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Showing posts from September, 2010

"We Can Be Heroes (Just For One Day)"

Does your organization have heroes? Who are they?

Those who hit their expense budgets or those who delight customers and grow revenues?

Those with zero customer complaints or those who realize that a complaint is a 'gift' - a chance to improve?

Those finding fault in every difficulty or those uncovering opportunity in every difficulty?

Those for whom "It's new, untried and innovative" is an idea-killer or those for whom it's a discussion-starter?

Those grumping 'why?' or those cheering 'why not?'

The 'plodding risk-avoiders' or the prudent risk-takers?

Who did YOU recognize at your last leadership meeting?  And what signals did it send?

Follow me on Twitter at @whatifwhynot.

What A Team!

Spent part of the day with a colleague in Chicago's western 'burbs discussing consulting opportunities. Great ideas shared. Thanks George!

And with a tri-training coach discussing my business plan and assumptions for a triathlon-related e-commerce venture. Great ideas shared. Thanks Joe!

And with another consultant brainstorming about creating an innovative business incubator for a large health system. Great ideas shared. Thanks David!

And a long conference call with a managed care thought leader and consultant as we pondered the pros and cons of responding to an RFP to help one of America's largest states confront health reform's implementation challenges. Great ideas shared. Thanks Bill!

Notice a theme here?

Where Is "Business Growth" On Health Care's Agenda?

Former "car czar" Steven Rattner, writing in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, says this about the auto industry:
"For any company with a competitive line of products in a business where fixed costs are high and market share tends to shift only gradually, total volume is the most important determinant of profitability."High fixed costs.  Gradual shifts in market share.  Might that also describe health care?  I think so.

Sure, be seamless, safe, cost-conscious, accountable, value-driven and integrated.  Just make sure your priority list includes business growth.

And remember that the basis for competition in health care is changing, and growth may require pulling different and unfamiliar levers.  Acquiring new skills.  Creating insightful metrics and customer feedback loops.  Identifying emerging value streams and risk assessment methodologies.

Rest assured that when health care has finished yet another round of cathedral-building, generations of leaders will surv…

Crowd Accelerated Innovation

When hospital CEOs wonder why nobody cares about their fancy new strategic plan, I answer that they likely have an engagement problem, NOT a communications problem. Simply, people are more engaged in what they helped create.

So is "crowdsourced innovation" a worthwhile addition to the health care strategist's toolkit? What if you tried this during your next planning cycle? Might you move the "engagement and buy-in needle" to something on the high side of "modest?"

TED's Chris Anderson says 'yes.' The rise of web video is driving a worldwide phenomenon he calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation -- a self-fueling cycle of learning that could be as significant as the invention of print. But to tap into its power, organizations will need to embrace radical openness.

Does A CEO Walking Through A Forest Make A Sound?

Also from Business Week: If a CEO yells "innovation" in a forest while everybody else covers their ears, did s/he really yell anything at all?

Turns out you also need believers, leaders (probably from outside your industry), a tolerance for failure, lots of experimentation and learning, your own "innovation language" and an acute awareness of when to give up and move on.

ExpertConsensus: Second Opinions For $20,000

A few days ago I wrote about the second opinion program offered through Partners HealthCare System, Inc's Center for Connected Health.

Business Week spotlights another second opinion program with a decidedly different business model.  For a fee of $20,000, ExpertConsensus convenes panels of top specialists in a teleconference format to "generate treatment plans for people with confounding illnesses."
"ExpertConsensus Chief Executive Officer Richard D. Forman maintains that his nine-month-old company has "no direct competitors" because it performs the dirty work of gathering documents, recruits top doctors, and minimizes institutional bias through its panel approach."Since January, ExpertConsensus has "seen" 12 clients.  Though Forman maintains his company has no real competitors, prospects may not see it that way.  A second opinion from Cleveland Clinic's MyConsult Online Medical Second Opinion service is $565.  And it's free if your e…

Report: Technologies To Improve Transitions From Hospital To Home

Health care faces many difficult decisions and transitions to improve care quality, maximize efficiency, and enhance patient experience.  And it's where one process or level of care connects to another, the so-called 'handoffs' that represent fertile ground for improvement opportunities.

The Center for Technology and Aging has released an interesting report examining technologies that help improve transitions from hospital to home and reduce readmissions;
"Several technologies are widely available and have potential to support post-acute care transitions, but they are underutilized," said David Lindeman, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Technology and Aging. "Home-use technologies help decrease readmissions in a variety of ways, including engaging patients and caregivers in ways that promote better communication, medication adherence, and monitoring of chronic conditions."Download the complete report at

The report covers four…

The Predictive Value Of Social Networks

After mapping humans' intricate social networks, Nicholas Christakis and colleague James Fowler began investigating how this information could better our lives. Now, he reveals his hot-off-the-press findings: These networks can be used to detect epidemics earlier than ever, from the spread of innovative ideas to risky behaviors to viruses (like H1N1).

Rare Disease Community On MEDPEDIA Platform

A recent Mayo Clinic-hosted forum on innovation produced the recommendation to apply the "free" or open concept to health care, in forums called "collaborative care networks."  These networks - large databases, really - offer doctors, patients and researchers ways to enter, search and access a vast pool of clinical and anecdotal data unavailable to any one person or institution.

