Ideas + Ideas + Ideas = Better Ideas

The internet is extremely good at sourcing ideas.  Ideas are good because they compound and build upon each other.  The organization 50 years ago was limited to idea sourcing coming from books, newspapers, relationships, conferences, etc.  That was fine, then.  Today, it doesn’t work like that.  Today’s idea sourcing occurs through the same channels—only now in an unlimited capacity.

And that’s cool.  Because, as mentioned previously, ideas build upon each other.  Reading other people’s ideas inspires personal ideation.  It’s a virtuous process.  The organization today is limited only by its own barriers.

Seth is conducting a very-non-traditional MBA program.  There are nine students and they have a blog here.

They came up with 999 business ideas and shared them.  Some are better than others, some are already around, some are truly ingenious.  It’s hard not to be inspired.  If you read through the list with a health care point of view it’s hard not to find much applicability.  Excerpted ideas appear below:

  • Consulting service that teaches companies how to improve their data visualization (use the right graphs and charts)
  • Brainstorm Consulting – Teach companies how to brainstorm
  • Create a website for non-profits and a list of their projects/needs and a similar list for foundations.
  • Meal delivery in hospitals
  • Surgery-specific recovery packs in hospital (if Sucrets and a can of cranberry juice is better than water & crackers, that pack exists)
  • A technology/service that Preachers/Rabbi’s/Clergy can use that creates a way to gather feedback during the service from the attendees.
  • A paperless hospital
  • Story Consulting – Help companies define and refine their story and teach them how to tell it
  • Service to teach doctors how to use technology to reach out to patients
  • Web-based devil’s advocate service for startups looking for someone to critique their ideas.
  • A non-profit that documents the stories told by elderly in nursing homes.
  • A personal education coach-they pick blogs, books, resources for you to learn based on your personal interests and career goals.  They gather all the materials and for you and make recommendations on the best way for learning the material.
  • Zappos Consulting – Teach companies how to deliver remarkable customer service and embed it in their culture

Go enjoy the list and find your own favorites.

Healthy food in hospitals

One of the most stunning contradictions in today’s hospitals is the unhealthful food they serve.  In a place dedicated to healing and healthful decision making a patron can find a wide array of dining options that are definitely not healthy.  Some hospitals even have fast food restaurants within their walls.  It all makes little sense.

Hospitals around the country continue to realize their error, most recently Hennpein County Medical Center in Minneapolis:

For the first time, “trans fat” has been wiped off the hospital menu.

HCMC says it’s the first hospital in the Twin Cities to go completely “trans-fat free” — eliminating or replacing 130 items, from cookies to snacks to refried beans, from its cafeterias and room service.

Yet other hospitals, too, have joined the growing national movement to shun trans fats because of the link to heart disease and obesity. (Star Tribune)

Health care marketing is hooey

Health care marketing is not marketing, it’s advertising—and few get the advertising part right.  Hospitals, health systems, clinics, etc. push push push their services through an assortment of mediums: billboards, newspapers, local magazines, television, radio, direct mail (even the new social media tools are most commonly used for telling)…

The thing about most health care services is that the patient doesn’t know they need it until they need it.  The status quo has been to inundate the patient with advertising to increase brand awareness—so that when the patient does realize they need a service, they think first of the entity that placed the most advertisements.  There is a better way.

Stop telling.  Start asking.

Instead of focusing on brand awareness, focus on brand embracement.  Build relationships.  Have conversations.

When a patient realizes health care need they are more likely to revert to past, positive relationships than to seek out new, unfamiliar associations.

Marketing: make the entire (read: entire!) patient experience with health care the best that it can be.  Focus upon the entire interaction continuum (from realizing need to forgetting it) and satisfy patients throughout.  Build a culture that provides unsurpassed customer service: endlessly dedicate resources to hiring the right people, improving appointment making, easing parking problems, encouraging communication, empowering service recovery, providing outstanding care, simplifying billing, etc. (all of the etc., too!).  Relationships will begin to materialize.

Doing so will create awesome stories (stories matter, stories are marketing) that are worth spreading.  Patients tell stories endlessly, whether they realize it or not.  They talk to others who chat with others who tell even more others.  Allow patients to tell their story of an experience that went beyond every expectation.  Health care is full of stories worth telling; allow it to happen by getting the distractions out of the way through marketing, real marketing.

Cost Cutting America: from the blue collar trenches to the corporate world

The venerable Reader’s Digest took a shot at health care cost cutting a few months back.  They have some good ideas (although mostly what we’ve all heard before, still worth the read): manage chronic conditions, improve quality, e-prescribe, collaborate more often, etc.

RD also takes aim at individual behavior (personal responsibility!!): pay workers for healthy habits, use retail clinics for the small stuff, set health goals and make them public, visit physicians virtually, …

The best, though, is the magazine’s plan for making thinking healthy a habit: our schools.  RD says we need to reward healthy eating, rescue recess, and expand gym class.  They very correctly note that today’s generation of children has a real risk of living shorter lives than its parents. There is plenty of room for local health care organization community involvement at school.

It is striking to listen to/read the number of pundits (professional or not) suggest ways to start fixing health care…and yet we lack widespread concentrated efforts on taking action.  Maybe we need a national agenda with a health care czar (it’s a nation of czars, now) to spur the movement (the proverbial nudge) and incent action.

On a related note, The McKinsey Quarterly reports (free reg. req.) that we (USA) overspend on health care by $650 billion annually.  The biggest culprits: outpatient care ($326 billion), pharmaceuticals ($98 billion), and administration ($91 billion).  Again, nothing Earth shattering but plenty of opportunity for transformation.

