Baptist Programs Make Hospital More Responsive to Marketplace

Article excerpt

In business, successful practitioners say, economic health often rests on knowledge.

Acknowledging the exceptions - serendipity sometimes drops a plum in the laps of the inept - the prettiest balance sheets generally belong to those who know the most about what they're doing.

The health care industry is a good laboratory specimen for proving this hypothesis. In most segments of health care, managements have long since felt the squeeze of serious competition. For some, the path to financial security has been strewn with rocks rather than gold. But CEOs and other executives have learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Hospitals are a case in point.

As in other industries and commercial ventures, people can exercise freedom of choice in selecting a hospital. Not everyone does. Physicians figure in the equation, making even more complicated themarketing task for hospital administration. Into this vice, then, steps the hospital and its resident wizards. Physicians on one side, patients on the other.

Where two disparate groups are asking to be seduced in an untidy competitive environment, an adequate response from the seller begs for careful attention. It also begs for knowledge - for information.

At Baptist Medical Center, president Philip Newbold and his brain trust decided first to give the status quo a jarring that could be heard from one end of the building to the other.

In 1984, a telephone survey of 400 households gave Phil Newbold an earful. Not everyone, he learned, thought as much of Baptist as he did.

Pat Wright, the director of patient representatives, says most respondents recognized the technological advances available to patients at Baptist Medical Center.

"They did not think we were caring," she adds. "That got our attention."

The status quo was about to get its jarring.

Five task forces (study groups) were mobilized among the hospital's nearly 2,000 employees. The quest for more information was on.

"We began to identify those who utilized our services," said Wright. "Who were our customers? Which ones had a choice."

Not surprisingly, it was clear that physicians had a choice and so did the patients. …