Monday, July 19, 2010

The Re-Emergence of Centers of Excellence

Are you ready?
Ready for the re-emergence of Centers of Excellence under healthcare reform?
Centers of Excellence for the longest time were really nothing more than someone in a hospital or a group of doctors telling everyone that they were a Center of Excellence (CoE) for Cardiology, or Oncology, or Neuroscience, or Women's Health to name a few of the more "popular" CoEs. With little objective data- outcomes in areas such as financial, quality, satisfaction etc, many healthcare institution simply said they were a CoE for a particular service line. A little paint here, new wallpaper there, designate an unused hospital floor or wing the area, maybe even generate some fundraising and donation opportunities to name it after someone of community note and presto, a Center of Excellence.

Okay, that was probably a little overboard for some organizations took CoEs seriously and did have objective financial and quality measures which they communicated the benefits of to Board, payers, physicians and community. They built a brand that was sustainable. But as with most things over time, the concept was short lived and unsustainable as practiced across the healthcare industry.

I digress a little.....

Foolish me, thinking that this kind of practice has declined. Recently some of the smaller for-profit companies in the specialty pharmacy industry are doing the very same thing and making the very same mistake the hospital industry made in creating CoEs. Just because you say you have a CoE, doesn't mean it is one. When physicians and nurses are not involved in creating the care protocols (and that means more than one nurse and two doctors), just because you say something doesn't necessarily make it so. When its driven by Sales, the nightmare is beginning. Delivering a medication on time is expected and not a single CoE measure.

Now the game has changed
Due to healthcare reform, I am predicting that Centers of Excellence will be making a big come back. Healthcare organizations going forward over time will be paid based on quality, not quantity. That means quantifiable quality and best practice medicine. Indicators yet to be developed that are standardized so that all hospitals or clinics stating that they have a CoE for any service line, disease state or treatment will have to meet. Your reimbursement will depend in it.

Marketing needs to be at that internal product development table for the reemergence of CoEs. Pick what you do best.

What to do
First and foremost, learn from your past mistakes. And please, please do not use "world class" in your communications. Hint - if you are not treating individuals from around the world, you are not world class. Few healthcare organizations can make that claim. And the majority of you out there are not the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic or the University of Chicago to name a few.

Develop those outcome indicators based on current research and best practice for a service line or treatment and other quality, financial and patient satisfaction indicators. Identify your target market segments and messaging about what you are doing for physicians, payers, patients and community. Talk in real terms not fuzzy you love use because we are a CoE.

One last point, make your marketing plan strategic first, tactical second, and sustainable thirdly for over a long period of time. Use traditional and online channels. And most importantly of all, bring value; for the healthcare consumer of the near future will be buying based on price and quality. The sooner you start demonstrating quality and price, the better off you will be.

Mike Krivich is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. He can be reached at or 815-293-1471.

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