Re: Poor Patient Satisfaction

HealthDay/Washington Post:

In the first national survey of patients’ experiences, many hospitals were found wanting in key areas such as pain management and discharge instructions. In fact, almost one-third of patients gave low ratings to pain management, and one-fifth gave low ratings to communication at discharge.

Solution?  Work on the organization’s culture.  See post below.

“If something looks too good, people won’t touch it”

Clay Shirky (as always) makes some interesting points in the interview below.  This has some application to health care, too.  For (many?) patients, the perception (brand?) of physicians and hospitals (albeit decreasing) is one of perfect order.  As Mr. Shirky says, “If something looks too good, people won’t touch it.”  That’s problematic in health care.  Interaction is important.  Conversation counts.  Participation is powerful.  Let’s continue to break down the barriers.  Transform the brand.


[via PSFK]

You have to try stuff to find winners

Jen McCabe Gorman passed along a link to a video via Twitter Tuesday.  It’s a Modern Healthcare highlight reel of the Rocky Mountain Roundtable 2008.  The theme of the short footage is generally about bettering wellness prevention and chronic disease management.

Reed Tuckson, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs at UnitedHealth Group, emphasized community solutions, especially community-based health centers for all patients.

Dr. Tuckson’s talk focused on a four-step approach to improving prevention efforts and disease management:

1. Better leadership

2. Better strategic planning

3. Support research

4. Integrate prevention into clinical care through IT

All good points.  However, his quote about step two is bothersome.  Dr. Tuckson said, “We gotta get better strategic planning, we play around with prevention. ‘I heard a good idea the other day, let’s try that.’  That’s foolishness.  We need data, information that’s locally specific that says ‘here are the problems in our zip code and here are things we need to get at.'”

If trying new ideas is foolishness, fools are what we should aspire to be.

Granted, planning around prevention would improve through locally gathered data.  It would tell us a community’s greatest needs and then we would apply proven methods to address them.  That’s fantastic.  And some day it may work like that.

But varying needs will require solutions of many different feathers.  How do we find such solutions?  When researchers, doctors, public health officials, citizens, patients, etc. say, “I heard a good idea the other day, let’s try that.”

Tom Peters:

If Randomness Rules then your only defense is the so-called “law of large numbers”—that is, success follows from tryin’ enough stuff so that the odds of doin’ something right tilt your way; in my speeches I declare that the only thing I’ve truly learned “for sure” in the last 40 years is “Try more stuff than the other guy”—there is no poetic license here, I mean it.

You have to try stuff to find winners.

It’s wonderful to hear an executive from a private insurer pushing these ideas.  But throwing out the engine (good ideas) that will create innovative solutions to solve our oppressing health care issues is unwise., the over the counter pharmacy


Matt Thompson has some advice for you: stop buying cheap-ish pseudo-generic drugs from Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and Duane Reade and start buying really cheap true generics.

As you might know, Benadryl (available at for $5.29 for a box of 24 capsules) and Wal-dryl ($3.99 / 24 capsules) are otherwise known as “25 mg. of diphenhydramine HCI.” Compare [with the true generic available at Amazon]. Yes, that is 400 tablets containing 25 mg. of diphenhydramine HCI, for about $10 when you factor in shipping.

Heed his words. Here’s 300 tablets of generic Claritin for $11.00, 100 tablets of generic Zyrtec for $6.99, 240 tablets of generic Zantac, 1000 capsules of generic Benadryl for $20.34, 1000 tablets of generic Advil for $11.70, and 1000 caplets of generic Tylenol for $13.91.

Learning from Mistakes

As the hospital construction boom and health system consolidation trend continues in the United States, Moody’s Investor Services–a credit-rating organization–may be, in a few more words, telling the industry to slow down.

Moody’s is using the ten-year anniversary of the largest collapse of a non-profit health care system in U.S. history, Allegheny Health and Research Education Foundation, to issue a report that urges current industry leaders to learn from past mistakes.

The blog PhillyInc writes, “Moody’s calls the collapse ‘a cautionary tale for today as hospitals currently face a growing number of industry-wide pressures.'”

The report asks for discussions centering around “What have we learned?”

As they say, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”

The important questions

Some have scoffed at the idea of traveling to India or Thailand for medical care.  How about New Zealand for the same reason?  They speak English and have such American necessities as McDonalds and Starbucks.  Rumor is the scenery is beautiful, too.

Medtral is hoping that an experience similar to that found in the United States will be the reason American health care travelers choose New Zealand for their next hip replacement.  From The Washington Post: “The company says it can offer procedures at boutique hospitals with follow-up personal nursing care at a fraction of the cost of the same surgery in the United States.”

Only 30 North Americans have registered with the company in ten months of existance.  The article also says that cost comparisons are difficult because of the variability in pricing across the U.S.  Medtral is focusing on a market they estimate at 75 million uninsured and underinsured Americans.

Here is the most important point, however:

“If my insurance company will cover the major share of the cost of the procedure, then I’m inclined to have it done here in California, since my biggest concern is what if something goes wrong,” says Shaw, an eighth-grade teacher from Mountain View, Calif. “I really don’t want to have to travel back to New Zealand for the sole purpose of doctor visits. That’s a bit expensive on a teacher’s salary.” If his insurer balks at the U.S. expenses, he is ready to make the case for traveling to New Zealand.

It always comes back to what patients will have to spend out of pocket.  Cost savings must be equivalent to the extra effort required to receive care in New Zealand (or any other country, for that matter). Getting a knee replaced requires significant rehab time and a few follow-up visits.  Turns out those tasks are easier to accomplish when the services are provided a few miles from the home rather than around the world.

“Will my insurance cover it?” and “How much is it going to cost me?” have been, and will continue to be, more important questions than “Who is doing my procedure?” and “Where is my procedure being done?”

That doesn’t seem right.