What’s more important to patient outcomes and service excellence – the performance of a hospital or its affiliated physicians? Tray Dunaway, MD, author, surgeon and educator, believes the more important question may be, can you see who’s been swimming naked? We invited Dr. Dunaway to shed some light on the topic in the week leading up to the 2012 HealthShare Symposium, where he will expand on what he believes the industry needs to do to advance healthcare quality for patients. For now, here’s a preview.
Want to improve hospital-physician alignment? Tell them you can see them naked.
Choosing a physician and hospital based on superior health care value determined by clinical outcomes and service benchmarks is difficult for many reasons. Even well educated and savvy healthcare consumers face a daunting task, often compounded by an overwhelming sense of urgency, in making the best healthcare buying decision when suddenly faced with medical needs.
Making the right choice is difficult because healthcare quality waters are murky. Most consumers can’t comprehend a myriad of decision making factors, nor can they determine proper significance of factors they even think they may understand. But quoting Warren Buffett, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”
Medicare’s Hospital Choice remains abstract to most consumers. The new Medicare Physician Compare is rudimentary and marginally useful at best. These online healthcare consumer tools may help improve the clarity of “healthcare quality,” but with the merger of CPM and Healthgrades, the tide is racing out on physicians and hospitals. And everyone can see who’s been swimming naked!
By tracking hospitals and physicians through most common admissions or procedures, a direct apples-to-apples comparison is possible. Coupled with future plans enabling consumers to schedule an appointment with their chosen physician within minutes of making a selection based on comparative criterion, a whole new marketing pipeline (with measurable marketing ROI), is created for hospitals and practices looking to bring in new patients. Furthermore, keeping existing patients through improved contact relationships is simplified, effective, and again, eminently measurable.
I typed “healthgrades” into Google search. When I clicked on the first listing, the Healthgrades website, they already knew where I lived by the time the landing page loaded. I pulled up our community’s local hospital and checked out “cholecystectomy,” pretending I was not a general surgeon. My local hospital, where I practiced for seventeen years until 2001, scored a “one star” out of a possible five. Quickly searching for other regional options, I found a “five star.” U.S. Average complication rate was listed as 20%. (A bit high I thought, but I had to remember I was pretending not to be a know-it-all surgeon.) My local hospital boasted a 30% complication rate. Hmm…. “one star” vs. “five star.” 20% vs. 30% complication rates. Even for a non-healthcare expert, this choice is a no brainer.
When it comes to gallbladder surgery, anyone can clearly see my local hospital is swimming naked.
If I were still a practicing surgeon at this hospital I’d go ballistic. Administration could hear me yelling from the O.R., “WHY ARE WE A ONE STAR GALLBLADDER HOSPITAL? I’M LOSING BUSINESS HERE!!!!”
And suddenly, there is one surgeon who is VERY concerned about the need to improve physician/hospital alignment for outcome and service excellence. “Is it the hospital?” “Is it another surgeon?” And most revealing, “Is it me?” How can we change the data that is driving patients away even before I can talk to them? Improvement of measured quality parameters is now well beyond the physician lip service of the past. Understanding measured quality also factors into copy placement of hospital and physician names as elements of positioning further increases physician engagement.
The net result will advance health care quality for patients through hospital/physician collaboration locally so both physicians and hospital can remain viable in an increasingly competitive and transparent healthcare system — or physician/hospital extinction if the quality doesn’t improve. Because everyone can see who’s naked.
M. Tray Dunaway, MD, FACS, CSP is a powerful award winning national physician speaker who will be addresing “Building Bridges for Physician/Hospital Relationships” and will also deliver the closing keynote, “Connecting the Dots of Healthcare”, for the 2012 HealthShare Symposium. He will remain at least partially clothed for his presentations.