It's been a wild ride for healthcare in 1994, given the reform debate, managed-care pressures and the move to build integrated delivery networks. Let's consider some of next year's priorities.
In 1995, many administrators will focus on strategic positioning. Some will continue to dabble in politics as the reform epicenter moves from Washington to state capitals. Most managers will look seriously at downsizing, rightsizing, re-engineering and other highfalutin programs designed to contain costs. According to our human resources survey, four out of 10 hospitals are planning layoffs.
All these managerial maneuverings may be necessary to rid America of a bloated, fee-for-service delivery system, but providers shouldn't lose sight of their relationship with customers. By customers we mean patients who turn to hospitals and physicians in their time of medical need. Prevention, wellness and health maintenance are part of the managed-care mantra, but they are abstract terms without a commitment to the individual. Customer service must be the pride and pinnacle of every healthcare provider, regardless of the pressure to do more with less.
Thus, it's disturbing to read the results of a University of Michigan research project designed to measure the quality of American goods and services. Surprisingly, the maligned manufacturing sector of the economy actually scored higher in a study of 46,000 customers than did service industries.
The real scorcher was that on a 100-point satisfaction index, hospitals scored only a 74, somewhere between the 60 of the Postal Service and the 82 of long-distance telephone services.
Wake up, Mr. and Ms. Administrator. And you too, doctor. As an industry, healthcare just doesn't get it. Jack West, chairman of the American Society for Quality Control, put it best: "Quality is not what the quality professional says it is. It's not what the engineer says it is. It's what the customer says it is."