“The ball has moved down the field. Healthcare today is defined by patients and their experience. The success of a hospital system lies in their ability to proactively protect those patients, physically and the hospital financially. It’s why we created Verge Health.”

mark-crockettBy Mark Crockett, M.D., CEO, Verge Health

Successful hospital systems realize the only way to cut through the confusion and distractions in healthcare is to play defense. Protect the patient to win both clinically and financially.

The recent Johns Hopkins report on medical errors rising to the third-leading cause of death in the United States reminded me of a long-ago conversation with a hospital CFO. His health system had 5% margins on commercial insurance. His mantra was “There is no room for an adverse event that costs $5,000.” His reality drove his strategy—“Don’t screw up.”

While we’ve made great strides since that conversation, there is much work to do. Success requires a strong defense.

In my experience, the health systems who are leading patient in terms of patient safety are winning because they see the clear link between clinical success and financial success. They take a systems approach that fully integrates safety, risk, and quality. If population health and new revenue streams are offensive plays for hospitals, then a strong defense is about protecting the patient and your hospital’s bottom line. It means rethinking your approach to safety. Start with the patient. Don’t spend hard-earned resources to pay for adverse events, catastrophic claims. They lead to broken relationships at best and devastating loss of life at worse.

Playing defense in healthcare has big advantages. Yes, offensive tactics improve population health and bring in money. Their roles are intertwined. Why?  A systematic approach to patient safety delivers a healthy return on investments and protect hospitals from the high cost of adverse events.

Recognizing the significant effects of an error in the bundled payment model and “at risk” value-based contracts is key to moving forward. We must acknowledge what this means to each patient, extending their length of stay, creating direct costs to the system, and therefore, friction instead of healing.

The Best Offense is a Good Defense

So what makes up a good defense? I believe there are two three steps:

  • Aligning with your physicians and nurses who see the human cost to patients and the litigation risks related to medical errors as something to avoid, together
  • Recognizing the shared responsibility in calling adverse events what they are: A threat to the financial survival of your hospital and
  • Improving the efficacy and safety of health care delivery by investing in platforms that allow your hospital to report, prevent and solve, in real-time

Quality management solutions are already in play with some of the larger healthcare systems, in particular, those who foster a healthy relationship between payers and providers.  Quality systems like ISO 9001 are the backbones of global companies—think BMW, Cadillac and

Johnson & Johnson. These quality systems decrease variability, leading to consistently safe, quality products and result in financial success.  It’s time to take a page out of their playbook.

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death. As a defensive player, I have the great fortune to work with systems that keep patient safety at the forefront. Investing in safety, quality, and risk is a clinical strategy that makes both our financials and our patients secure. It’s a simple game plan that delivers daily rewards, making it easy to feel good about the results.

REFERENCES: http://hub.jhu.edu/2016/05/03/medical-errors-third-leading-cause-of-death

JULY/AUGUST 2016: Doctor Perspective: Medical Errors

By Mark Crockett, M.D., CEO, Verge Solutions

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