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The Band-Aid Bandwagon

Fri, 12/11/2009 - 6:12am
Jeff Reinke, editorial director
As can be the case with anyone who carries a busy schedule in both the personal and professional realms, my brain often has a difficult time shutting down. As a result, the things that I think about, important and trivial, often run together. Such was the case as I came into work this morning.

As can be the case with anyone who carries a busy schedule in both the personal and professional realms, my brain often has a difficult time shutting down. As a result, the things that I think about, important and trivial, often run together. Such was the case as I came into work this morning.

Really, it started yesterday afternoon. The combination of an Outlook reminder regarding this column popped up about the same time a friend, who is one of the most passionate baseball and Milwaukee Brewers fans on the planet, began talking about a couple of new pitchers the club had just signed. Then this morning, as I was attempting to sort through which surgical topic to tackle with a sluggish, morning-handicapped mind, the local sports talk radio station also brought up the new Brewer additions.

One of the analysts felt that the Brewers hadn’t really upgraded the team with these signings and was pessimistic about them and other deals the club had made since the end of the season. Another felt it was an unfair statement and that the team was better, which set the two off on a semi-heated discussion. I simply welcomed the thoughts of the 80-degree weather synonymous with baseball as I noticed the external thermometer struggling to register a temperature in the double digits.

Basically, the one sports writer felt this was simply a band-aid approach for our Brewers. The starting pitching was bad last year so the club had to do something, even if they knew these new players might not be the best acquisitions. It was basically placing a bandage over the problem and hoping the wound would cure itself. Although message boards and other outlets seem to support the team’s moves, this reporter would not budge on the fact that these new additions were not the solution.

Here’s where that parallel I mentioned earlier comes into play. There are a number of issues in the medical community that seem to not only propose the band-aid type of approach promoted by the above sports writer, but have seen the support for such decisions become exceedingly popular. For example:

  • Equipment investment. The band-aid approach in many cases is making the most of existing equipment or exploring used products in response to tighter budgets during our current economic downturn. Neither approach is necessarily wrong, but it’s not a final solution regarding equipment that can improve surgical procedures, reduce recovery time and improve patient care. These investments still need to be made. Stretching product life and purchasing second-hand equipment can make a lot of sense in the short term, but to be ultimately successful, a facility will eventually have to remove the bandage and address the situation by purchasing new equipment.
  • Marketing. Simply put, a single billboard, direct mail piece or occasional ad on TV is not enough. Yes, these mediums get the word out regarding new capabilities at your facility, but to truly make an impact and increase the number of patients who will take advantage of these offerings, the marketing message has to be consistent and frequent. Consider it part of the investment your facility needs to consider when investing, for example, in robotic operating systems.
  • Healthcare Insurance. I’m not sure where to start here, but basically whatever package our “leaders” in DC go with, there needs to be more than just a blanket program that gives healthcare to more people without considering the added costs that, no doubt, will have to be picked up by the taxpayer or medical device supplier.

The common thread in all these instances is that any action taken will be very popular. Fiscal responsibility in new equipment purchases always looks good on the year-end spreadsheet.

Getting the word out about new surgical capabilities gets everyone excited and proud of where they work.

Expanded healthcare to help more people get the care they need helps all our hearts feel a bit lighter.

However, in every instance the challenge is to not just offer an answer but to seek the true solution. A band-aid stops the bleeding, but it doesn’t cure the wound.

How does your facility make important decisions? E-mail jeff.reinke@advantagemedia.com

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