About a year ago, I shared details of my own out of pocket medical expenses and concluded that we have to have to be more transparent with our patients (and potential patients) about the costs they will face for our services. The urgency of price transparency as a business imperative and a professional responsibility has only increased since then.
Consider that we are now a year in to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Everything that I have read suggests that consumers were intensely price sensitive when it came to choosing which plans they elected. Well, duh! The benefits are defined by “metal” levels (e.g., Bronze, Silver, etc.), and there is almost no way for people to compare the quality of competing narrow networks or individual providers, so price differences drove decision-making. Likewise, the healthy people who bought insurance because they were compelled to by the individual mandate generally chose high deductible plans to minimize their monthly payments. This, in turn, makes them much more price sensitive at the point of care. That means that patients may resist recommended treatment. It also means that physician offices will face more challenges in collecting fees from patients who have not yet met their deductible for the year. At the very least, patients will be more interested in learning what costs they will be exposed to.
Continue reading Price Transparency
Patient satisfaction is hot. Major payers, including the federal government have linked hospital payment to institutional performance on patient surveys of their experience with care, and are poised to do the same with physician payments. There is a proliferation of commercial websites for patients to offer up their reviews of physicians and to check out the ratings already there. An entire industry of consultants has appeared to help institutions improve how patients experience the care they provide. Hospitals and health systems, including our own, have hired Chief Experience Officers. Continue reading Engaging Patients
I was recently on a commercial airline flight when I noticed a bit of a commotion across the aisle. Two flight attendants were responding to the situation, which was triggered when one of the passengers in that trio of seats reached over and started eating the food of her fellow traveler. They quickly moved “the victim” out of the way, and were struggling to manage “the perpetrator.” I overheard them agree that they were concerned about the medical condition of the passenger, and moments later, one of the flight attendants used the public address system to ask if there was a doctor on board. Continue reading Is there a doctor on-board?
There is an old gag about an intensely optimistic child whose bright outlook on life is so irrepressible that when he is presented with a room full of manure for Christmas, he screams with delight, convinced that there “must be pony in there someplace.” Continue reading Looking for the Pony
As I have noted previously I have a “love-hate” relationship with practice guidelines. Love because it is often helpful to refer to a set of evidence-based recommendations as part of clinical decision-making; hate because of all of the shortcomings of the guidelines themselves, as well as the evidence upon which they are based. Continue reading Practice Guidelines and Quality Care
There is a lot of stuff written in the business literature about “corporate statements” and the role they can play in guiding strategic decisions. When done right, I think these foundational documents can be quite effective. Does anyone doubt that Walmart really does focus its efforts every day on its stated mission of “saving people money so they can live better”? Continue reading Physician Compact
I was talking to a colleague last week about his practice, and remarked that he was still keeping a paper medical record. Without hesitation, he made it clear that he not only liked the paper record, but he positively dreaded switching to an electronic record. He said sadly that he thought it was inevitable that he would be forced to switch, but hoped that the day would be far into the future. Continue reading How to fix EMRs
I recently participated in a small conference devoted to “physician alignment in the academic medical center.” The meeting was sponsored by a health care consulting firm, and drew about a dozen participants from around the country. The title refers to ways in which academic centers figure out how to work with their traditionally autonomous if not completely independent physicians to advance the institutional mission. An informal format allowed us to share (war) stories from our respective institutions and learn from each other. The ground rules included confidentiality (“what happens in Nashville stays in Nashville”), so I won’t disclose any specifics, but a few themes emerged that are worth sharing.
Continue reading Physician Alignment