Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Weight Loss or Bariatric Surgical Industry Is Taking the Lead In Responding to Normal Market Forces

Because some persons believe that you can’t judge the quality of a healthcare provider’s services, these persons also believe that the U.S. healthcare industry does not lend itself to market forces. Therefore, unlike in other industries where the consumer can make informed buying decisions, these persons conclude that consumers will never be able to make healthcare purchasing choices based on quality and cost.

However, we believe that using measurements of provider experience, including measurements of mortality rates, treatment outcomes, medical errors, and other patient related data, it is possible to measure quality. Making the appropriate information available to the consumer can help the consumer make important healthcare decisions.

For some healthcare areas, this type of information is already available to the consumer. And by using this information, a consumer can decide which is the best provider for some treatments. In the future, we believe that quality information will be available to the consumer for most treatment areas.

Studies have shown that experience counts when it comes to the quality of the healthcare a consumer receives. The more often a provider performs a procedure, the less often that provider is likely to commit errors. The provider is also less likely to create conditions that will subject the patient to complications associated with a procedure.

For example, a recent New York Times article indicated that "Doctors who have performed more than 250 surgeries to remove a cancerous prostate were more successful ..." And we believe that hospitals, whose teams have performed a certain procedure many times, improve the chances of positive outcomes for the patient. Further, we believe that establishing standards based on experience is the way to improve the quality of healthcare services.

The bariatric surgical industry is one of the leaders in this area. The American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and the American College of Surgeons have established standards for bariatric surgical centers. When a Bariatric Surgical Center satisfies surgical standards established by the ASMBS, that center is inducted into the ASMBS Center of Excellence program. And when a bariatric center satisfies the standards established by the ACS, that bariatric center is inducted into the ACS Center of Excellence program.

To highlight the importance of these programs, in 2006, these two Center of Excellence programs were endorsed by the U.S. government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS will only consider paying for bariatric surgery if a bariatric surgical provider is listed in one of these two Center of Excellence programs.

Using the Center of Excellence lists, a consumer can review the providers that have attained the experience needed to perform a quality bariatric surgery. And using cost (and quality) information provided by organizations such as Healthgrades, an organization that gives the consumer access to information on healthcare quality and cost, a consumer needing bariatric surgery can make quality and cost decisions related to the surgery.

Finally, we believe that the existence of standards for bariatric centers is important to anyone in bariatric strategic management. These standards which may lead to a Center of Excellence designation should be part of a bariatric center's strategic plan.

And as a strategic manager extracts competitive intelligence from environmental information exposing competitor approaches to Center of Excellence standards, a strategic manager can help his or her bariatric center CEO better focus the bariatric center's business activities.



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