Who is minding your patients, your equity?

Did I mention that I like to sing? No? Don’t tell anyone, but I just downloaded some Tom Jones to my MP3 so I can belt out a rendition of Delilah while I’m running—I only do this when I’m certain nobody is around. This doesn’t quite foot with my college collection of albums from Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Queen.

Then there was the time I was on a date at a roller rink. I was probably dressed in a pair of tight fitting bell-bottoms, an equally tight fitting rayon shirt unbuttoned to who knows where—hold the laughter. My almost shoulder length hair half-hid a puka shell necklace.

It may be important to know that although I had ice skated, I had never roller skated. There are a few not so subtle differences between the two.  Most notably, the sadist who designed the roller skate must have thought it amusing to place a large round rubberized wheel on the front of the skate in much the same position as a car bumper. I have no idea what is supposed to do. What it does do is stop you on a dime, especially when you have no intent of stopping.

Let’s see if we can tie some of this together. I’ve never felt that I actually needed to know how to do something in order to develop my own unsubstantiated delusions of adequacy—that probably explains why I’ve been consulting all these years. Anyway, back at the roller rink.

Barry Manilow’s “I Write the Songs” was being piped overhead through speakers the size of a dishwasher. Feeling much too confident for my abilities, I dragged my date to the floor. We stood side by side. I grasped her hands in a crisscrossed fashion like I had seen skaters do on television. After circling the rink for half a lap—watching my feet the entire way—I thought I should further dazzle her by singing. I should point out that it is difficult to sing and simultaneously watch your feet, a fact I didn’t learn until I was airborne. This takes me back to the rubber wheel on the front of the roller skate. We crashed to the floor and quickly took out the next thirty or so couples who were following us. It looked like a conga line run amuck. For the next hour or so it seemed like everyone in the rink pointed at me as though they were trying to warn others to stay away.

I haven’t sung any Manilow since that fabled night. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that times change and tastes change. Now I listen to groups like Dashboard Confessional and Great Lake Swimmers. I still interface with those closeted Manilow fans. Gone are the bell-bottoms and platform shoes, replaced by micro-fiber trousers, Droids, and Cole Hahns. My collar-length hair has a more monastic cut.

I’ve aged, so has my generation.  Aged to the point where they now have the power. Those people own the decision making process in most hospitals.  They may be the people calling the shots in yours. How can you tell if the person wearing the eighties polyester is one of them? Walk past her humming a few bars of Mandy or Copacabana, or something from The Captain and Tennille, and see if she hums back.

Is your Patient Equity Management (PEM) strategy is as dated as the double knits?  Or did I get ahead of myself; does your hospital even have a PEM strategy?  Odds are that there is no PEM strategy, no PEM group or executive.

Hospitals are quite good at managing their assets.  I bet your hospital has someone who can tell you how many chairs, televisions, beds and bed pans you have.  Assets.  We count them because we don’t want to lose them.  That is how businesses are managed.

In today’s dollars over their lifetime the average person in the US will spend more than $600,000 on healthcare.  Patients.  Assets.  They are a big part of your hospital’s equity base.

Who is minding your patients, your equity?  I don’t mean the doctors and nurses.  Who is responsible for making sure discharged patients return to you the next time they need a hospital?  Who manages that relationship for the hundreds of days between hospital visits?  Probably nobody; at least nobody in your organization.  Wanna’ bet somebody in the hospital on the other side of town is studying how to turn that $600,000 patient into one of theirs?

In case you’re wondering, the episode at the skating rink was our last date.


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