A healthcare marketing award winner is decidedly unimpressed by the managed-care industry.
Roberta Clarke, an associate professor of healthcare management at Boston University, said managed-care organizations are losing enrollees at a rate of about 20% a year, a rate she said would be "truly horrendous" in other industries.
Moreover, HMOs, PPOs and point-of-service plans aren't tracking data that could help stop the dramatic customer loss, she said.
Clarke is this year's winner of the American Marketing Association's Philip Kotler Award for Excellence in Healthcare Marketing.
Clarke called about 25 managed-care organizations for an ongoing study, but most lacked precise disenrollment figures, including voluntary vs. involuntary disenrollment.
She also accused managed-care organizations of "playing footsie" with customer-satisfaction data. "In every ad I've ever seen for a managed-care organization, the customer-satisfaction rate is always in the high 90s," she said. "It makes you wonder: Where are all those managed-care organizations that people are complaining about?"
Clarke presented preliminary findings at the American Marketing Association's 15th annual symposium in June. She took the opportunity to urge managed-care organizations to empower their marketers to study and track disenrollment and customer satisfaction and to focus on access, coverage and customer service rather than promotion.
Tiptoeing through the minefields.In Washington, a place that's renowned for hyperbole, there are still instances of understatement.
After going through a nasty squabble with House Republican leaders earlier this year in which the GOP accused the American Hospital Association of whipping up fear over the GOP budget, officials of the AHA are now treading very lightly around the capital.
When the American Medical Association released its Medicare reform plan recently that called for more than $160 billion in Medicare spending reductions over seven years, most of it coming from hospitals and none from physicians, the AHA might have been warranted in blasting away at the AMA.
But when asked recently about the AMA plan, AHA President Richard Davidson laughed and paused.
"It's probably out of balance. It's not exactly the balance we would have wanted," Davidson said coyly.
Satisfaction gap.Hispanics are less satisfied with their healthcare than non-Hispanics, according to a survey by Market Development, a market research firm in San Diego. But it also suggests ways to increase their satisfaction.
Compared with the rest of the population, Hispanics more frequently say they want:
Longer hospital visiting hours to accommodate more visits by family and friends.
Friendliness, courtesy and respect from providers.
Doctors with a professional appearance.
Educational reading material. Only 18% report receiving medical information in Spanish, and often it's poorly translated.
Flexible payment options.
Evening hours at medical offices.
Forms in Spanish.
Better explanations of their condition and treatment. Three-fourths of Hispanics speak Spanish at home, but only 40% report communicating with their doctor in Spanish.
Shorter waiting times. On average, Hispanics spend 30 to 40 minutes longer at a doctor's office. They also have few interactions with medical staff, many of whom don't speak Spanish.
McHospital attire.Will an admission kit resembling a Happy Meal Box make sick kids feel better? It's worth a shot, says Medline Industries. The Mundelein, Ill.-based hospital supplier has just teamed up with McDonald's Corp. to make pediatric attire and other medical supplies decorated with McDonald's characters.
Medline also bets its new program will be a publicity bonanza for hospitals. Participation brings a visit from McDonald's character Ronald McDonald and help from Medline marketers in winning media attention during a "Healing Through Happiness" Week. And 5% of the profits will be passed on to Ronald McDonald Children's Charities.
Gorilla in their midst.Pediatric physicians and surgeons at Chicago's Children's Memorial Medical Center are used to making heroic efforts for sick children, but it was a first earlier this month when they saved the life of a 3-year-old western lowland gorilla.
Veterinarians at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago were concerned they wouldn't be able to save the life of Tabibu, who was born at the zoo, which has a world-renowned gorilla breeding program.
The gorilla had been suffering from an intestinal problem, but multiple blood tests, X-rays and ultrasounds performed at the zoo failed to reveal the cause of her condition.
A hospital CAT scan showed a nonspecific problem in Tabibu's right lower abdomen, and Children's Memorial doctors decided colon surgery was necessary. The operation to remove a section of colon was successful, but the gorilla suffered severe metabolic problems for a few days following surgery. After several tense days, Tabibu's condition turned around.
Robyn Barbiers, Lincoln Park Zoo's director of veterinary medicine, acknowledged the vital role the doctors and Children's Memorial played in saving Tabibu's life. "The zoo didn't have the diagnostic facilities to determine we needed surgery. We didn't have the monitoring facilities or the expertise for her post-operative conditions. There is no doubt she would have died without this surgery and treatment," Barbiers said.