2005-08-31 00:00:00

Contingency Planning

Our hearts are heavy for what our neighbors in Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, Louisiana and Mississippi, are experiencing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

As I’ve been monitoring the news since Monday, hoping and praying that rescue workers can continue to safely reach those who have been stranded, that New Orleans is safely evacuated to get the water out of the city, that conditions in these areas start to improve instead of deteriorating as they are right now, I can’t help but wonder what the long-term impact of this storm will be.

And, since we service the information needs of the healthcare industry, my thoughts have naturally turned to the impact of the storm on the healthcare industry.

Today’s Chicago Tribune reported that at least 10 hospitals in New Orleans were using generator-supplied electricity, and several have already closed.

Other new sources have reported that hospitals all along the Gulf Coast are evacuating their patients and in some cases, treating evacuees from the hospitals that have been forced to close.

At the same time, these healthcare providers are looking at other short-term issues that must be resolved, the Tribune pointed out, beyond just getting their doors back open ?????????????????? patients who need kidney dialysis, pharmaceutical needs, immunizations for children, contaminated water supplies that might spread infections, a possible wave of patients injured from clean-up efforts.

And, what about the long-term impacts ?????????????????? surely in this wakeof destruction, thousands upon thousands of these residents will need mental health counseling to deal with the losses they’ve suffered.

As a reporter by training and trade, my natural inclination is to interview healthcare provider organizations on how they’ve prepared for an event as devastating as this has been.

But how do you plan for what’s been happening along our Gulf Coast? Despite the fact that contingency planning is a crucial part of healthcare providers’ operating plans, I wonder if there is a contingency plan that could ever be developed to respond to what these areas are experiencing. Would yours?

Filed under: — @ 2005-08-31 00:00:00
2005-08-01 00:00:00

Employers Rouse Workers in a Game of Quid Pro Quo

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Millman

A layman’s analysis of the current healthcare situation presents certain inalienable truths: premiums are increasing; services are over-utilized; chronic care costs are formidable. But many factors contributing to these problems are preventable. Frustrated with hefty payments to keep their workforces intact, employers are discovering an alternate route to cost-effectiveness. Rather than minimize bottom line impact through generous disability or expensive treatment options, they’re taking a direct path to encourage employee health consciousness and personal accountability ?????????????????? straight through their pockets.

A July 31 USA Today article, Companies Step Up Wellness Efforts, suggests this method is on course, highlighting results from a recent Hewitt Associates report. According to Hewitt’s analysis, 41 percent of companies already promote healthy lifestyles through established incentive programs, a seven percent increase from 1996. These companies vary in approach from regular health fairs and cursory handouts to more rigorous required health-risk assessments, enrollment in disease management programs and specialized diet and exercise regimens. One employer mentioned in the article boasted an impressive return on investment: healthcare costs for participating workers were 10 percent less than for non-participating employees.

A May 2005 online survey conducted by the Healthcare Intelligence Network (HIN) denotes similar results. Of 141 healthcare industry professionals surveyed, more than 70 percent either utilize incentive programs or are planning a future implementation. Employers catalyze behavior modification by offering straight cash, merchandise, reduced benefits and even free gym memberships to employees who strive for healthier lifestyles. By indulging an American appreciation for quid pro quo, employers fight back against exorbitant costs of chronic conditions like obesity and lung cancer that are often avoidable. They encourage their workers to eat better, smoke less and exercise more, cutting healthcare expenditures for their respective companies and the nation as a whole.

However, incentive programs aren’t foolproof. Healthcare decisions are personal and employers do not want to invade privacy, nor are they babysitters. But given recent healthcare trends in cost and utilization, these initiatives might, at least, be a motivational push toward healthier lifestyles for those already sitting on the fence.

I don’t know about you, but it might be enough to give me second thoughts.

Filed under: — @ 2005-08-01 00:00:00