Category Archives: Healthcare
One of the best parts about working for Lovell Communications in Washington, D.C., is the proximity to Capitol Hill. Even if you’re not a political junkie, you can’t help but get caught up in the conversation about the latest controversial legislation, political gaffe, or the looming “crisis” our country is facing during any given week.
But once a year, I get to go a little deeper and get a true Inside-The-Beltway look at the world of healthcare policy by attending the Nashville Health Care Council’s Leadership Health Care delegation to Washington, D.C. This annual trip offers emerging leaders in Nashville’s health care community access to thought leaders, administration officials and policy makers who are shaping the healthcare industry.
This year’s event was held in March and focused heavily on prospects for entitlement reform. About 80 delegates from Nashville and beyond had the chance to hear from members of Tennessee’s Congressional Delegation and speakers such as Gail Wilensky, the former administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration, and healthcare scholars at think tanks American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Of course, Lovell didn’t just sit on the sidelines during this event. Our partnership with LHC had us taking copious notes and live-blogging the event for those who couldn’t make the trip. To read the coverage and find out what we learned during the trip, check out the blog posts from Day One and Day Two on the Nashville Post’s Business Blog.
For those of you who were in attendance, let us know your thoughts about the trip and what you learned – by leaving a comment below.
At the end of a long day in the OR, shooting for a hospital client, almost anything can happen.
“I’m sorry.” When delivered in a straightforward and heartfelt manner, those two little words are among the most powerful in the English language. In fact, research suggests organizations and individuals who admit wrongdoing and offer a swift, sincere mea culpa fare better – both in the court of law and the court of public opinion – than those who remain silent. More importantly, apologies can provide immeasurable comfort and begin the process of rebuilding trust.
While politicians and corporations alike seem to have mastered the art of the apology, hospitals and physicians are still struggling to incorporate the phrase into their everyday practice. When faced with evidence of medical error, providers have traditionally avoided acknowledging or apologizing out of fear of legal action. However, the movement towards transparency recently got a major boost with the launch of a patient apology program at seven major Massachusetts hospitals. Modeled after an honesty-based, patient safety-focused approach practiced by the University of Michigan Health System for more than a decade, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and other participants will provide an apology and settlement if a root cause analysis shows the provider or facility was at fault.
The program is the latest in a growing trend toward disclosure of medical errors in an effort to reduce liability claims. (I blogged about the sound communication principles behind the Sorry Works movement here). On the heels of the Massachusetts effort, the American Health Lawyers Association recently published guidance for providers and healthcare organizations to use in investigating and disclosing serious clinical adverse events. In addition to providing an overview of the regulatory and legal considerations associated with disclosure, the resource serves as a checklist for planning outreach to regulatory agencies, patients and families, media and other third parties.
While apologies should never be offered carelessly and there are many considerations that must be thoroughly evaluated before making a disclosure, taking a more human approach to communicating medical mistakes seems like a significant step in the right direction. Avoiding communication with patients and families not only erodes the trust patients place in healthcare providers, but also undermines the goodwill they work so hard to build. Establishing an open dialogue backed by meaningful change isn’t just the right communications strategy – it’s the right thing to do.
This morning Lyle Denniston, Dean of the U.S. Supreme Court Press Corps, spoke to members of the Nashville Health Care Council about the court’s historic decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Joining his audience via webinar from the Supreme Court’s press room in Washington, D.C., Denniston endeavored to “clear up some of the continuing confusion” around the court’s decision.
For those of you who missed his previous appearances with the Health Care Council, Denniston has been covering the Supreme Court for 54 years. He now covers the court for SCOTUSblog, which grew its daily viewership from a mere 30,000 per day to more than 5.3 million viewers on the day of the healthcare decision thanks to the fast, accurate coverage it provided of the court’s opinions on a live blog in the waning days of June (unlike several major cable news outlets that incorrectly reported the court’s decision in their scramble to be first).
Among the topics Denniston discussed this morning was the impact of the court’s decision to strike down the law’s requirement that all states expand their Medicaid programs in favor of making the expansion optional on a state-by state basis. Denniston expects that state legislatures will soon be inundated with lobbyists advocating for the expansion, perhaps swaying even the “red states” toward Medicaid expansions.
“You’re going to have hordes of lobbyists from various stakeholders who want their states to participate [in the Medicaid expansion] just falling all over themselves to get them to vote to go on it,” Denniston said. “So it may be that this is not a call made by governors or attorneys general, whatever their individual attitudes.”
Denniston also explored the court’s decision on the individual mandate. He admitted that he incorrectly predicted the provision would be upheld under the Commerce Clause instead of under tax law, but reminded listeners that there is “a major section in the government’s argument… that discusses the tax issue and lays it out fully as an alternative argument.”
And on a political front, he provided some context to the political uproar that followed Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision to uphold the law alongside the more liberal members of the court.
“I think one of the factors to bringing him around is the concern about the institutional stature of the court,” he said. “I think he wanted to make a gesture in this case to make sure the court was not predictably a conservative court and not predictably a partisan court.”
But he explained that anyone who reads the opinion of the chief justice will notice that “he has not sacrificed one whit of his conservative philosophy,” and calling most of the language “very, very conservative.”
For those of you who missed the webinar, I recommend you check out SCOTUSblog for more insights from Denniston and his team.
Earlier this month the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services started considering a name change for one of the healthcare reform law’s most important consumer-facing provisions: health insurance exchanges.
As I read the story in Kaiser Health News about the possible rebranding, I found myself nodding along with the premise: Health insurance exchanges are intended to be consumer-friendly online marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can compare and purchase health insurance — but the word “exchange” doesn’t clearly convey that message. In fact, in almost every news story I’ve read about exchanges, the word “marketplace” is used as a synonym to help readers understand the concept.
According to Kaiser Health News, CMS Office of Communications Director Julie Bataille, CMS is not recommending the use of the word exchange in enrollment materials, based on focus group results in seven major cities that showed the word is confusing to consumers. She told Kaiser Health News that the word can have a number of different meanings to consumers, including “the idea that they may have to swap something.”
In Utah, officials are considering changing the name of its already-operating exchange because they think the name “carries negative connotations” and doesn’t resonate with consumers. “We want to make sure that the exchange is resonating as a market-based solution,” Patty Connor, director of the Utah Health Exchange advisory board, told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Neither Utah officials or CMS officials have said what new moniker they would like to adopt, just that it needs to be a more consumer-friendly title. I agree that a new name may be in order – but I’m not sure that the word marketplace gets the job done, either. As a University of Georgia professor told Kaiser Health News, the word marketplace may encourage the idea that the lowest price policy is the best one, which doesn’t hold true in the health insurance arena.
What do you think? Is “health insurance exchange” a confusing name? Should CMS drop it in favor of a clearer term? If so – what name would you propose? Let us know in the comments section.