I don't usually reproduce press releases wholesale, but this RareSpace announcement from Medpedia seems to fit this innovative concept;

MEDPEDIA PLATFORM EXPANDS WITH ADDITION OF RARE DISEASE COMMUNITY RareSpace Leverages Medpedia’s Technology Platform SAN FRANCISCO, CA (June 29, 2010) –Medpedia today announces RareSpace, an online knowledge sharing platform designed in partnership with the R.A.R.E. Project and the Children’s Rare Disease Network to advance research and share information about the rare childhood diseases that affect 22.5 million American families. This resource is availabl…

Is Health Care the Next Ratings "Bomb?"

Sure, the rating agencies missed the meltdown of real estate and financial services.  But hospital and health system ratings are solid, right?

Maybe not, says Dan Beckham, writing in H&HN Magazine.  Beckham's "Bond Rating Delusion" should give you some pause, whether you're issuing or investing.

I've been through several so-called "due diligence" processes for ratings reviews and mergers (the latter twice as the acquirer, once as the acquired.)   In that admittedly limited experience, I've found the process stunningly haphazard and superficial.

I remember our acquirer demanding a full audit of our managed care contracts, an activity I took seriously since, at the time, I was the system's executive in charge of managed care contracting.  We spent days preparing, gathering information on contract terms and performance, making sure it was all organized just so.

The appointed hour came.  A junior attorney showed up in my office, paged desultorily…

Second Opinion Program Aims to Improve Cancer Care

From Angela Mass, writing for AIS's Health Business Daily:
"Recognizing the importance of getting an accurate cancer diagnosis from the beginning, a handful of companies are taking advantage of a program that gives a second opinion to people who have a cancer diagnosis. Offered through Partners HealthCare System, Inc.’s Center for Connected Health, Partners Online Specialty Consultations is a website that offers second opinions from specialists at a Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospital."Supermarket chain Hannaford Bros. Co is an early client, motivated, in part, by discovering thatlocal physicians were following National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines only 30% of the time.

According to Bill Sullivan, principal consultant for Specialty Pharmacy Solutions LLC,
“...There is a direct corollary with cost containment (e.g., not wasting dollars on an ineffective protocol). Patients would be better served by being prescribed the presumed most efficacious prot…

Could Healthcare Use A Sense Of Humor?

An article titled "What Experience Would You Like With That?" from Booz&Co's Strategy+Business caught my eye recently, reminding me as it did of an e-mail from a globe-trotting friend about South Africa's Kulula Airlines.

It's all a joke, I thought at first.  Nobody's THAT zany.  Nobody has THAT much fun at work.  Apparently they do.  And if it's a hoax it's a darn good one.

Here's a link to Kulula flight attendant humor, including this:
"After a less than perfect of a landing on a Kulula flight to Johannesburg, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we will open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."And this:
"In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, g…

Drake University Gets A D+

These days it's easy to generate buzz.  Just do something stupid.

Drake University in Des Moines, IA set out to re-brand itself.  The result is over there to the left.  Apparently some faculty, students and alumni (read: donors) aren't impressed.  I don't blame them.

Drake officials refer to the campaign as "intentionally edgy" and seem quite sure that those who are "Drake material" will understand. 

Lest you think those of us NOT living in central Iowa are insufficiently edgy, we, too, get it.  Drake's name begins with a 'D' and adding the '+' sign is subtle and cool because Drake is a university with aspirations...what's not to get?

Maybe we're better at ignoring the "even bad publicity is better than none at all" crowd.   Had this controversy not erupted, it's entirely probable that Drake's name would never have appeared in this modest little blog.  So should we say 'mission accomplished?'  Nope.

"20 Out Of 20 Really Crappy Companies Use Oracle Software!"

Sign seen as I hurried through an airport last week.  A sign so startling I jumped over a barrier and off the moving sidewalk to take a photo.

So the Top 20 Airlines (now THERE'S a club from which I'd be happily blackballed...) use Oracle software.  Great.  Now I have someone to blame.

"They all use our software and they all suck, more or less."  Woo-Hoo!  I'm all over that!  I'm gonna get me some Oracle!

I suspect the message is technically true, as it offers "Better Results..." not "World-Beating, Customer-Pleasing Results..."

Still, is this something you'd flaunt, especially when your customers are not highly regarded by THEIR customers?

What's Innovative About Innovation?

The Economist reviews “The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge” by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble.  The book addresses two broad subject areas: why innovators should pay more attention to established companies rather than start-ups and the implementation of new ideas rather than their generation.

Out: thinking big thoughts (e.g. 3M), closing the loop between ideas and results (e.g. Nucor), skunk works, breaking the rules.

In:since innovating is thought to be unnatural,  big companies should build something called a "dedicated innovation machine," making the machine part of the corporate structure...only different (e.g. Harley-Davidson, BMW, Allstate.)

So another prescription for innovation.   Tired of it yet?  How is it that such prescriptions are NOT antithetical to the very notion of innovation?  Innovation is THIS, not THAT.  Do it THIS way, not THAT way.  Use THIS company as your role model, not THAT company.

Maybe it's time to bring more i…

Never Confuse Acquisitions With Business Growth

The links between the two are more tenuous than the breathless headlines about some mega-deal would lead you to believe. 

Commenting today on the spate of recently-announced acquisitions, a CNBC talking head called  acquisitions a better way to grow " that organic growth is suspect."

Organic growth is suspect?  Think about it.

To me that's a thinly-disguised code for a leadership team saying "We're out of ideas to grow this company."