detailed specific formulas to determine how the Shared Savings Program works. Hint … providers won’t receive a portion of ALL of the savings they deliver to Medicare. CMS has proposed a Minimum Savings Rate or MSR that ranges from 2.0% to 3.9% before an ACO can begin sharing in the savings. More to come on this in future posts.

If you enjoyed this material, please share it with other healthcare executives you know, so we can help them get their heads around ACOs quickly and painlessly to position them to compete better in the brave new world of ACOs.

Interview with Kathleen Benner, Part II: Stars in the Long-Term View Include Delnor in Geneva, Ill.

Posted by ClearDirections on March 29th, 2011 in Communication, Hospital Management, Lack of Coordination | No Comments

After reading about Kathleen Benner, the vibrant and energetic president of Hospital Companions and Empowering Pages, both of which are based in Hinsdale, IL, in a Crain’s Chicago Business article last year, I connected with her to find ways to help her healthcare startup. She also is an attorney and mother of three with her entrepreneur husband, all who keep her balanced. To view more about her healthcare businesses, visit http://hospitalcompanions.com/ and http://empoweringpages.com/.  Her companies’ mission is to bring peace of mind to both the patients and families they serve. Read on to hear more about her ideas to help you become a “Best Competitor.”

Stillman: Where have you seen a lot of advancements in healthcare, such as in the hospital environment, like the Planetree model and effective use of the medical home?  Are you seeing a lot of that in the Midwest in the hospitals you’re talking with here, or more in different pockets of the country?

Benner: I have to say that Delnor’s a Planetree hospital, and we’ve been out there once, and that’s a great environment.  Central DuPage Hospital has instituted some new concepts when they built their new wing and really made it a more comfortable kind of family-enhanced atmosphere.  The best place that we have seen, the leading edge, is Mayo in Phoenix.  They do a damn good job.  It’s a team approach, and it is a medical home team, and the team gets together and talks.  They do a real fine job escorting the family coming out, and keeping the communication in a big file together for the doctor that you’re going back to.  That doctor is always welcome to call.

Physicians who have reached a pinnacle in their career and are very good at what they do seem much more open to helping others.  Those who are the best in their field seem to feel this obligation to spread their knowledge, and they do.  They do a nice job at Mayo, which is not a surprise.

Stillman: That’s great to hear, because I do find that there are pockets of expertise in the country, and I think that the Midwest by far has quite a bit of work to do compared to the coasts and the South.  I know from looking at many hospital organizations, looking at new buildings as far as just green design and Planetree design, there’s not a lot of it here.

Benner: You would think that they would have at this point figured out that their bottom line will be affected.  Now, I know it’s not a direct effect necessarily, but I know when I had a heart issue a couple years ago, I found the best darn heart doctor for the electrical issue I had.

I ended up at University of Chicago, with the best doctor, but not the best care environment.  Now, if I were to do it all again, would I go back to him?  Yes, I would, because we’re talking about my heart.  But, if I am going to have an chronic issue where I’m was going to be in and out and need care, and I’ll need support, my family will need support, you really, if you have a Planetree approach or a patient-centered care approach, you are going to get a better outcome.

So, maybe hospitals aren’t seeing it because the urgency versus the experience.  As educators in the industry, we need to create that nexus for people between experience and outcome.

Stillman: I believe one of the problems is that view is not long enough.  The leadership is looking at today’s bottom line versus someone’s long-term health status, and it is easy to forget that the impact they have today on someone’s health for the rest of their lives. So there’s just no incentive because the hospital leadership is incentivized to keep this year’s bottom line intact.

Benner: Right.  Now, if they’re having a wonderful experience and there’s good communication, they’re going in for their follow-up.  They’re not readmitted.  So yes, if we could create a nexus where you show the effect and bottom line impact, we’d be able to change how the hospital business is run.

Stillman: Longitudinal projections of how a good experience today impacts your health 20 years from now, and then be able to quantify that.  I think that would be an amazing study.

In our next post, you’ll hear more of our interview with Kathleen Benner of Hospital Companions and Empowering Pages.  Subscribe to the Best Competitor Blog to read stimulating ideas for improving the American healthcare system and ways hospitals, systems, large medical groups and healthcare product manufacturers can better compete in today’s marketplace. We welcome your suggestions for future interview subjects or topics. Simply leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Interview with Kathleen Benner, Part I: Enable Communication in New, Meaningful Ways

Posted by ClearDirections on March 16th, 2011 in Communication, Hospital Management, Innovation | 5 Comments

After reading about Kathleen Benner, the vibrant and energetic president of Hospital Companions and Empowering Pages, both of which are based in Hinsdale, IL, in a Crain’s Chicago Business article last year, I connected with her to find ways to help her healthcare startup. She also is an attorney and mother of three with her entrepreneur husband, all who keep her balanced. To view more about her healthcare businesses, visit http://hospitalcompanions.com/ and http://empoweringpages.com/.  Her companies’ mission is to bring peace of mind to both the patients and families they serve. Read on to hear more about her ideas to help you become a “Best Competitor.”

Enable Communication in New, Meaningful Ways

Stillman: Kathleen, tell me a little bit about your businesses, Hospital Companions and Empowering Pages.

Benner: They’re pretty self-explanatory by the titles as well, but Hospital Companions, is  that service, in a service industry, we provide companions for people who are in the hospital, to better support the family and the patient.  So, we have a companion that can go along with a patient all the way from check-in to getting them settled in, staying with them during their stay, check-out and transitioning home or transitioning to rehab.

We don’t do home care, but we do offer institutional care.  So, if you’re in a hospital, if you’re in a rehab center, a nursing home, we’re able to help and assist and become part of that care team.  We don’t provide healthcare.  We fall more on the spectrum of logistical and emotional support.

