Monday, 19 June 2017

Chronic Complex Patients and the Blue Ocean Strategy

The book "Blue Ocean Strategy" by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne has been celebrating 10 years, having sold more than three and a half million copies, and now, to celebrate, a revised edition has just been published. The central thesis of the book is that today's markets are characterized by oversupply and therefore, companies must compete fiercely between them and the oceans (It’s a metaphor) are stained red with the blood of the fight. For this reason, the authors propose to companies to go on the search for blue oceans, like Cirque du Soleil or Ikea, where their products or services will be incontestable because people will see them as novel and useful. The strategy of these companies is clear: their contribution must be perceived as a value innovation, and as a consequence would able to open new unexplored markets like oceans that will not go red.

Leaving aside the commercial aspects of the theory, the book left me with the (attractive) vision of a blue ocean that, inevitably, I have contrasted with the difficulties that all health systems have when it comes to implementing convincing programs of patients’ care and I thought that perhaps at this point a blue ocean strategy would be beneficial when aiming to implement new projects that would arise from overcoming current difficulties. I have to admit that applying Chan and Mauborgne's theories to complex chronic patients is a bit far fetched, but I am convinced that there are some strategic methodology proposals that could be of some use.

The three qualities to generate a blue ocean

If the aim is to generate a disruptive project of complex chronic patients’ care, that is, to create a blue ocean, it would be imperative that the most involved professionals: primary care doctors and nurses, municipal social workers and geriatricians, abandon the heavy meetings of circuit and coordination and see if they are able to define the three qualities of blue ocean generation proposed by Chan and Mauborgne: a) What is the focus of the project? b) Why are the differences between the involved actors not being negotiated? c) Can they agree on a convincing central message?

The four actions to be undertaken

Once the three qualities of the project have been defined, the promoters should focus on four actions to value what they do. They are supposed to be clear that the aim is to go beyond simple coordination. If so, I recommend implementing the following scheme: a) What actions should they create? b) What actions should be increased? c) Which ones should be reduced? d) Which ones should be eliminated? If you do this exercise, you will probably realize that, from the communicating vessels between these four groups of actions, resources that would feed the new actions could arise, starting from abandoning those actions that have already been proven not to bring any value. 

Overcoming the four barriers to innovation

The blue ocean strategies depart from the status quo, so you have to know that if you want to innovate in a disruptive project, based on current experience and knowledge, strategies should be defined to address the four barriers that are sure to be encountered on the way: a) The motivational barrier - that is why it’s necessary to know how to transmit project values ​​to team professionals; b) The cognitive barrier - being able to explain all the details of organizational changes and how they involve each one; c) The resource barrier - detecting the waste of those actions that don’t add value (remember Sutton's law?) and d) The political barrier – knowing how to harmonize political interests existing in all elements of power related to the project.

Leadership by turning point

Finally, if you’re interested in the blue ocean strategy, you must pay attention to the concept of leadership by turning point. The authors' recommendations for disruptive leaders are that they have the ability to define hot zones, where few resources can achieve high yields, in addition to the cold areas, which are the ones that are wasting large resources with poor results. Another tip is that leaders must be able to work in the field of disproportionate influences, both positive and negative, because these can change the progress of the project.
In complex chronic patient policies, the theories are well defined but, between the status quo of care levels, institutional competencies and the myopic clinical visions of many specialties, the results are still scarce. I think it’s time to embrace blue ocean strategies with the intention of developing projects with added value and with disruptive force, following the methodology of first defining the qualities of the initiatives, then taking the necessary actions, knowing how to fight the barriers and enabling leadership by point of inflection. In a nutshell: less theory and more strategy.

Jordi Varela

Monday, 12 June 2017

The diagnostic process and medical errors

The past 15 years, since the publication of "To Err Is Human" report, has seen a great deal of progress in projects that promote patient safety, especially in programs such as increasing hand washing, identifying patients, surgical checklists or changes in nursing care, but on the other hand the diagnostic process continues to be a matter almost exclusive to medical work although it’s known that this is a very sensitive area for the safety of patients. This new report from the National Academy of Medicine (formerly Institute of Medicine), "Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare," is a follow up document to the aforementioned one, specifically focused on diagnostic errors.

The report defines the diagnostic error as the failure to obtain a detailed, timely explanation of a health problem. Experts have also included in the definition the physician’s inability to know how to explain the diagnosis to the patient. According to the report, diagnostic errors would have an incidence on medical consultations of 5%, accounting for 10% of deaths, 6-7% of adverse reactions in hospitals, as well as the leading cause of litigation in the health area (the figures correspond to the US).

