The Healthcare Turducken

November 3, 2014

Like everyone who’s been in healthcare IT for 20 years, I’ve seen transformative changes. I’ve also seen changes that were predicted and publicly prophesied to “shift the paradigm”-but that ended up being rejected by patients or failing as a model for providers.

Yet despite the continual iteration of new approaches-despite the era of HMOs or the heavy initial years of EHR implementation-I, like many others, did not feel that any single trend or shift in healthcare was perfectly analogous to a turducken, the traditional three-poultry dish of a chicken within a duck within a turkey.

That’s no longer the case because clinical outcomes and reimbursement are no longer separate. As with a turducken, the three primary components of the new revenue cycle that were once discrete-operational, clinical, and financial performance-are combining into a new and richly interdependent main course.

I’m sure many of my colleagues and friends are wondering the same thing: is this really the turducken moment for healthcare? Answer: Yep.

So Let’s Take Action-Not Try to Figure Out What Each of the Three Birds is
I can’t promise that I’ll be able to draw out this analogy without also touching on the topic of grilling best practices, so we’ll just have to see what we get as we go-almost as though we were carving up the holiday turducken.

Some find all the options in healthcare today daunting. Remember that you can’t do all of them at once. Just as you can’t eat a whole turducken by yourself, you can’t try every single approach simultaneously. First you have to think critically about what makes sense for your organization, make an honest assessment, and identify the approach that best aligns with your current needs and roadmap for the future.

One word of caution, though. When you’re choosing among vendors, make sure their technologies and products are cloud-based and fully interoperable, so you have the flexibility to change course whenever you need to. If you find that a steady diet of turducken isn’t working out as well as you hoped, you’ll want to be able to throw something else on the grill without investing in new hardware or replacing everything in your dining room and china cabinet.

Healthcare or Turducken-Either Way, Lessons to be Learned
I can almost feel the pitying tone of the emails now. “Hi Mary! Neat article-and I definitely am not judging you at ALL, I hope you know that-but-you do know it’s the marinade and spices that really make a turducken a turducken, right?”

Yes! Yes, my friends! That’s exactly right! The analogy holds! For, much like the liquid that surrounds and permeates a turducken as it marinates for 24 to 48 hours, clinical and financial data must blend together and flow fluidly across your entire organization. The more thoughtful and precise the combination of herbs and spices-or to put it another way, the cleaner and more normalized your data is and the more powerful your financial and clinical analytics solutions are-the more control you have over that complex turducken or your healthcare enterprise as a whole. It’s not just about peace of mind-it’s about implementing the right processes, technological capabilities, and flavors on the front end rather than scrambling to correct or mitigate issues after the fact.

There’s Both a Science and an Art to Optimizing Clinical and Financial Outcomes
Just as the meat thermometer revolutionized grilling, comprehensive clinical and financial analytics are transforming healthcare. Being able to get an accurate read of what’s going on at the deepest levels of your organization or turducken saves time and effort-and protects you from risk. No one-least of all me-questions the experience or professional abilities of experienced healthcare executives and chefs. Nonetheless, the human eye can only perceive so much-and “looks pretty good to me” will never be an acceptable answer when it comes to business and clinical performance issues or the risk of food-borne illness.

So as we approach the season of preparing poultry with family and friends, we have to be mindful of how our actions potentially impact others-and ourselves. I believe we should welcome the insights that meat thermometers and sophisticated, cloud-based analytics can deliver. And though recipes for success can feel like risk-you’re trying something new, after all-we should learn from the best practices of those who are innovating in the fields of healthcare IT and turducken preparation.

Managing the new revenue cycle may seem daunting-but remember that there was also a time when some of us thought we’d never be able to use the turducken analogy in an article. And remember: the right healthcare IT, like the right grilling equipment, can enable you to combine the familiar, the new, and the unexpected in ways that achieve extraordinary results.

Mary Hardy is director of health data analytics, ZirMed.

The Healthcare Turducken

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