So, we offer many amenities and supports for patients and families, such as our web application, called a Patient PageSM, it’s a web-based communication tool that keeps family ,friends, patient and the companion engaged in  very effective and efficient communication.  That’s one of our tools.

And, we do everything from travel arrangements for out-of-town family who come in.  We make sure that when family is around, they know the lay of the land.  They know, okay, where is the cafeteria?  What time does it open and close?  Where is the best place to park?  We view our mission as to make this experience, a hospitalization experience, as easy as it can be.  We try to take the little bumps in the road and smooth those out.  The medical team, of course, is attacking the larger issues.  What we’re trying to do is best support the patient and their family through this so that they have more strength on the other end when they’re going to have to do the healing.

Stillman: I love that, more strength on the end when they need to do the true healing after the hospital.  That’s great.

Benner: Yes – recovering doesn’t end right when you’re discharged from the hospital.  You’ve been in the medical community.  You know that when you’re discharged from the hospital, you’re not well.  You are just not critical anymore.  You just don’t need round-the-clock medical expertise.  When they’re discharged from the hospital, people need a lot of support.  Our vision is of someday there being a cooperative experience during the hospitalizations with the families and even once at home with the hospital.  So, if we are better able to support the family, they’re better able to support the patient, and the patient will get better faster.  We don’t have exact data on that, but it’s kind of common sense, so we believe that.

Then, we developed this web application, the Patient PageSM, because we found communication really to be the lynchpin.  The better communication, the better the outcomes will be.  We strongly believe that.  The web application was so popular and such a hit with all of our families, and they gave us lots of input as to what they’d like to see on it. So, we have tweaked it over the couple years that we’ve been using it, and this application became such a useful tool in our business, we decided to offer it to other healthcare companies.  . If they would like to license the application then they are able to brand and offer their own Patient PageSM, resident page, homecare page or patriot page.

The people that we’ve been talking to are mostly in home care, so you can get a branded home care page for your home care company.  We don’t offer home care, but we deal with a lot of home care people because we transition out of hospital.  Now, if someone had a Patient PageSM up in the hospital, it would be so great if they’re transitioned to a home care company where that home care helper could update the page, or the manager at the home care company could update the page, and keep family and friends informed and involved to continue kind of this wonderful communication that allows everyone to help support one another.

Hospice care, of course, would also be a great fit for our web application.  We’ve approached some not-for-profits to allow them to use the application.  We just launched Empowering Pages,  and we already have one program for a residential facility that’s almost ready to go active.  We think Empowering Pages has a really bright future, because better communication breeds better outcomes, which is better business.

So, we think moving it over from the consumer end where we’re using our Patient PageSM to a business-to-business model makes a lot of sense, because it’s going to impact the bottom line of these businesses that use it.  They’re going to have happier patients and families, in addition to those who join and visit the page.  For instance, if you have a home care company, and Marcy down the street has a page up, and you’re one of her neighbors.  You find out about her page, and you go on it to send Marcy a message and see how she’s doing, and see if there’s anything you can do to help. Well, now you know the name of Marcy’s home care company.  And, now when you need home care or someone you know needs home care, you know a name.

Generally, if somebody has home care, we know they have a home care visitor.  We don’t know what company they’re with because they tend to travel in private vehicles.  So, for brand identification and spreading your brand name, we think that it’s going to be a really good tool.  So, that’s Hospital Companions and then how we spun into also supporting businesses with Empowering Pages.

Stillman: When you look at your experiences, from your grandfather and your own personal experience with your children, yourself in the hospital, what programs and services do you feel help make hospitals more competitive or more patient-friendly, more patient-focused?

Benner: What I know now is different from what I knew then.  The experiences that led us up to Hospital Companions, I didn’t really see any really good programs that made the hospital competitive.  Now, because of research and being exposed and being in so many different hospitals, I see more of that.  And, the patient-centered care push is amazing.  The Planetree hospitals, some of the things that they put into effect are similar to our philosophies with environment really being part of the healing and the overall attitude of patient- and family-centered care.  Some hospitals are really doing it, and some hospitals are saying they’re doing it, and other hospitals just haven’t gotten there yet.  But, I think it’s a great program and a great goal for hospital systems.

People who are now looking into medical home and using that, I think that that is going to be amazing, and that will be a competitive advantage if hospitals institute that appropriately and there really is a medical home and a good source of communication among patient,their home physician and any specialists, pharmacists, therapists, etc. .  When someone does have a more complex medical issue and you’re shuffled specialist to specialist, you’re almost in charge of keeping the communication line open and what did the specialist say.  You’ll go back to your regular doctor, and, “Oh, what did the specialist say?”  Now, it might be in the chart, but it might not.  The objective test results will be in the chart, but will the subjective impressions in conversation?  They won’t be.

So, medical home seems to be a real good step in the right direction because, again, it addresses the communication and support of one patient.  And, better communication, better outcomes, better business.  So it really is good for, not just the patient and the doctor but, the whole health system, because patients and their family docs are communicating more effectively with specialists and there is a great ‘point person’ in the medical home physician.

Stillman: It seems to be a theme, and obviously communication is such a simple, simple task – something we’re all given the gift of … being able to speak and write.  It is the easiest thing to forget to do well, and it can cost someone’s life.

Benner: Absolutely.

In our next post, you’ll hear more of our interview with Kathleen Benner of Hospital Companions and Empowering Pages.  Subscribe to the Best Competitor Blog to read stimulating ideas for improving the American healthcare system and ways hospitals, systems, large medical groups and healthcare product manufacturers can better compete in today’s marketplace. We welcome your suggestions for future interview subjects or topics. Simply leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!