WeeklyRush

Healthier Hospitals

A framework for Healthcare Finance 2.0 already exists

Similar to leading edge retailers, hospital systems participating in the Healthier Hospital Initiative are working to make their organizations healthier and more environmentally friendly. 

I discovered the initiative while researching organizational values of leading healthcare organizations and noticed the reference on the old values page for Tenet Health. Unfortunately, the page is no longer available.

Tenet Health

Tenet’s new values are reflected by the acronym CARE which may make them easier for people to remember. However, what truly makes values memorable is whether they are reinforced every day by the way people work and conduct themselves on the job and in the community.

Change of Values

I started my healthcare career with Tenet Health and the values reflected now are fairly consistent with how the company operated back then with one important exception.

Innovation is no longer on the values list and there is no reference to the Healthier Hospital Initiative in the description. For me and likely many Tenet employees, that change is a big deal.

Innovation

With the number of innovation titles used now within the healthcare industry, you might think innovation has become more of a platitude than a meaningful organizational value. However, the Tenet that I knew was a leader in information technology. It’s how the company was able to develop Broadlane and Conifer and to provide services to other healthcare systems. 

Now it’s something that I have to question because there has also been a change in management. Do they have the internal courage to make the early investments in technology or not?

Healthier Hospital Initiative

The Healthier Hospital Initiative is what hospital systems need to challenge current financial models. When I posed related questions in my Healthcare Finance 2.0 post, some industry leaders dismissed the idea as something hospital providers couldn’t afford to do.

The reaction is to be expected during the innovation process. However, it’s also why we need leading edge organizations that can make those early investments to show other systems that it’s possible and to support others in the transition to greener, healthier organizations.

Risk Is Rewarded

Companies that take risks attract the people with the courage and drive needed to lead meaningful change. The value structure needs to support the courageous few for the organization to realize the benefits of innovation.

Culture

According to the book the Trillion Dollar Coach, good cultures need a healthy blend of ethics, values and trust. 

Tenet should have focused on trust because the company already has a strong framework for ethics and values. Plus trust is essential for moving healthcare organizations forward into value based care arrangements, retaining good employees and maximizing profits.

Courage

I’m reading a new book on developing the organizational courage needed to facilitate innovation and change. I’ll have more thoughts on that for you next week.

[Re]Building Trust

Why healthcare companies should be re[building] trust now.

Trust is more important than many leaders realize. I’ve been thinking about it in light of the 2019 allegations of wrongdoing in healthcare report and corresponding settlements being chalked up to the cost of doing business. 

The impact of wrongdoing whether it’s excessive charges, abusive billing practices and the mistreatment of patients and their data is likely having a much bigger impact than most healthcare executives realize. 

Healthcare Consumers

Healthcare companies undermined the trust Americans have in the system at a time when we are asking for more and need more data and engagement from patients and healthcare consumers. Granted there are other factors that have contributed to the mistrust felt more broadly but healthcare companies will need to rebuild that trust in order to transition into value based care models.

Employees

Employees of these companies are likely impacted too. The wrongdoing is not accidental but rather a function of the business practices that likely don’t align with the company’s stated values

How do employees reconcile what they believe versus what they do? They can’t reconcile it. The wrongdoing is likely contributing to the anxiety felt by the employees working within those companies. The impact of the stress and anxiety will only get worse until there is better alignment in the values and the work performed.

Profits

Did you know that companies with high levels of trust outperform their competitors by as much as three [3] times? Healthcare companies have relied too heavily on having a captive consumer. When people are sick, they surrender to the process to get better and deal with the fallout after the fact. 

That’s not going to work going forward. New approaches to medicine and healthcare services require participation from all consumers – not just patients. How is your company going to convince consumers to trust your organization and the process when there is no immediate need?

Trust

What is trust? The one common theme that I have found to describe trust is that trust happens when you’re willing to accept the risk of vulnerability or in other words, the risk of being harmed in some way. The perceived risk has to be lower than the probability of being harmed.

How do you convince someone to take the risk on your organization or you? Trust is earned by repeating actions that conveys trust. 

The book Trillion Dollar Coach, written about Bill Campbell’s work with leading Silicon Valley companies and executives, identifies five [5] key elements of trust:

  1. Keep your word: The commitment and/or fulfillment of one’s promises. Be accountable for mistakes, apologize and make amends when things go wrong.
  2. Loyalty: A strong feeling of support or allegiance. Establish clear boundaries and when you’re unclear about what’s okay and not okay, ask rather than ask for forgiveness after the fact.
  3. Integrity: The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Have the courage to practice your values and do what is right versus what is easy, fast and fun.
  4. Ability: The possession of the means or skill to do something. Avoid overpromising and underdelivering.
  5. Discretion: The quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information.

