'Courtship consists in a number of quiet attentions'

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Justine Cadet, Editorial Director, TriMed Media Group

Despite the wise words of 18th Century Irish writer Laurence Sterne with regard to romantic courtship, when varied medical specialties are courting the attention of C-suite level executives, they cannot be so quiet.

At the 2012 AAMI (Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation) conference in Charlotte, N.C. this week, a consistent theme resounded in the three days of sessions: how to better appeal to C-suite level executives in various provider settings, as the worlds of biomedical engineering and IT converge in this more digital and more mobile clinical space. Essentially, they are looking for new and unique ways to prove their worth to the C-suite.

In this new environment, the rise of a new profession, Healthcare Technology Management, emerged a few years ago. The role of these individuals—who are evolving from biomedical and clinical engineering and IT backgrounds—is to look enterprisewide for better patient safety initiatives, for unique IT platforms that can ease workflow. An example of that is the mobile alarm management program at Oklahoma Heart Hospital. These technology managers also look for better preventive maintenance strategies to minimize downtime of capital equipment and they are becoming responsible for assessing technology acquisition. Look to our sister publication for coverage on all these topics.

However, cardiology departments are not so different in their need and desire to appeal to the C-suite. On the business of healthcare, you simply cannot be a cost center, but you must also prove yourself as a revenue generator, much like the IT and service departments.

For instance, cardiologists and surgeons are chomping at the bit to start valve programs that offer transcatheter aortic valve replacement—the newest kid on the block to join the armamentarium of treating a previously untreatable cardiac disease, inoperable aortic stenosis. However, during this week’s Cardiovascular Service Line Symposium (CVSL), hosted by MedAxiom, Cathleen D. Biga, president and CEO of Cardiovascular Management of Illinois, questioned the cost effectiveness of such an expensive endeavor due the questionable reimbursement, as well as the practical hurdles of establishing the designated volume.

When Biga asked the audience who had a TAVR program in place at their facilities, 68 percent responded that they did not. Additionally, 65 percent said that they did not plan to start a TAVR program in the next six months. If the C-suite takes the advice of these CV service line administrators, no amount of courting and pleading from physicians is likely to change their minds.

Of course, delivering patient care delineates cardiologists from those in healthcare that don’t do that, and quality of care should remain valuable to the C-suite as well. As a result, at the CVSL symposium, Reginald Blaber, MD, VP of CV services at Lourdes Health System in Camden, N.J., recommended  attempting to show the C-suite that their interests are aligned through the physicians' ability to provide safe, cost-effective care.

“We have to stay focused in our scope and understand what is important: core measures, adherence to evidence-based guidelines, patient satisfaction and resource utilization,” Blaber said. “You can’t talk about costs without also talking about quality … physicians will stop listening.”

In order for any courtship to blossom into a relationship, communication is key, and a discussion about aligning goals may be the first step. So Sterne's observations about courtship may not hold true in the healthcare environment because this cannot consist of quiet attentions.

On these topics, or any others, please feel free to contact me.

Justine Cadet