How Health Care Reform is Eliminating Zombies in the Healthcare Industry

Posted by Dr. Robert A. Chamberlain, Jr.

Oct 12, 2012 2:28:00 PM

How Health Care Reform is Eliminating Zombies in the Healthcare Industry
"A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many; I had not thought death had undone so many" (T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land).

Zombies are numerous. The real threat zombies present are through sheer numbers that overwhelm and devour resources. Prior to health care reform, zombies represented quantity in hospitals' efforts to keep their beds full and to generate volume through retention and readmission. In the post zombie era, volume remains a significant source of income, but this volume results from increased numbers of insured who will finally be able to use America's health care networks. As new ranks of the insured pass through hospitals, patient cycle time will become critical and will increase such institutions' emphasis from in-house treatment to pre- and post-hospital stay care. Such a shift will require the expansion of employees' job descriptions and, probably, the creation of entirely new roles for existing and onboarded personnel. In such cases, success and more efficient hospitals will require more sophisticated training management and personnel recruitment systems such as those provided by TEDS' Learning Management and Talent Acquisition Solutions.

"When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth" (Dawn of the Dead, 1978).

Prior to health care reform, hospital readmission rates elevated the volume of patients and, thus, increased institutional profits. Patients often did not go away; they just kept coming back. In the post zombie era, readmission rates are among those metrics that will define a medical institution's profit margin. Under, for example, Value-Based Purchasing (VBP), hospitals receive incentive payments based on their meeting or exceeding benchmarks, such as reduced readmission rates, set by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). In such an environment, all the institution's associates need to establish precise and measurable goals that align with organizational objectives. With TEDS’ robust Talent Management Solution, each of the organization's segments may define initiatives that the institution's personnel—probably in consultation with their immediate supervisors—may review to define individual goals. Thus, each of the organization's associates contributes efficiently and effectively to the institution's objectives. This system has the added benefit of more equally distributing associates' responsibilities throughout the organization. No individual or small group of individuals is disproportionally responsible for enabling the overall organization's achievement of its initiatives.

"Send . . . more . . . paramedics" (The Return of the Living Dead, 1985).

In The Return of the Living Dead, after a group of the undead has ambushed and consumed an ambulance crew, one of the zombies is able to grab microphone of the rescue vehicle's radio and stammer out, "Send... more... paramedics." For zombies, that statement is Ciceronian eloquence. Zombies, individually or as a group, are not verbal: they write not, and neither do they speak, usually. Prior to health care reform, the medical establishment was similarly noncommunicative toward patients, apparently viewing them as pieces on an assembly line needing to be disassembled, repaired, and reassembled before passing out of sight and out of mind. Unfortunately, because of the medical establishment's failure to communicate and provide follow up care and because of nosocomial or hospital-acquired infections (or HAI), many of those assembly line patients wound up right back where they started—in the hospital as readmissions. In the post reform era, such readmissions will likely result in a reduction in revenues as guilty hospitals fail to meet quality benchmarks, benchmarks that often will include patient satisfaction metrics. Hospitals can avoid such unpleasant consequences by providing more external review and recovery options, such as home care assistance, and simply by communicating more openly with current and discharged patients. Such a solution is simple and relatively easy to implement, but it does require the institution's changing its orientation slightly to look outward and proactively involve itself in the personal lives of its patients. Such a change in orientation requires current personnel to acquire new skills so that they can deal more effectively with the public, and it may require new roles and new teams within the organization. To plan and manage the implementation of these new roles, skills, and tasks, hospitals and other medical providers will benefit from employing a human capital system such as TEDS’ Talent Management Solution that enables these institutions to develop and populate such positions in a way that will ensure consistent quality care and patient follow up and, thus, improve patient satisfaction metrics.

"The dead have no memory except what I give them. She only appears alive" (Dead & Buried, 1981).

Zombies have, at best, reduced mental functions. They typically have little or no memory of their non-zombie lives, and their thought processes are linked to the basic instincts to grab and to feed. Prior to health care reform, the medical establishment was often similarly reactive, treating patients on an assembly line and retreating them if additional or subsequent problems arose. Health care reform requires hospitals and other medical facilities to develop an institutional memory. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires hospitals and other medical facilities to meet certain performance benchmarks or face a loss of revenues. Only by developing an institutional memory and developing programs of self-audit can such facilities continue profitably. Thus, such institutions must not only employ their entire range of personnel in ways both effective and efficient but must be able to demonstrate that they have done so. Only by employing an effective talent management system can hospital and other organization demonstrate such practices. Fortunately, TEDS’ Talent Management Solution provides hospitals with such a resource to enable them to demonstrate the full range of their human capital resource management capabilities.

“They’re not really dead, just sort of rotting” (Dead Alive, 1992).

Zombies have stopped evolving. The only change they evidence is entropy. Prior to health care reform, the medical establishment had become cost heavy and unresponsive to patients. Although supposedly market driven, the health care industry frequently made few efforts to appeal to consumers. Certainly, research and medical technologies continued to advance, but the industry itself had become something of an evolutionary terminus, not dead but starting to decay with perhaps just a whiff of putrefaction. What health care reform indicated was the fact of its own existence: Massive health care reform was possible and could actually occur. This reform is not an end point but rather the beginning of a process that, once started, will progress and reward those organizations that evolve with it. Among the many changes organizations will need to make to survive will be the more effective management of their human capital resources through the employee life cycle, the stages of which may broadly be defined as recruitment, onboarding, orientation, career planning, career development (including continuous and often cyclical training), and retirement or relocation. To manage their personnel effectively, successful organizations—from the large to the small and every size in between—must employ a recruitment to retirement system.

 Competency Management

Topics: Healthcare Reform, Empowering Your Workforce, Talent Management