Trust can’t be won with one large gesture. It has to be built over time with actions that are consistent with the key elements of trust. Just remember – trust can be undermined faster than it is earned.

Be generous

Best advice from Dare to Lead for developing trust within an organization is for everyone to extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

Even if you believe that you are trustworthy, most only trust a handful of people. Chances are your assumptions about a situation, interaction or person are wrong. Default to truth but when in doubt, look for the data and trust the facts.

Execution Vs. Kickbacks

Why good execution trumps kickbacks

The Trump Administration is considering relaxing the federal fraud and abuse regulations for kickbacks and bribes. Even though I still believe people are generally good, the thought of it is cause for concern. 

Simply speaking – when there is a big pot of money and no clear rules on how it can be used or earned, bad things happen. There are plenty of examples in healthcare as well as in other industries that serve a broader public interest. Just think back to 2008 for a minute.

The question that remains is whether or not there is a valid business reason to relax the federal bribery and kickback regs. The Ambulatory Surgery Center [ASC] industry is probably the most relevant example for this discussion. 

Ambulatory Surgery Centers [ASCs]

In case you’re not familiar with these entities, ASCs are free standing surgical facilities that perform routine surgical cases requiring less than a 23 hour stay. 

ASCs are thought to be an extension of a surgeon’s practice and therefore, frequently owned at least in part by the physicians who work there. Current federal regulations require disclosure so that patients understand the financial relationship. 

In short, ASCs give surgeons a legal way to participate in the full profits [and losses] of providing surgical services to their patients. There is no need for bribery or kickbacks.

Bribery and Kickbacks

Even though technically there is no need, bribery and kickbacks have been used to incentivize physicians to use one or more facilities.

Patients have been bifurcated by payer and treated at the facility that pays the physician the most money. Federal anti-kickback regulations have helped protect the Medicare population from these practices. However, the commercial population is a whole different story because the impact of economic credentialing is less severe than federal debarment.

Economic Credentialing vs. Federal Debarment

Economic credentialing and federal debarment are similar in that they exclude a provider from participation in a specific network. Federal Debarment is more punitive for providers because few providers can afford to operate without servicing patients funded by government programs, and more specifically Medicare.

Commercial payers have had a harder time excluding providers from their networks because they have to remain competitive with other health plans in the market to get the more lucrative contracts with employers.

So relaxing the federal kickback and bribery regulations reduces the risk of federal debarment and increases the potential for schemes that maximize provider reimbursement.

Value Based Care

The argument for relaxing the federal fraud and abuse guidelines is to better facilitate value based care arrangements. The desired outcome of value based arrangements is to increase the quality and reduce the cost of care. 

If we think about the Strategic Execution Framework, how would relaxing federal regulations translate into the structure of the organization?

I’ve put together a sample outline of the structure needed to support a value based care transformation to help you answer the question.

Purpose: We provide patients needing routine surgical services a high quality, cost effective alternative to inpatient services.

Long Term Intention: We will continuously expand the scope of services provided and improve the quality of our care by investing in our people, facility and processes. We will also strive to deliver the outstanding service patients expect and deserve.

Identity: Our employees are service oriented, committed to continuous learning so that they are prepared for what’s next and have the courage needed to help the organization step into the future.

Key Values: Service, Learning, Growth and Courage

Long vs. Short Term Intention

During the height of the Out-of-Network strategy [and kickbacks] in the ASC industry, I asked several physicians how long they thought the scheme would last. Most thought only a few years. 

Some had a short term intention because they were close to retirement. Others lost site of the bigger picture and consequently, paid a big price in the end. 

Relaxing the federal fraud and abuse regulations seems like another short term intention that could run amuck. Kickbacks are not a substitute for good strategic execution.

Strategic Execution

Strategists often leave the Operators in charge of execution. It rarely works. In fact, it only works 10% of the time. 

Strategic Execution requires specialized knowledge and skill to develop the structure and culture needed for long term success.

I’ve been reading the Nordstrom Way lately. Nordstrom success has everything to do with their strategic execution.

I’ll share some more insights from the book in a future Rush Weekly.

Change is in the air

How will Amazon and Walmart change healthcare?

With Amazon and Walmart entering the healthcare provider business, it is safe to assume the industry is in for some big changes.

