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What you should care about in healthcare today, from the editors of Becker's Hospital Review

  • Hospital staff helps cancer patients pay co-pays

    A dose of feel-good to kick off the weekend.Read More...
  • A page from McDonald's playbook: Why hospitals need to fix their "patties" first

    McDonald's may be on its way to overcoming — or at least to addressing — some of the health issues associated with its fast food. Yesterday, new McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook announced that within the next two years, the fast food dynamo will only use chickens "raised without antibiotics important to human medicine," and later in 2015 will begin using milk from cows that are not given rbST, an artificial growth hormone, according to Fortune. This move focused on quality improvement marks a significant departure from the strategic initiatives of former McDonald's CEO, Don Thompson, who emphasized a "Create Your Taste" strategy aimed to guide customers' attention to the various topping options available instead of what the patties are actually made of. McDonald's knows it has a perception issue. "The informal eating-out industry, most specifically the quick-service industry, is under a much higher level of scrutiny today than I've seen at my time in McDonald's. People today are questioning the integrity and the quality at the food at a much higher level," Mr. Thompson said in November, according to the report. The notion of the more informed, savvier consumer with a greater interest in quality is present in healthcare, too. Mr. Thompson's response to this issue was to implement a series of promotional ads that aimed to change consumers' perceptions that McDonald's serves low quality meat and that, overall, the food is unhealthy. Mr. Easterbrook's new approach is not to try to change the minds of consumers, but rather to employ the solution the franchise really needs, which is to become better aligned with today's consumers' demands and actually improve the quality of the food. McDonald's, with its massive scale and brand identity, could become a significant driver of change in the fast food industry and its suppliers. According to Fortune, this move could initiate a new focus on the quality of fast food and even establish new quality standards. Relating a McDonald's Big Mac to healthcare may seem counterintuitive, but if you look at Mr. Easterbrook's emphasis on quality improvement, McDonald's can serve as a pretty good example for some of healthcare's goals — and Mr. Thompson's attempt at a solution could highlight what healthcare sometimes gets wrong.Read More...
  • Hillary Clinton's email snafu highlights insider threats to cybersecurity

    Washington is having a heyday with the revelation that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account to conduct government business during her four years serving as Secretary of State, but while many of the discussions encircling the revelation are political, the technological implications run just as deep. On Monday, the New York Times reported Ms. Clinton communicated via a personal email domain when she was Secretary of State. What's more, she used a "homemade" email server located in her New York state home, the Associated Press found. While other government employees have conducted business from personal emails, the situation with Ms. Clinton raises additional flags given her international stature. The original NYT report said it was unclear what, if any, security measures were implemented with her personal email domain. "The question is [whether] whatever provider she's using gives her anywhere near the same level of protection for the confidentiality and the authenticity of the communications as she would be getting from her State Department email," said J. Alex Halderman, a cybersecurity expert associated with Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan, in an Al Jazeera America report. "If she's using it from her main work machine to send and receive her mail, then people could be intercepting the mail she's sending and receiving, even changing its content." What's even more troubling to the Clinton scenario is that her aides warned her and those in her office that using the personal email account was dangerous, especially given the presumably sensitive nature of some of the emails. "We tried," said a current State department employee in the Al Jazeera America report. "We told people in her office that it wasn't a good idea. They were so uninterested that I doubt the secretary was ever informed." Whatever your political opinions of Ms. Clinton are, this revelation serves as a reminder for executive leadership that even C-suite level executives don't escape the threat radar or cybersecurity responsibilities of the rest of the organization.Read More...
  • Patients at Wisconsin hospital are game show contestants

    A dose of feel-good to kick off the weekend. Patients at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-All Saints hospital on Spring Street in Racine, Wis., have the opportunity to be game show contestants, right in the privacy of their own room, according to The Journal Times.Read More...
  • Friday feel good: Physician transforms the hallways of Oregon hospital

    A dose of feel-good to kick off the weekend.Read More...
  • 'Anything easy ain't worth a damn.'

