Professionally, I like inconsistency. It's a concept that journalists use to sniff out a potential story. If something is inconsistent with something else--e.g., the past, other numbers, previous statements, etc.--there may be news afoot. In my personal life, I like consistency. Eating the same foods, using the same golf clubs, painting with the same brush, growing the same vegetables. All give me a sense of comfort. My wife says I haven't changed since college. I take it as a compliment.
After 24 years, Modern Healthcare has changed the name of our annual Contract Management Survey. On p. 28 of this issue, you'll find the results of our 25th annual Outsourcing Survey. I mean, what's next? Switching from Tab to Diet Coke?
But the switch to outsourcing from contract management was a necessity evidenced by the fact that not many people know what the term contract management means anymore. Over the past two years, I've asked dozens of healthcare providers and vendors alike if they read or participate in our annual Contract Management Survey. They give me this blank stare like I've actually switched to Diet Coke from Tab. Then I say "outsourcing" and big smiles appear on their faces. The number of respondents to this year's survey inched up to 51 from 49 last year. But with the name change effective with this issue, we anticipate that the number of respondents to next year's survey will increase dramatically, as has the number of companies selling outsourcing services to healthcare providers. With outsourcing being such a hot trend in the industry, we're planning to run a regular outsourcing feature in 2004 in addition to the annual survey.
The change in terminology to outsourcing from contract management is just one example of how the healthcare vernacular changes over time. But it seems that the changes are happening at a quicker pace:
* No one throws a conference or seminar any more. It has to be a "boot camp."
* Disseminating educational materials? Better tell people it's a "tool kit."
* Being an expert in your field is passe. If you want to speak at a boot camp or get people to open your tool kit, you must be a "thought leader."
* Here's a thought. Would you rather be treated in an emergency room or an "emergency department?"
* And if you don't pay your bill for your emergency treatment, you're upsetting the facility's "revenue cycle." Whatever happened to debt collection?
* When did IDSs (integrated delivery systems) become "IDNs" (integrated delivery networks)?
* It used to be patient dumping. Now it's an "EMTALA" violation.
What's behind the rapid semantic changes? I'm not sure. The healthcare industry often has been susceptible to management fads, so maybe the flood of catchphrases shouldn't come as a surprise. Or maybe it marks the changing of the guard at healthcare organizations across the country with aging executives retiring and up-and-coming administrators and their new business school/consultant slang taking their place. Or maybe the new terminology is seeping in from other industries whose experts and expertise are being adopted in healthcare.
Or maybe it's that the old terminology was just too harsh to stomach in a field that's changed from a mission-driven model to a margin-driven model. Whatever the case, if you'd like to share your favorite healthcare euphemism, drop us a note at the address below. We'll share your thoughts with all our readers. And don't forget to read the results of our new Contract Management, er, Outsourcing Survey.
What do you think? Write us with your comments. Via e-mail, it's [email protected]; by fax, dial 312-280-3183.