Thursday, March 15, 2007

Play Ball!

You haven't had a chance recently to really criticize my managerial judgment and priorities, so it is time to offer that opportunity. It is after all, Spring Training. Let's talk inside baseball.

Several years ago, a number of hospitals in Boston were vying to become the Official Hospital of the Boston Red Sox. This is a sponsorship arrangement. In return for paying an annual fee, the designated hospital has exclusive naming rights to be associated with the team, both for purposes of outside advertising and for signage in Fenway Park. You also provide first aid to fans in Fenway Park for the 81 (or hopefully more!) home games each season. (Provision of medical service to the players is not necessarily included, as Major League Baseball quite appropriately does not want to require players' treatment decisions to be tied to sponsorship contracts.)

Those of you from other cities and countries are probably already wondering about this. What is the possible advantage to a hospital that chooses to do this? Those people who are citizens of Red Sox Nation (anywhere in the world) already understand the value.

In our case, finding ourselves engaged in a successful turnaround after almost going out of business because of a botched merger between 1996 and 2001, we were looking to remind people in Boston that we were alive and well. We wanted to portray a sense of permanence for our hospital, which had been badly beaten up in news reports and in community perception for several years.

Also, I had had a chance to meet the owners and top management people at the team, and I discovered that we had virtually identical philosophies of community involvement and stewardship of our respective "franchises."

So, we made a proposal that, yes, included a payment and first aid, but that equally focused on programs we could do together for the community. As an example, one of the showcase programs we proposed to sponsor was the Red Sox Scholars. Each year, 25 economically disadvantaged but academically excellent fifth graders from Boston neighborhoods would be inducted into the program, $5000 put into an interest bearing account towards their college education, assigned a "medical mentor" from BIDMC, and presented with programs designed to enhance their teenage years and encourage them to stay in school and go to college.

Another program combined the resources of BIDMC, the American Red Cross, and the Red Sox to encourage blood donations. By publicizing the "blood donor of the game" and by co-sponsoring a September 11 anniversary blood drive, we have encouraged hundreds of people to give blood that is used by hospitals throughout the city. Likewise, we have sponsored a skin cancer awareness day and an organ transplant awareness day at Fenway Park.

I have received criticism from some for entering into this partnership, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I will not even try to make a case that spending money in this way brings in more patients to our hospital and ultimately improves our financial ability to conduct research and teach medical students. I will, however, unashamedly make the case that two championship institutions from different lines of business can jointly make wonderful contributions to the life of our city.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention something else. Over the decades, our hospital has been known for success in treating all kinds of diseases. But this was the first time ever that we cured a curse . . . .


Anonymous said...

One fact is conspicuously absent in all of this -- how much did it cost?

Unfortunately I can't share your warm feelings towards a goofy endorsement like this. At the end of the day, this transfers resources from health care to one of baseball's most lucrative franchises.

Personally, I feel ashamed for our health care system each time I see another tv spot for big pharma's latest product line, hear a warm and fuzzy radio commerical for an insurance company, or see a hospital sink cash into something as stupid as this Sox deal. (And it seems like every Major League Baseball team has convinced a hospital in its home city that this a smart idea.)

And we wonder why we all pay so much for health care.

Unknown said...

You go right ahead and claim that you cured the curse. I don't care, as long as it was CURED. Let's hope that your association with the Sox will once again bring the trophy to every city and town in New England.

Anonymous said...

I have little interest in sport corporations that suck from the public till and titillate the private dollar for advertising exposure.

But, if it helps assure the success of BIDMC, then I suppose we all must "play ball".

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,
I do share your committed community minded philanthropic point of view!
Giving back is what it is all about.
Not just giving money, rather the gift of time!
You/we/BIDMC/Red Sox are making a diffenece in the community! It is so gratifying to see the initiation and promotion of all the local charitable endeavors, and the organization of academic experiences for our cities youth utilizing the athletic-academic world!
It is not always about money is it?
Sometimes we get so busy making a living we forget to make a life! You make sure we don't forget!!!
It is quite a brilliant idea to promote the realtionship of the BIDMC and The Boston Red Sox!
There is a difference between "living" and
"living well"!

Anonymous said...

The first anonymous has a point. While I have a gut sense that the Red Sox affiliation with BIDMC is generally beneficial to BIDMC I can't truly judge the valuewithout knowing the cost per year and evaluating the utility of alternative spending choices.

While you are to be commended for your advocacy of transparency in health care quality measures, and even your own salary, this blog post perhaps reveals your own discomfort with disclosure. I would not be surprised if there was a contract provision that prohibits either party from disclosing the terms of your relationship with the Red Sox. If that is so, it certainly should be respected. However, if it is so it makes your professed desire to "discuss" the issue and open yourself to criticism rather disengenuous.

I note there is no discussion of what, if any (and I am certain there are some), provisions exist for preferential season tickets or other ticket access and to whom those benefits accrue.

Stick to blog discussions in which you are able to be intellectually honest and factually transparent - your failure to do so will taint and compromise an otherwise commendable blog.

Anonymous said...

Anytime a hospital remains committed to its community, it's a good thing.

And if they can cure a curse like that one, they're magicians!

Anonymous said...

As an employee of BIDMC The merger with the sox has been beneficial at least for me, as I have won the chance to purchace game tickets two years in a row. Tickets I otherwise would NOT be able to get my hands on. So if I have to play ball to stay employed and win the chance to BUY tickets then I guess I will.

Anonymous said...

Did you get a World Series Ring?

Anonymous said...

I did get a World Series ring, which I auctioned off to benefit our community hospital in Needham. It brought $100,000!

Bug's Papa said...

I was wondering does the contract increase your census?
I personally think it's more valuble to have the contract to treat the players .That way you get more PR every time a player is treated and it's on the local sports.
When I go to the game I don't pay much attention to who's the official hospital.Unless I got ill