Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Is it businesslike or businesslike? The difference is pretty important.

Budd Shenkin offers perceptive observations in a recent blog post, following up on my story about Heartland Regional Medical Center's extreme debt collection practices.  Excerpts:

Yes, healthcare needs better business methods. But when you think about it, "businesslike" seems to have two separate lines of thought, even two different meanings. On the one hand, good business is knowing your costs and recovering them, producing a better product, increasing efficiencies, etc. On the other hand, business practices can be rapacious, grab the money, go for the gold, do whatever it takes, etc. When people say that healthcare should be “run like a business,” mostly they mean #1, not #2. But if you confronted Heartland, odds are they would say “we need to run it like a business,” and mean #2, not #1.

He continues:

But you just have to think, is profit an objective, or a constraint? If your objective is to help people one way or another, then profit can be a constraint – you can serve people, but only with the constraint that you can't lose too much money doing it, or you will go out of business and help nobody. If, however, it's the reverse, you then want to make as much money as possible, with the constraint that you do have to help some people along the way. Or at least not hurt them too much. Or at least not get caught hurting them too much, which would then start hurting profits.

So, if I look at a healthcare program, I have to think: OK, run it in a businesslike fashion, but is it businesslike #1, or businesslike #2? Are they doing well by doing good, or just doing well? The difference is pretty important.

1 comment:

Barry Carol said...

While I certainly understand that even non-profit hospitals have to cover their costs to stay in business, I think the people at the hospital responsible for setting the policies regarding pricing and collection tactics should ask themselves how they, their families members or friends would feel if they were on the receiving end of those bills and collection tactics. It shouldn’t be that hard to project yourself into your customers’ shoes to figure out what’s fair and reasonable.