Med One Blog

Healthcare - Four Letter Word

The weight of cost in healthcare

By Ibby Smith Stofer

As a healthcare executive are you tired of that one four-letter word that nags you day in and day out?

Do you feel you have repeatedly stressed its importance to every member of your team time and time again, yet the same results continue to plague your organization?

Are you tired of the media and government continually talking about that four-letter word every time they mention healthcare?

What if you could replace it with a new mantra? Perhaps not a four-letter word, but a word that maybe (just maybe) can help you achieve the goal of better productivity, improved technology and both worker and customer satisfaction? This might sound a bit too Utopian...

The continual focus in healthcare is on one nasty four letter word: COST. Its directive is one of reduce, reduce, reduce. It's like asking our country to eliminate obesity, which by the way is among the top contributors to our nation's healthcare costs.

Here are a few stats from a report by Food Research & Action Center:

In the U.S.:

  • 68.5% of adults are overweight or obese; 34.9% are obese.
  • 31.8% of children and adolescents are overweight or obese; 16.9% are obese.
  • 30.4% of low-income preschoolers are overweight or obese.

Disparities exist based on race-ethnicity, gender, age, geographic region, and socioeconomic status.

Cost reduction in health care is like weight reduction for obesity. It seems that the same ineffective strategies are tried over and over with the expectation that results will be more successful than the last time. We have all been told why we should watch our diets and exercise more (or keep our weight down), but way too often that weight (or those costs) creep back into the picture. There may be a temporary reduction, but too often it is followed by a return equal to or greater than the original culprit, be it costs or weight.

For obesity there are programs, medicines and other offerings that focus on the issues, causes and changes we need to make to overcome this plaque. We truly need to make this a national priority much like we did when we took on the tobacco industry and significantly reduced smoking in the USA.

The weight of cost in healthcare

But what should healthcare executives do to awaken the spirit of change and ultimately better the results in costs, services, employee and patient satisfaction and outcomes?

While this one four-letter-word is a nuisance, what if you could actually focus on a different, positive four-letter-word and get better results in all areas? It is an intriguing and thought-provoking idea, but what could it be?

Perhaps several other four-letter words come to mind. But for me, one of the first is TEAM. What if healthcare supplier and providers found a way to truly act as a team focused on the challenges and struggles that affects all of us? What if instead of profits and market share being the key drivers for medical device suppliers or products and services, they were driven by long-term relationships dedicated to improving health? That is after all one the primary reason that new technology or services come to market.

A five letter word must be linked to Team. That is TRUST. If the manufacturers and suppliers are to make such a significant change in measuring success, they must have confidence that the customers will reward them with long term on going business that can fund further developments and growth for their business. At the same time TRUST must be a two-way relationship. Practitioners need to know that the technology, device or service you provide will deliver the results if they are to shift their focus from solely COST.

But where to begin this transformation? Certainly our country is committed to finding better ways to improve health of all people while managing the growing burden of healthcare costs.

Having spent a long time in the medical device sales and services area, I know that unless there is a win in terms of dollars this is akin to dreaming lofty dreams. We need to reward companies who do deliver products and or services that actually help the healthcare provider reduce cost, improve outcomes, eliminate readmissions, eliminate waste or improve productivity.

Companies that can demonstrate these type of results should be given preference and they should be recognized by our government and national media just as they vilify ( and with just cause) companies that raise prices solely to increase profits. Those companies should be barred from selling to any healthcare provider, in my opinion.

I don't know the answer on the how, but the WHY is screaming that we must change or as the saying goes, we will continue to do the same things over and over and expect different results. The definition of insanity!

Let's focus more on TEAM and less on COST and see if our results are better for the long haul.