Archive for February, 2012

Mission-Driven Social Media

February 28, 2012 7 comments

A few years ago I took a consulting assignment for an incoming college dean.  My job – write the school’s new communications plan.  In my first meeting I asked what the school’s mission was.  “Every college and university has basically the same mission,” she said.  I explained that a unique mission is key to a high quality communications program.

There was an effort among the senior faculty to write a mission statement but it became the product of consensus.  I’ve learned it takes a lot of hard work to create a mission statement, particularly if you’re not a founding father.

It was a missed opportunity to create something powerful.  Mission-driven communications integrate naturally; stories gain context.  They are the basis of great brands like IBM and Apple.

I remembered that time when I learned about a unique and powerful social media strategy at the Mayo Clinic, The Center for Social Media.  A video presentation by CEO John Noseworthy, M.D.  introduces the center as extending their founders’ mission, now over 100 years old.  Drs. William and Charles Mayo wrote, “The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered and in order that the sick have the benefit of advancing knowledge, union of forces is necessary.”

Dr. Noseworthy explains how that mission came to life in the early years of the Mayo clinic, “It drove the Mayo brothers to invent the concept of group medical practice at a time when the notion was considered a breach of physicians’ individual responsibility.” They used that concept to create other best practices and shared them with physicians around the world.

How does this tie in with social media? Social media are a great way to assure that the patient receives a continuum of coordinated care.

One early Mayo innovation was the unified patient medical record. “It’s goal is to build a network around the patient.” says Dr. Noseworthy. That is the opportunity for social media. Networks of physicians, support staff and other patients may improve outcomes when coordinated through the clinic.

Lee Aase is the director of the center.  In a “Conversations on Health Care” podcast, Mr. Aase details the many ways in which the center’s programs define excellence in patient centered care through social media.  In each case, the linkage to the Mayo Clinic mission is clear to see.

Visit the center’s website, see the video blogs from physicians, read the patient stories. There is nothing slick or artificial. An aura of authenticity surrounds this program.  This its true in part because of its connection to the clinic’s mission.  Other academic medical centers have similar programs and they are well executed.  But the visceral connection to the institution is often missing.  The whole is lesser than the sum.

Well done Mayo Clinic.

Photo credit: Salvatore Vuono

The Perils of Free Market Healthcare

February 22, 2012 6 comments

Affordable Care

Increases in healthcare spending have slowed to near the rate of general inflation in recent years. Why has this happened? Is it a sign that the market is gaining traction and we don’t need big government to rein in spending?  J. D. Kleinke of the American Enterprise Institute thinks so.  In his Wall St. Journal opinion piece, The Myth of Runaway Health Spending ,  Mr. Kleinke states that market forces are conspiring to regulate spending and “… it puts the lie to the claim that we need government to put the brakes on an “out-of-control” health-care system.”

Here’s the lowdown on these market forces. Employers and insurers reacted to a decade of healthcare inflation by introducing tiered hospital access, tiered pharmacy payments, and high deductible insurance plans.  “You want top-notch care and better drugs?  You pay for them, and by the way, whatever choices you make, the first $5,000 is out of your pocket.”

The result – consumers today decide how much healthcare they consume, and where they consume it.  Are they qualified to make those decisions?  What is the cost of poor decision-making?

Physician office visits declined by 4% from 2009 to 2010 according to IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. JP Morgan analyst John Rex reported an 8% decrease in visits from 2010 to 2011.  A Commonwealth Fund study of 18,000 adults in 11 countries, posted Nov. 9, 2011 on the Health Affairs website, showed “sicker” American adults intentionally missed doctor visits, did not fill prescriptions, skipped doses of medication and went without recommended care.

Half of U.S. adults under 65 (51%) went without care because of costs, compared to 19 percent of adults age 65 or older; 35 percent of those under 65 had problems with medical bills, compared with only 6 percent of adults 65 or older. One in four (27%) American adults said they had trouble paying for care or could not cover medical bills.  These draconian “market” solutions to health costs may actually increase health spending as more Americans develop chronic illness from lack of care.

There are positive market forces at work lowering costs.  In Massachusetts, insurers and hospitals renegotiated existing contracts and agreed to bundled payments systems that reward outcomes, not volume.  Accountable Care Organizations and Patient Centered Medical Homes are spreading throughout the system.  The impetus for these changes? The Affordable Care Act.

There’s no doubt the healthcare system would have morphed into something resembling the structure outlined by the ACA. But how long would it take to become an effective nationwide continuum of care?

The ACA is not a magic bullet, but it started the ball rolling in the right direction.  Payers and providers saw the writing on the wall.  ACA gave it shape and focus.  Now the market is pushing ahead of the schedule and hopefully patients will not have to choose between eating and seeing their caregiver.

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