    I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where football Saturdays rivaled Sundays for the holiest day of the week. As such, the esteemed words of the likes of Urban Meyer, Jim Tressel and Woody Hayes (arguably Ohio State's best coaches) were as highly revered as the football team itself. "Anything easy ain't worth a damn," Woody Hayes so famously — and eloquently — said. (And he should know. Coach Hayes led the Buckeyes to five national championships, 13 Big Ten Conference titles and finished his 28-season career at Ohio State with a 205-61-10 record.) In terms of the values he upheld in his work, "ease" didn't rank high for Coach Hayes. Convenience, speed, comfort — these weren't things he thought made for a winning team, and I would venture to say most successful people would agree. Ease, or the absence of difficulty, can be a dangerous enabler. We arguably place less value on things that come easily. They don't require investment on our part, in terms of time, effort or another commitment that carries value. Ease can also fool us into acting more carelessly, a phenomenon Brian Millar suggests in his Wired article called "Why We Should Design Some Things to be Difficult to Use." He writes about the late economist Gordon Tullock and one of his pieces of design logic that could theoretically reduce car accidents: install a spike protruding from the steering wheel that is directed at the driver's heart. "User friendly? No. But it would certainly make everybody drive very, very carefully," Mr. Millar writes. Mr. Millar's article speaks to the design of cars, cameras and computers, but as the healthcare industry is undergoing a grand redesign of its own, I can't help but think many of the same principles carry over. Redesigning the American healthcare system will be anything but easy, yet this value seems to be exactly what many professionals in the industry expect. While we shouldn't always expect things to be harder than they are, we also can't expect them to be easier than they are. And redesigning a $2.2 trillion system (as estimated by PricewaterhouseCoopers) shouldn't be easy. What it's supposed to do is result in the best system we can conceivably offer — safe, effective, efficient and centered around the patient.Read More...
  • Lost & found: Missing dog walks 20 blocks to find owner in Iowa hospital

    Here is your feel-good news story of the week.Read More...
  • We only mock the things we love: Becker's healthcare policy valentines

    Here at Becker's Hospital Review, we writers are up to our noses in healthcare business and policy issues everyday. In the spirit of Valentine's Day, and the influence and inspiration from social media, we crafted some of our own #healthpolicyvalentines. I know we're between recommended screening intervals, but I'm still scoping you out, baby. Our love is just like an ASC: high quality, low cost. I don't need a certificate of need to know I want this joint venture to be official. I have more ways to say "I love you" than ICD-10 has codes. I may not understand meaningful use, but I sure can attest to my feelings for you. You're not hereIt tears me apartOnce CMS pays for telehealth coverageI'll show you my heart. Roses are redViolets are blueI love you as intenselyAs doctors hate meaningful use stage 2Read More...
  • 8 of the biggest rebels in healthcare

