The American Hospital Association's growing enthusiasm for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) probably couldn't come at a better time.
Last week, as House and Senate negotiators continued work on a $400 billion Medicare reform bill, the AHA gave Grassley its Honorary Lifetime Membership Award for his "outstanding contribution to America's hospitals and the people they serve."
Grassley is vice chairman of the House-Senate Medicare reform conference committee that hopes to complete a final bill before Oct. 17. He has worked tirelessly on increasing Medicare payments to rural hospitals and opposes a reduction in the payment update all hospitals would receive in the coming years under the House Medicare bill.
In receiving AHA's award, Grassley joins a distinguished group of lawmakers who also have been honored by the AHA, including Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.).
Grassley is not the only one who will decide hospitals' future under Medicare but having him in the AHA's corner can't hurt.
With lack of diversity an emerging industry problem in the top executive ranks, the Michigan Health Council and four hospital systems in the state have created a new program to help minorities learn about careers in the field.
The Strive for Challenging Opportunities and Reach Excellence, known as SCORE, also will help hospitals develop diversity programs in their communities. The program hosted four hospital camps for students to build their confidence and learn the skills needed for employment.
Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo hosted fourth- and fifth-grade campers who visited hospital departments, worked out in the cardiac-rehab fitness center and produced a video about their experiences. High school students visited the healthcare programs at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and a pharmaceutical company.
At Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center in Dearborn, high school campers checked out the air ambulance and visited several departments, while Mount Clemens (Mich.) General Hospital scheduled one-on-one visits between high school students and healthcare professionals.
"I'm not sure who had more fun, the campers participating in the camps or the healthcare staff that watched the exploratory programming come to life," project manager Carole Stacy says.
Dating docs, simply
OK, so it's a blatant rip-off of a popular TV series title, a program that just lost its leading star and thus is in the news again. While Outliers decries shameless exploitation, it appreciates the creative twist behind the subtitle of the Physician Contracts, Competition & Joint Ventures conference. The subtitle is "Eight Simple Rules for Dating Your Doctor (Or, Physician-Hospital Joint Ventures Made Easy.)"
The tips for hospital executives in partnering with physicians are mostly common sense. They range from paying the docs reasonable compensation (Rule No. 4) and considering the reimbursement differential between hospital-based and freestanding facilities when planning deals (No. 3) to retaining ownership of the venture's equipment, personnel and space (No. 6) so if the partnership breaks up, the hospital doesn't lose control of the community health asset.
"Have a clearly defined exit strategy," the conference planners, Pittsburgh law firm Horty, Springer & Mattern advise in No. 5. "And only do a deal if it makes sense," firm attorneys Dan Mulholland and Henry Casale suggest. "Remember: No one ever went bankrupt on a deal that didn't happen." The eight rules can be found on the conference Web site, hortyspringer.com/orders/hle/mktgemail/email.htm.
Ask the nurses what to ask
Of all providers, nurses spend the most time with patients, so they should know the questions to ask in negotiating the healthcare environment.
So it's no surprise that three enterprising registered nurses at Chicago-area hospitals pooled their decades of hands-on patient experience to produce a patient-friendly guide called What to Ask the Doc: The Questions to Ask to Get the Answers You Need. Margaret Fitzpatrick, Linda Burke and Daryl Lee prepared the 204-page book in response to questions they're frequently asked by worried patients and their family members struggling with unfamiliar medical terms.
"We'd all worked together and met patients who felt helpless, afraid and overwhelmed," says Burke, an intensive-care nurse at Chicago's 700-bed Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "They needed more specific information to get better and more specific answers. So we discussed the idea and thought, 'We're nurses who've worked in the healthcare industry for years and know what to ask.' "
The chapters touch on a range of patient-care settings, from routine physician office visits to long-term care, hospices, emergency rooms and inpatient rooms, listing questions designed to elicit specific responses from doctors and nursing staff. There are 80 articles and chapters on common illnesses, injuries, diagnostic tests, surgical procedures and transplants, along with helpful breakdowns of medical terms and who's who in healthcare settings.
Burke and co-authors Lee, who works with Burke at Northwestern , and Fitzpatrick, an intensive-care nurse at 676-bed Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., owned by Oak Brook, Ill.-based Advocate Health Care, labored on the project for three years. They're marketing the guide to hospitals, physicians, surgery centers and other providers.
"We aren't trying to come between patients and their doctors but hope to educate consumers to ask the appropriate questions," she says.
What to Ask the Doc is available Oct. 25 from Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com and through whattoaskthedoc.com.