Hiding amidst all the grocery sales circulars was a flyer from Cardinal Health about the Chasing Zero Summit (Washington DC, Sept. 8-10, 2008).
Those of you who are following me on Twitter.com know I've been jetting around to quite a few conferences this spring. As I try to calculate ROI for these trips more effectively, I'm being increasingly selective about the shows I think will be productive.
At first I was excited about Chasing Zero - it's in my old hometown of DC, so I can see friends, family and colleagues while I'm in the area.
According to the invite:
"The Chasing Zero Summit is designed to stimulate discussion between the industry's key stakeholders - hospital executives and board members, healthcare professionals, payors and governing agencies - all agressively focused on reducing HAIs. This conference will focus on the clinical, financial, and operational issues that the industry is facing as we push for a zero tolerance approach for hospital-acquired infections."
I read the flyer and thought - "Sounds great - hospitals are listening to consumers. In fits and starts, but it's something! At least we're making progress in working together, consumers and care managers..."
- We tell them we want safer hospitals (still working on this one).
- We tell them we want to see pricing information (still working on this one).
- We tell them we want electronic access to our medical records (still working, and working, and working, on this one).
- We tell them we don't want medical errors (still working on this one).
- We tell them we don't want to leave the hospital with an infection we didn't have when we came in. BINGO. Hospitals across the country work towards a 'zero' HAI policy.
Actually, hospitals might not be listening to us at all.
It behooves them, of course, to reduce costly impacts of HAIs.
Nobody likes treating patients for infections they gave us, pulling substantially from the bottom line by clogging up beds and paying more teams of already overburdened nursing staff.
But if we get HAIs, hospitals can just charge our insurance companies for that extra healing holiday, right? Costs for inefficiencies are just passed further down along the diluted chain until someone pays the bill.
There are no more free rides in American healthcare.
At least, not until we have federally funded universal coverage, and, ok, until the next non-emergent ER patient invokes EMTALA...but I digress.
Hospitals aren't listening to the 240 consumers PER DAY who get HAIs...they're listening to payors with big pocketbooks (CMS, HMOs) who have finally wised up refuse to pay for certain 'never events,' including some HAIs.
Funny how threatening to take away a chunk of reimbursement from an industry with a 4-6% profit margin at the best of times can drive change. Here's an example of reverse - incentivization that may actually work.
First of all, Cardinal Health, I do thank you for the invite.
But after checking into the reason for the conference and other surrounding events, I won't be attending. Unless of course someone can email me and suggest why I should spend two days listening to a thinly disguised pitch for one of your proprietary services (let's see who's paying attention to the blogosphere, shall we?).
So I was sitting in the sun here in Holland yesterday, clutching my Chasing Zero invite and getting a shiny happy feeling about where our industry is going.
I could practically hear consumers and care providing organizations doing a Kumbaya duet in the background as I pulled up the Chasing Zero website.
Cardinal Health's efforts to convene a brain trust that will figure out how to reduce HAIs seemed like a fantastic idea, until I read that this event precedes the MedMined™ Services Conference:
"This conference will include profiling the successes of organizations using MedMined™ Services for HAI management, hearing from industry leaders about the latest information, sharing “organizational blueprints” for successful change management, and a discussion of the future for HAI management systems (There are no fees for the MedMined™ Services Conference)."
If you look at the registration page here, you can see there's a charge for the Chasing Zero event ($195, a pittance as far as the costs of healthcare conferences go), but no charge for the MedMined Services Conference.
So I was wrong about there being no more free lunches in American healthcare - as long as you can stomach the sales pitch we're serving for dessert.