Publisher’s Letter Spring 2004

Explain Yourself Please

It always makes me smile when I try to explain to a friend or neighbor who isn’t involved with healthcare contracting exactly what it is I do for a living. I feel bad when a manufacturer new to healthcare contracting who recently inked a GPO contract doesn’t understand why the contract doesn’t equate to increased sales today! It’s also troubling to speak to health system executives who struggle with convincing their physicians to standardize on a product, drug or device change that could be of great benefit to the health system.

Trying to concisely explain facets of our complicated corner of the world is not easy. To those of us engaged in the marketplace everyday, it doesn’t seem so complicated. No matter the task, three vital ingredients are needed whenever progress is made by a group of stakeholders: insight, understanding and community. “Providing Insight, Understanding and Community” is not only our magazine’s tagline, it’s also our focus for every issue.

As you will read in this issue’s Executive Interview, George Halvorson – chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente – does a great job in his book, Epidemic of Care: A Call for Safer, Better and More Accountable Healthcare, showing how we must mobilize the national healthcare system to avoid horrible consequences. No single stakeholder can make things better all alone. To work together we must understand the priorities, obligations and drivers of our trade partners whether they are physicians, payers, suppliers or patients.

Getting back to my original thought, maybe it’s too difficult to explain what we do to those unfamiliar with healthcare contracting because we all have such a narrow focus in our jobs. If asked, one of us may say, “I reduce supply expenses for my health system,” or “I increase cash flow for my health system.” Another will say, “I drive contract compliance,” or “I gain and expand contracts.” And yet another will say, “I drive contract compliance at the health system level.”

While we all have our objectives to achieve for our organizations, wouldn’t it be great if the subtitle of Halvorson’s book was in our job description? Then, the next time someone asks us to explain what we do, we could all say, “I am contributing to a call for safer, better and more accountable healthcare.” I know that explanation is not too “complicated” – even for my neighbor!

About the Author

John Pritchard
John Pritchard is the publisher of The Journal of Healthcare Contracting.