Five observations from #ACHE11

Last week the American College of Healthcare Executives held their annual get-together in Chicago. I attended. Here are a few thoughts.

  1. There is plenty of room for optimism in healthcare–and I, for one, welcome it. Healthcare reform has many people in a tizzy and while it’s understandable, we’re also in the midst of an opportunity to affect real change in the delivery system. That should be exciting. Look up Lowell Catlett, PhD, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University and a most-engaging speaker. His view of the next decade in the USA is entirely more positive than anything you’ve heard lately (which is nice) and he thinks our spending on healthcare can lead to more prosperity.
  2. “No idea is stupid.” I wish they were my words, but not the case. No matter what happens legislatively, the Accountable Care Organization is here to stay. The industry is moving toward them and insurers see opportunity. It’s the best (developed) idea we have to make healthcare cheaper, more connected, more collaborative, etc. and no one can laugh at any proposed idea that may impact any of those–which is interesting.
  3. “Y’all look like you’re going to church.” Those are the words of a shuttle driver between my hotel and the conference hotel after seeing buses full of well-suited healthcare types. Evidently the lawyers wore jeans and tennis shoes at their conference the week prior. What we wear really isn’t all that big of a deal–except for the fact that gray, navy, and black suits inspire no creativity in an era that will reward it.
  4. Poorly implemented ACOs will have consequences. While no proposed idea is unwelcome, many implemented ideas will be. There is a plethora of opportunity to make bad decisions that will negatively impact an organization (in an attempt to set-up ACO success). Be careful. Be wary. And even though you don’t want to pay them, get help.
  5. A lesson from transportation miscues. A thought: how well do we deal with the average? We instinctively celebrate life-saving successes by amazing healthcare providers (as we should). But what do we about the less-than-satisfying customer service interaction? That very pedestrian, very average occurrence doesn’t receive enough attention and is important to the experience of healthcare. I loaded the wrong shuttle bus and was scheduled for the wrong flight out of Chicago. Two companies did a masterful job helping me. The shuttle bus driver proceeded to give me a tour of the city and dropped me off at the front door of my intended destination. The travel agent got me on a new flight (in a matter of minutes) as I taxied from O’Hare to Midway. Both were simple events that could have been stressful, but they just ended up being good stories. The only problem: I don’t remember the names of the companies, which says something about branding…

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