Monday, 5 June 2017

Life quantity or more quality?

Ventricular assisting devices, VAD, or LVAD if for the left ventricle (the most common) are implantable instruments that help pump blood in situations where ventricular ejection force is severely compromised. In some cases the implantation of an LVAD facilitates the waiting for a cardiac transplant, but in others it’s adopted as a definitive solution. The price of the device is around $150,000 while the cost per QALY (cost per year of life earned) is between $200,000 and $400,000. The cost-effectiveness studies still don’t line up much, but the range of documented amounts is nowadays far above the $30,000 of Spanish per capita income. Remember that the WHO introduced the criterion of considering if a treatment is cost-effective when it doesn’t exceed three times the per capita income of a country.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Caesarean section as a consumer good

In private medicine in Brazil, the rate of caesarean section has reached 90% of births. In that country, gynaecologists and midwives, if any, have lost the job of helping women to give birth, and some obstetrical clinics only work to schedule and during office hours. Bad research has not helped either. In the year 2000, a team of researchers led by Dr. Mary Hannah revealed that the caesarean section was a safer practice in breech presentations, information that had an almost immediate impact on clinical practice. Four years later it was found that the research had been poorly done and that its conclusions were wrong, but gynaecologists had already lost the skills (not easy) to practice vaginal births for breech babies. The result is that nowadays the breech foetal position is, assumed to be equivalent to caesarean section, despite the lack of evidence that supports the indication.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Beyond the reforms (on the subject of Franco Basaglia)

What can we do when reforms are in short supply? This is a question that many of us ask ourselves when rigidities and bureaucracies show us their sordid face. Without going any further, the integration of services and community work is the only way (I think there are no dissenters in this) to adequately care for complex chronic patients, but when it comes to the truth, it turns out that the levels of care, professionals’ abilities and the fragmentation of medical specialties are a drag on the progress of the necessary reforms.

I’ve pondered on this when I read that The Guardian had just published a book by John Foot, "The man who closed the asylum" that tells the life of Franco Basaglia, a psychiatrist with an exceptional entrepreneurial force. During the war, according to the author, Basaglia was imprisoned as an antifascist and this experience was key to the fact that when he was appointed director of an asylum in the early 1960s, he realized that the psychiatry practiced in that establishment was inspired by and took the shape of prisons.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The controversy of health checks

The National Health Service announces health checks by making use of the mood of the "Full Monty" or "The Calendar Girls." Let yourself be undressed for a good cause - they say - your body deserves it. In Spain, on the other hand, this approach is more typical to the private offer. "The best way to take care of your health is to open your eyes to possible diseases and not hesitate to undergo periodic tests to prevent them," says "10 Minutos" magazine in an article on the subject. Many private centres have "Medical check-ups" and most insurers and clinics offer health check-ups, as can be seen in an announcement from the Quirón Teknon Hospital: "basic preventive check-up: previously € 820 - now € 690; advanced preventive check: was € 1,800 - now € 1,520". The Sanitas proposal that offers the possibility of choosing between "checks: classic, integral and complete" is also interesting just as the National Conference of Marketing and Sales Management of the Health Sector that says "the most demanded from the iGlobalMed platform are the health checks for managers who are going to work abroad". To end this journey through the world of health reviews, see the clip below from the University Hospital of Navarre website:

Monday, 8 May 2017

What if I decide to do nothing?

TIME magazine has surprised us with a question on its front page: "What would happen if I decided to do nothing?" Desiree Basila, a 60-year-old teacher, had just been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and, overwhelmed by the aggressiveness of the treatment proposals offered to her, began to investigate on her own and realized that there were many unknown elements about the progression of this type of injury and also saw that there was no agreement in the scientific community on what should be the most appropriate therapy for her case. For this reason she made a bold decision and asked her oncologist to do nothing, which resulted in two checks a year and a treatment with Tamoxifen, a drug that blocks estrogens that could cause the tumour to grow.

The case of Desiree Basila is quite valuable because when she made this decision, 8 years ago, it was not yet known that the mortality of women with DCIS, regardless of the type of treatment they adopt, is 3.3%, a figure comparable to that of the general population, and it was also not known that chemotherapy has no effect on tumours in initial staging. But to better understand the pressure that Desiree had to endure, it should be added that the attitude of most oncologists, even in the case of DCIS, was, and remains, "the sooner the better and the more the better."