Patients Are Actually Customers…Who Knew?

I was finally getting to my giant pile of reading this week when I saw an article in Health Care Information Week that included the following sentence:

As consumer satisfaction begins to have a bigger impact on the bottom line, more hospitals are hiring a chief patient experience officer (CXO) to treat patients like valued customers.

Maybe it’s me, as a born and bred marketing person, but that seems like the weirdest concept in the world. In layman’s terms it basically means this: Hospitals are waking up to the fact that patients are actually their customers (go figure) and failure to notice this fact will reduce their revenue. Another fact: it wasn’t until CMS decided to penalize hospitals for poor patient satisfaction by docking their reimbursement by up to 2 percent that hospitals started to get religion on this topic. (more…)

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It’s Time to Think Differently. Have You Prepared a Health Care Budget?

Terri Prof Headshot 0412Have changes in health care hit your pocketbook yet?  In addition to a high deductible insurance plan, are you using a Health Savings Account (HSA) for the first time?

If you’ve gotten new health insurance, a different deductible level due to the monthly premium cost, or if you’ve been taking your chances without any health care coverage at all, you may be in for a big surprise.  Do you know how much your overall health care will cost you and your family this year?  Are deductibles, premiums, maximum out-of-pockets amounts and co-pays clear to you?  If not, you have some planning to do.  You’re going to need to lay out a health care budget so that you know what you can afford.  You may also need to start thinking differently and proactively. (more…)

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The Dilemma of Canceled Insurance Policies

Trudy-Lieberman -- biggerBy now it’s hardly a secret that insurance companies have canceled the policies of millions of Americans whose old coverage did not comply with new benefit requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That is, the policies that did not offer coverage for services like maternity care, mental health treatment, physical therapy and hospital outpatient surgery that ACA supporters believed were essential for good, comprehensive health insurance.

Since last fall, backlash against what was intended to be a good consumer protection measure has been fired up by TV and news stories telling tales of woe from people whose policies were canceled. Those who lost their policies complained about having to buy maternity coverage, for instance, when having a baby would never be in their future. As I explained in a previous post, they did not understand that the law also called for some cross-subsidization among policyholders to keep premiums reasonably affordable for everyone. All insurance products include some degree of this kind of risk-sharing across an insured group. (more…)

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How (On Earth) I Got Into the Food Business

If you had asked me when I was in medical school what the odds were of my starting a food company, they would have fallen somewhere between winning the lottery and being struck by lightning twice…on the same day.

However, when I look back on my medical education, this actually speaks to a fundamental problem in how physicians are trained and in how we practice.

Simply put, we don’t do food.

Every day I’m astounded by what patients tell me they eat. Two doughnuts each day for breakfast? Six bottles of regular Coke a day? Dinner every night…out of a box? Zero fresh fruits or vegetables per week? Most food obtained from the gas station convenience store?  Nothing in my training ever prepared me for this.

When a physician sees a patient with high cholesterol or high blood pressure, step one in the care plan is to encourage “eating better.” The problem with this advice is that the vast majority of patients either don’t know what it means to eat a healthy diet, or they simply can’t sustain it. (more…)

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Why I Share My Story: Karen and Stage 4 Colon Cancer

April 7th, 2007: It was about one month before my 32nd birthday. My son Ethan was 16 months old. My daughter Sydney had turned three in February. My husband and I had been married for eight years. On that day in an emergency room in New Jersey I was told, as a nurse stood next to me crying, “You have colon cancer, you have tumors all over your liver.”

“Say that to me again. Say to me you have colon cancer,” I asked.

The emergency room doctor looking very sad and strikingly helpless said, “You have colon cancer.”

I asked, “And I have tumors all over my liver?”

“Yes,” he replied. With tears streaming down my face, I repeated, “Say that part again too. Tell me I have tumors all over my liver.”

He did as I asked.

The nurse touched my shoulder, whispering as she wiped her tears away, “I am so sorry.” (more…)

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Look Who’s Coming Between You and Your Doctor

Trudy LiebermanOpponents of health care reform, especially those who resist moving to a single payer system like Canada’s, have often used a very powerful argument to sway public opinion. Any significant changes, they warn, to America’s private insurance system would mean that the government will come between patients and their doctors by making decisions about the care Americans receive. Remember the fear and uproar stirred up over “death panels”?

But what if it’s not the government that is inserting itself between you and your doctor? Since managed care appeared more than two decades ago, insurers have attempted to guide physicians’ behavior regarding the treatments and medicines patients could have. Many insurers required preapproval for some services, especially the costly ones. Utilization nurses sat in cubicles dispensing health information and saying yea or nay to your physician’s plans for your care. (more…)

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Food: The Ultimate Health Care Disruptor

(top) Dr. Elizabeth Klodas,
(bottom) Barb Birr

It seems the farther we progress with medical treatment and technology, the faster we abandon addressing the root causes of disease. This is especially true in the case of heart disease, the number one killer and disabler of Americans.

As a health care system, we have certainly become exceptionally good at prescribing statins, treating hypertension, and putting in stents and pacemakers.  But we do all this while failing to effectively address the underlying fundamental root cause of cardiovascular disease – poor nutrition.

Of the seven modifiable risk factors for heart disease – smoking, inactivity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, blood sugar abnormalities, excess weight, poor diet – five are nutrition related.  And simply putting people on medications to normalize their cholesterol or blood pressure readings without fully addressing what they eat is therefore not a cure – it is only a masking of risk.  Paradoxically, this masking actually enables poor dietary patterns, perpetuating the underlying stimulus, creating a vicious cycle. (more…)

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STORIES FROM THE HEART: Pregnancy masked her heart failure; now she helps warn others about heart disease