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Top 12 Healthcare Buzzwords for 2012

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 3, 2012

As Jack Silversin, president of Amicus Inc., told a packed assembly during December's Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) forum in Orlando, "The word 'engagement' means different things to different people."

"To some doctors, if you tell them we want to engage you, their expectation is that if they receive advice, it means 'You'll do what I say,' " Silversin says. That's not the way it has to be, however, he says.

In essence, engagement means getting everyone on the team to understand the reasons for a policy or practice and incorporate those goals into everyday procedures.

For patients, being engaged means that providers have tried to cultivate their trust, making sure on repeated occasions that they understand their diagnosis and the importance of adhering to the prescribed care regimen, and of course, doing adequate follow-up.

11. Getting to zero. Look for increased controversy in the use of this phrase to describe the goal to reduce adverse events, surgical errors, hospital-acquired infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and anything else bad that happens to patients in healthcare settings.

There's a sense among providers that the use of this phrase only provokes frustration, because realistically, zero can never be fully achieved forever. And some events are just not preventable. Simple as that.

Another take in this controversy is that if an organization does achieve the elusive zero one day, it may provoke a subtle complacency.

12. Service recovery mode. When bad things happen to a restaurant meal or store purchase that wasn't the customer's fault—or it's not clear who was at fault—smart companies go into service recovery mode. A round of free drinks for the wrong order or a hair in the soup. A full refund plus 5% when the wrong gift was sent. The pizza is free when the delivery takes more than 30 minutes.

It could be likewise in healthcare. Increasingly, providers are using this phrase to indicate policies that include apologies and financial compensation, even visits from the CEO, when mishaps occur, even before fault is clearly assigned and long before litigation begins.

A white paper by IHI senior fellow Jim Conway provides case studies of reduced attorneys' fees, improved morale, and happier patients when healthcare providers are transparent and apologetic whenever bad things happen to patients, regardless of who's at fault.

Have any buzzwords—oxymoronic, just plain moronic, or otherwise—to add? Please contribute a comment below.

See Also:
11 Hot Healthcare Buzzwords for 2011
10 Phrases That Became Part of the Healthcare Lexicon in 2009


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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3 comments on "Top 12 Healthcare Buzzwords for 2012"


April Parks (12/30/2011 at 7:52 AM)
This is not a description of Palliative care. I am a PC doc, We take care of all types patients, not just the dying. We do take care of many patients In the ICU, and help support family as their loved one's clinical picture evolves. Sometimes they die, and sometimes they improve and are discharged from the hospital. The purpose of Palliative care is to clarify the patients goals and make sure the medical care they recieve will help meet those goals. If the medical care they are recieving does not match their goals then we help the patient, family members, and other docs sort throug this at issue. We are also experts at symptom management(pain, anxiety Etc).

Ben (12/28/2011 at 3:11 PM)
I like the fact that hospitals are trying to improve the customer service experience...i just think that nurses must stay true and not just " scripted" to get excellent customer service score. We are not car dealers.

Joe Tye (12/27/2011 at 10:53 AM)
A perennial favorite buzzword is "empowerment" - which overlooks the eternal truth that true empowerment is an inside job that requires the hard work of building a positive self-image, confronting negative self-talk, being open to constructive criticism, and learning to control ego and emotion. Those are learnable skills and any hospital or other healthcare organization that wants to optimize patient satisfaction, productivity, and staff morale should help people learn these skills of self-empowerment.