For now Amazon Care will be beta tested with 50,000+ employees living in the Seattle area but you can only imagine that it will be soon available to Haven employees and then Prime members.

Healthcare entrepreneurs and legacy providers have so many questions and likely fears about what’s to come. Your guess is as good as mine.

However, you might get some insights by thinking through some of the questions that will likely surface during the beta test. 

Questions such as:

1/ Is the medical information being shared sufficient to facilitate the continuum of care?

2/ What other types of services do employees need?

3/ What is the best way to deliver those services?

4/ Who is the best provider of those services?

5/ What medical needs are predictable?

6/ Are employees open to health and wellness product recommendations?

7/ What other medical products should be offered on Amazon to enable self-care?

8/ When do employees schedule in-person appointments?

9/ What are the most highly sought after appointments?

10/ Do we have enough contracted providers available to meet demand and service expectations?

Now think about what they do well, what they will likely buy and what they will likely need to complete the marketplace.

Amazon vs. Walmart:

As you likely know, Amazon and Walmart serve different customers and do so in a different way. Amazon operates a marketplace with the same type of product offered at different prices whereas Walmart strives to offer the lowest priced product to their customer. 

Start by thinking about what Amazon offers all consumers:

1/ Consumers see the full marketplace of products relevant to their search.

2/ Results are displayed by most relevant.

3/ Filters can be used to narrow the options.

4/ Recommendations and reviews provide verified consumer feedback.

5/ Consumers can filter for products included in Prime.

Now think about how that translates to healthcare.

1/ Heathcare Consumers would see all licensed providers: contracted or not.

2/ Healthcare Consumers would be able to search and use filters to narrow their search.

3/ Healthcare Consumers would be able to read service details, reviews and recommendations.

4/ Healthcare Consumers could filter for providers included in [……..]


In what?

Amazon could administer other networks [Medicare and Commercial Networks] and/or develop a Prime healthcare network that resolves the confidentiality issues of existing networks.

Pricing + Contracting

With Amazon, it’s not necessarily a race to the bottom for healthcare providers. Prime rates are not always the cheapest but free shipping and the ease of dealing with Amazon customer service makes membership and the added cost worth every penny.

Healthcare providers should be thinking about who they serve and how to differentiate their serves in the marketplace.

Review your data to help answer questions:

1/ Why do patients choose you? Simply asking if they use Amazon or shop at Walmart might give you some good insights too.

2/ What do they say about the experience? Collect feedback about care and service separately.

3/ Do you have unpaid patient balances? Your patients may be underinsured or dissatisfied with your service or maybe your business practices need refining. 

Commercial payers understand that it is not a one size fits all marketplace. If the patient population you serve puts a higher value on your care and services, they do too.

Fraud + Abuse

There have been some eye popping headlines lately about the use of kickbacks to induce physicians and others to refer patients. Apparently, the FBI has just scratched the surface.

Kickbacks are career ending for healthcare professionals and cause significant issues for the company and investors involved. As someone who has experienced the organizational fallout, it’s a lesson that you don’t easily forget.

I worked for an organization under the first OIG settlement for use of kickbacks and other practices deemed abusive. What I learned is that people cross the line when they are under pressure to meet financial targets. 

Investors expect two things from leaders: growth and/or profitability. So I thought it might be helpful to frame the fraud and abuse risks that way too.

Growth:

A focus on growth increases the risk of kickbacks. To minimize the risk, you should have a process in place to:

1/ Identify all your potential referral sources. 

Potential referral sources are physicians, organizations owned by physicians or a family member and others who can influence patients.

2/ Review all the payments made to the potential referral sources to ensure they are supported by a contract. Contracts need to be reviewed for:

  • The nature of the agreement
  • The payment to ensure it reflects fair market value for the services rendered
  • The documentation requirements

3/ Review the documentation for services provided to ensure the services were actually provided in accordance with the contract.

4/ Educate those contracting with a potential referral source on the risks and requirements.

Profitability:

The shading things some people will do for their own gain is almost limitless. 

To minimize risk you need to be constantly looking at the financials, asking questions and validating the answers when something looks off.

With that said, the most vulnerable numbers are the revenue numbers.

1/ Trend and benchmark the charges

2/ Review the number of changes to the charges and the timing of the changes

3/ Review the methodology for contracted write-offs and discounts 

4/ Watch for deviations from the methodology

Potential issues:

1/ Out-of-network strategy 

2/ Over utilization

3/ Additional outlier payments 

4/ Tucking and smoothing to meet financial targets

All of these issues are problematic. The underlying reason and business practices will tell you how problematic.

