Worthy—and succinct—advice

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 - CandaceStuart
Candace Stuart, Editor

Here are some words of wisdom from the MedAxiom Cardiovascular Service Line Symposium in Beaver Creek, Colo. These snippets occurred June 18, the first day of the three-day event.

“You are going to have to be profitable at the margins of Medicare,” said Suzette Jaskie, president and CEO of MedAxiom Consulting. She encouraged service lines to set the bar based on Medicare and not other payers that reimburse at a higher level. “If I am wrong, then you make more money.”

Michael G. Dickinson, MD, co-director of thoracic organ transplant and medical director for heart failure and heart transplant at Frederik Meier Heart & Vascular Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich., also commented about Medicare in a presentation on how to build an integrated heart failure care delivery system.

“Medicare was the gravy train,” Dickinson said. “Now you lose money on Medicare and you don’t make it up on volume.” The institute is part of Spectrum Health.

Jeff Ozmon, vice president at MedAxiom Consulting posed a seemingly simple question that proved devilish to answer: “Can you articulate your alignment strategy?”

Jaskie also drilled home the importance of a coherent message and clear vision to align hospitals and physicians as the healthcare environment continues to change. “Why are you doing what you are doing? What are you trying to achieve financially and clinically? You will not be successful if you are guessing.”

Michael Mack, MD, medical director of cardiovascular surgery at Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas, shared strategies his acclaimed heart center uses to maintain quality and push for improvement. His cardiovascular service line includes 10 cardiac surgery programs with a volume of 3,082 surgeries, 12 cath labs that performed 4,832 PCIs, 10 electrophysiology programs and 12 echocardiography labs.

When questioned about how a smaller heart surgery program with fewer resources might apply lessons from such a large program, he replied, “From the inside we face the same struggles as everyone else.”

Ginger Biesbrook, PA, director of operations at Spectrum Health, said as an administrator she is challenged with staffing decisions. Should she devote a highly productive physician or nurse to a time-consuming and poorly reimbursed task that ultimately improves patient care?

“It is not about RVUs [relative value units] but the value the program brings to the system.” Be prepared to support that investment with data that illustrates the benefit to the hospital system, she recommended.

Candace Stuart

Cardiovascular Business , editor