    These individuals (and one company) have ignored, challenged or expressed frustration with the established way of doing things in healthcare. They have shared unconventional, if not unpopular, opinions and perspectives. In this case, rebel is a close cousin to "disruptive innovator." The words that's the way we've always done it or that's the way it's always been would likely elicit steam from their ears. We look forward to the next ripples, if not waves, these individuals and newspaper make. 1. Jonathan Bush. Known as a "ceaselessly energetic" leader and entrepreneur, Mr. Bush is the co-founder and CEO of Watertown, Mass.-based athenahealth and author of the book , "Where Does It Hurt? An Entrepreneur's Guide to Fixing Health Care." Mr. Bush has made several contrarian statements about healthcare, including the idea that less coverage could lead to more healthcare access at a lower cost. Mr. Bush also has a rebellious streak in that he collaborates and gathers investors with startups that may someday make his own less relevant — even obsolete, according to Fortune. Lately, the Harvard Business School alum and nephew of President George W. H. Bush, been accelerating the company's investments and acquisitions in its More Disruption Please program. Mr. Bush sees the program, which includes investors and partner startups that don't receive funding from athena, as a precursor for future acquisitions. Regarding such companies, he tells Fortune, "Oh, hell yea. This is our nursery. This is our farm team." The increased activity in these transactions is part of Mr. Bush's ultimate plan to build the "healthcare internet," which would offer cloud-based medical services to attend to every aspect of the healthcare system. As Fortune said: "Bush's rallying cry, as always, is the need to reform the U.S. healthcare system through innovation — and by whatever means necessary." 2. Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD. Dr. Emanuel, an oncologist, bioethicist and former health policy adviser to the Obama administration, stirred controversy when his article "Why I Hope to Die at 75" was published in The Atlantic. Dr. Emanuel, who is now chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, hopes to die by the time he reaches 75 because he "will have lived a complete life." He says living too long — especially with disabilities and faltering health — is in fact a greater loss than death. Some critics found the article disturbing, given Dr. Emanuel's involvement in the design of the healthcare reform law. According to The Advisory Board, New York-based ophthalmologist Gregory Pinto called on the AMA to invalidate Dr. Emanuel's 2013 Award for Medical Ethics and Professionalism from the AMA Foundation, arguing Dr. Emanuel's opinions in his article contradict the AMA Code of Medical Ethics by implying life is less valuable with advanced age. Ultimately, the AMA decided not to rescind his award. Dr. Emanuel, author of the book "Reinventing American Healthcare," has also taken a strong stance that U.S. hospitals need to close: "Hospitals are a grossly inefficient way of providing jobs. We don't need 5,000 hospitals." 3. Carroll Frazier Landrum, MD. Dr. Landrum, an 88-year-old Mississippi physician, recently made national headlines for practicing medicine out of his 2007 Toyota Camry. According to the Washington Post, the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure has launched an investigation into Dr. Landrum for treating underprivileged patients within a 50 mile radius of Edwards, Miss., in houses, on roadsides or even parking lots for the past two years. The Board wants to revoke Dr. Landrum's medical license under an "incompetency" charge. His story has garnered support both locally and nationally, and a petition to help him keep his license earned nearly 50,000 signatures by the end of January. The local community plans to help him into a new office building that is currently under construction, according to the Post. In a time when physicians are increasingly leaving private practice for hospital employment, Dr. Landrum may very well represent the most independent of independent physicians. 4. Judy Faulkner. Ms. Faulkner is the founder and CEO of Verona, Wis.-based Epic Systems. Despite her role as chief of one of the nation's largest EHR providers, Ms. Faulkner is notoriously against advertising or promoting Epic. According to Forbes, the company's success is largely the result of carefully hand-selecting customers and doing away with the sales pitch. Just 1 percent of its 5,200 employees were in sales and marketing in 2012. While Ms. Faulkner distrusts promotion and avoids interviews with the media, she does hold extensive annual Epic Systems Users Group Meetings for customers. Each year, she shows up in costume in accordance with the meeting's theme. According to Forbes, Ms. Faulkner has led conferences while costumed as Superwoman, a wizard from Harry Potter and a biker with a Harley-Davidson on stage.Read More...
  • How a look outside the US healthcare system illuminates its most daunting hurdle

    As a newly minted healthcare journalist, I've had to learn a lot of information on a myriad of topics very quickly. For example, I had to learn about accountable care organizations, EMRs, interoperability and meaningful use. Most arduously, I've had to become informed on the various aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and understand both sides of the hotly contested debate that has surrounded it since its inception. For the first several weeks on the job, I was bogged down by all of the negativity inextricable from seemingly every facet of the industry. Eventually, I got used to reporting on surveys showing dissatisfaction among healthcare workers across the board, so much so that they regret their career choice, or that health systems are finding many government initiatives counter-productive and even unachievable, and most disconcertingly, on Congress' inability to cooperate on healthcare matters (or much of anything) across the partisan divide. Although both enthusiasm and optimism endure for some, negativity and contention in healthcare is pervasive. And, while I agree our system is flawed, and debate and criticism are essential factors of change, I often ask myself, does the U.S. healthcare system warrant this degree of strife? This question had not become so loaded for me until I went to Santiago, Chile, a few weeks ago. I joined my family on a mission as part of the Irvine, Calif.-based Free Wheelchair Mission, of which my mom is an active member. This nonprofit organization provides wheelchairs to people with disabilities living in developing nations at no cost. The organization has distributed more than 800,000 wheelchairs to people in 91 countries. Though I thought I had braced myself for the poverty I knew I would see in Chile, the experience was heart wrenching. Most disturbing was the sight of disabled children and adults left alone in a bed or chair all day while their families went to work, or hearing that a person had not gone outside in months or even years because he or she was too heavy for a caretaker to carry.Read More...

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