The Risk is Real

For me, the most memorable cases is that of Richard Scrushy, Founder of HealthSouth and felon. Yes – felon.

Richard and his inner circle intentionally misstated HealthSouth’s revenue numbers by $2 Billion before the problem was uncovered.

The numbers alone make it memorable. However, the problem surfaced just after we launched our online training programs that focused on all the processes needed to accurately report revenue. The case validated our why.

The government is now using data and AI to catch fraudsters. It’s a good time to make sure your I’s dotted and T’s crossed and that you have a process in place to keep them dotted and crossed.

People or Idea?

What’s more important – people or the idea? When posed to a group, the response is usually 50/50. 

According to Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and author of Creativity Inc., the result means that people genuinely don’t know. The answer is people because ideas come from people. 

Ideas are just a thought or a suggestion for a possible course of action. The idea isn’t the end all be all – it’s the starting point for figuring out how to solve a problem.

Steve Blank and the lean launchpad approach does a good job of explaining the process for how to evaluate the quality of an idea. However, the hardest part is getting people to share honest feedback with you. Why? There are a lot of potential reasons, from not wanting to hurt your feelings to thinking they have nothing valuable to contribute. The good news is there is a way to get the feedback you need.

Ask people to speak candidly. That sounds pretty simple but according to Ed it is necessary. People want to keep their job, client or whatever relationship you have with them in tact and fear that their honest comments will impair it. Asking them to speak candidly gives them permission.

Be candid with everyone. ~ Jack Welch

Radical Candor

If you are leading change and innovation within an organization, Radical Candor is worth reading.

I read it while working on a difficult consulting project that had massive scope creep, tight deadlines, budget constraints, holiday breaks and a challenging political environment. If there was ever a time for radical candor – that was it.

I modified the framework from the book to the 3D’s: Discuss, Debate and Decide in part because it’s easier to remember and it works when everyone speaks candidly. If not, you will end up with naysayers and sabotagers.

The 3D’s

Discuss: It’s just about acknowledging the problem and generating ideas to solve the problem. Ideally, the group to build on each other’s ideas.

Debate: Once enough ideas have been generated and everyone has had a chance to mull them over, debate the merit of them. Things to consider:

  • The requirements
  • The impact and value to stakeholders and customers
  • The deadline and time constraints
  • The bigger impact to the organization 

Decide: Set a deadline and assign one person to make the decision.

If your stakeholders are strong decider types make sure they understand the process. A decision made before discuss and debate concludes will not be the best one. Tweaking is allowed after the decision.

According to Ed Catmull, executives need to protect those leading change and innovation – not the people managing the existing operations. It may be uncomfortable but change and innovation is essential to remain competitive. 

How matters

How matters more than most leaders thought.

Corporate America is changing. Business leaders are realizing that they need to think beyond the bottom line.

Some investors are pushing back but what they might not realize yet is companies can do even better when they consider the social and environmental impact in their policies and business practices.

Haven

Haven Healthcare is the new healthcare company formed by Chase, Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway that is led by Atul Gwande MD. Dr. Gwande has been sharing his experiences, thoughts and insights about the cost and quality of healthcare in his books and articles for more than a decade. 

Since formation, the company has been working to understand the needs of their patient population so that they can “create new solutions and work to change systems, technologies, contracts, policy, and whatever else is in the way of better health care.”

The “whatever else” in this case likely refers to the way American Corporations have focused solely on the bottom line. It should come as no surprise to any of us that Jamie Dimon, CEO of Chase is one of the leaders championing this change. 

He is likely getting some good data and management insights to support his position. Hopefully we’ll learn more about that when the Forbes article is published next month. Until then, you might want to check out this book.

Dying for a Paycheck

We’re likely going to hear about some of the work published by Stanford Professor, Jeffrey Pfeffer.

In Dying for a Paycheck, he shares countless stories and stats about the management practices that “literally sicken and sometimes kill employees” and that also negatively impact productivity and the bottom line. Wellness programs can’t compensate for the fundamental issues that exists in many workplaces and unfortunately, are not bending the healthcare cost curve as expected.

Researchers in Denmark are reportedly using prescription drug data to draw correlations between prescription drug use and the effects of entrepreneurship, organizational change, compensation and more.

My guess is that Haven is using their medical data to investigate the policies and business practices of the operating companies and drawing similar types of insights. It could be game changing for Americans and the healthcare industry.

Times change, we need to change as well. 
~ Nelson Mendela

Changing how

A lot of this might seem like common sense, but without data it is harder to convince people change is necessary.

