We're number one!


Harry Greenspun, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer, Managing Director, Health Solutions

Korn Ferry

May 9, 2018

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I have been fortunate to have attended a few top-tier educational institutions which, year after year, appear on “Top 10” lists. Whether it’s “Best Colleges” or “Highest Test Scores,” or “Best for landing a job,” my alma maters do well.  At the same time, there are lists where they don’t show up. Some seem desirable (like “Best for entrepreneurs”), while others are a bit questionable (like “Best party school”).  Many schools show up frequently, jockeying for position on various lists while noticeably (or surprisingly) absent on others. As prospective students consider where to apply, the array of list, with alternating and, sometimes, conflicting information, can be more confusing than helpful. 


Last week I was in Los Angeles meeting with a physician leader who is responsible for a large network of primary care facilities. They are working to provide a great consumer experience while also providing high-quality care. Tracking the actions of their clinicians and both the outcomes and satisfaction of their patients, they are working diligently to meet their objectives. 


By monitoring clinical teams, they have been able to improve evidence-based care, reduce variability, lower costs, and improve outcomes. Preventative care and behavioral health are stressed, resulting in further improvements. The patient experience is improving as well, with faster access to appointments, shorter wait times, and, ultimately, better health.


A lingering question, though, is whether existing patients sense the difference, and if prospective patients understand what they could experience there. Two interesting conundrums come into play. First, is that patients’ view of the quality of their care is often inextricably tied to their service experience. Without a frame of refence for quality measures and outcomes, patients often struggle to know whether they got the best treatment possible. However, they can readily judge how they were treated by the staff, how long they waited, how quickly people responded to their needs, and their degree of discomfort. Even the quality of the cafeteria and ease of parking can be readily compared to other providers. 


Second, patients seeking “better” care may consult lists and other sources that do more to confuse them than inform them. Widely publicized lists from national organizations like Consumer Reports, Healthgrades, U.S. News and World Report, and others utilize different criteria, methodologies, and reporting periods. Some focus on outcomes, some on safety, some on centers best suited for the most serious cases. As a result, those ranked among the best by one list rarely appear on other lists, and the typical consumer would struggle to understand why. Regional magazines often publish similar lists based upon “recommendations of fellow physicians.” On a local basis, social media sites often contain passionate and dramatically contradictory views, often with no obvious rationale.


As providers work to improve their quality, safety, and service, they must clearly convey that message to the market. The struggle will be cutting through all the conflicting and confusing information consumers receive and delivering that message in terms people can understand.