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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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