Healthcare organizations are not putting their money where their values are, according to a report released at last week's Healthcare Forum meeting in San Diego.
The Leadership for a Healthy 21st Century study was sponsored by Arthur Andersen, an international accounting and consulting firm; DYG, a New York-based market research organization; and the San Francisco-based Healthcare Forum.
The report concluded that while healthcare executives say customer satisfaction and employee retention are the most important aspects of their business, they fail to invest adequately in either.
"Healthcare leaders say they value one thing, but their actions and investments belie that," said Kathryn Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Healthcare Forum. "Healthcare leaders don't walk the talk."
The study is based on telephone interviews conducted in March and April with 50 healthcare executives from hospitals, healthcare systems and health plans.
Eighty-eight percent of respondents said building strong customer relationships is essential for success. Some 96% said finding, hiring and training high-quality employees is essential. And 75% said investing more money, time and training in customers and employees is necessary.
However, the percentage of companies actually allocating capital and resources to accomplish those goals was much lower, the survey found.
For example, while 61% of healthcare executives said their organizations are investing in technology to build information about customers, only 14% are partnering economically with their employees.
Compared with their counterparts in the manufacturing and information industries, healthcare executives expressed greater intentions to invest in customers and employees but had the lowest probability of doing so, the report said.
The healthcare industry must refocus its resources, away from investing in physical assets, such as new hospitals and medical office buildings, and toward building relationships with customers, employees and the community, said Brian Wong, M.D., a partner and national director of Arthur Andersen's worldwide healthcare strategy division.
"Today healthcare in every community that we have seen is feeling that they are resource constrained," Wong said. "We suggest that the problem is not a restriction of resources but a misallocation of resources, due to not understanding the fundamental core of business in our industry."
Part of the problem, he added, lies in a gap in accounting principles, which measure assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses to determine net worth. Under that model, employees show up as expenses while customers show up only indirectly through revenues.
"All accounting products miss what we value," Wong said. "The things we say are important escape detection in accounting measure."
Arthur Andersen and the Healthcare Forum said they hope to develop a business model based on the theories developed from this study.