I was an online learning provider during the dot com boom/bust days. We helped clients enhance their operations while providing a path for a brighter future for their employees. How you ask?

Our training solution provided the much needed training to those responsible for the revenue cycle and financial management of healthcare organizations. Most had never received formal training on the systems or best practices which from a financial perspective is a recipe for disaster.

Staffing decisions are emotional but became so much easier with data about the time spent on course work, modules completed and assessment results – all stats we needed to report as a CPE provider.  

We enrolled everyone in their required training modules and gave them time on the job to complete the course work. Some just didn’t complete all of their modules and not surprisingly, they underperformed in those areas of their job. It was a clear indication that they had no interest in the work.

Rather than terminating their employment, it was my opportunity to start a conversation about the right career path for them. There are really only three career options: 

1/ Develop functional depth

2/ Transition to a cross functional role

3/ Retrain for something entirely new

Even though the organization had less than 100 people, we were able to offer all of these options within the organization and financially, we had some of the best years. 

Investments in fundamentals and people pay off in companies of all sizes.

Training investments help people perform better on the job and prepare for a brighter future. Many of the people who successful completed our courses have already transitioned into new jobs. They didn’t have to experience the stress of having their job eliminated as some are experiencing now.

Industry leaders need to be making these types of fundamental investments to be profitable and accountable to all constituents going forward. Those leading in a strong viking and victim culture such as in law, finance and tech might find it harder to make the mental shift but it is time for change.

Regulation vs. Ethics

Can the healthcare industry self regulate?

I had a discussion recently with a CEO to fortune 1000 companies about the need for proper regulation. At the start of the conversation, he asked what I meant by regulation. So to ensure that we’re all on the same page for this discussion, let’s start with the definition of regulation.

Definition: A regulation is a rule or directive made and maintained by an authority.

Regulations are tricky to get right because they need to be protective but not restrictive – and somehow, they need to be efficiently and effectively enforced to work well. It takes a lot of work to strike the right balance. That may be why some politicians and business leaders would like to do away with all regulation and let the markets self regulate. 

AdvaMed


The AdvaMed Association for medical technology is taking on a self regulation initiative for 2020. They are developing a new code of ethics that is values based to better engage everyone in and involved with the organization in compliance. To do so, they have been reportedly working with all of their stakeholders including teaching hospitals, hospitals, clinicians, device and diagnostic companies to develop the new code.

At this point, they have identified six [6] key values for the new code of ethics:

1/ Innovation
2/ Education
3/ Integrity
4/ Respect
5/ Responsibility
6/ Transparency

It’s not clear yet how they plan to operationalize the values. What we know is that member companies will need to have policies and programs in place signed by the CEO demonstrating compliance in order to be awarded the AdvaMed seal of approval.

There is a carrot for member company participation. The seal will help business partners and customers identify organizations who are in compliance. That may also give companies selling solutions an edge in competitive bid opportunities.

There is no stick for non-compliance. AdvaMed will not initiate investigations or bring any action for non-compliance. 

The question that remains unanswered is whether ethics can protect consumers from corporate wrong doing and greed better than regulations?

However, the industry should welcome the attempt to self regulate even if it’s an added regulatory measure. With all the advances in medicine that are raising new ethical questions and concerns for the healthcare industry, ethics need to be ingrained in the culture for companies to earn the trust of partners, customers and patients around the world.

Relativity applies to physics not ethics.
~ Albert Einstein

Startup Comp

What is the value of your time and risk tolerance?

A member of the Female Founders Network shared her story of working for a successful startup that recently became a public company. She was an early employee but was never offered shares or options and questioned whether or not it was fair.

With the amount of pay inequity in the market, it would be easy to chalk it up to another example of gender inequality. Without knowing the numbers, I have to generously assume it has more to do with risk and reward.

Startups are high risk. It’s easy to look back at a successful startup and wish you were paid in equity. But how would you feel forgoing cash and benefits for a stock vesting plan if the company failed after 4 years? My guess is that the experience gained would not feel like adequate reward for most. That’s the risk – reward relationship of startup.

My advice to the Female Founder Network and you is to know the value of your time and your risk tolerance. Everyone deserves to be fully compensated for the value of their time. The method of compensation needs to reflects your risk tolerance. Methods include:

1/ cash + benefits
2/ stock + options
3/ blended

Time is one of your most precious resources that can only be valued by you. The method of compensation should be negotiated.

From a leadership perspective, we need to think about the person not just the position when offering stock and options. Doing so will help address pay inequity.