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By The Numbers

1/23/15
By The Numbers

By The Numbers

I always look forward to the year-end edition of “Modern Healthcare by the Numbers” with great interest. I like to see the stats to determine the health of the healthcare industry. Patient days, average daily census, cost per patient day, re-admissions… (I know you may be thinking . . . get a life!)

Analysis has always intrigued me; getting behind the numbers and learning the real story can be more fun than reading a mystery. Give me a piece of data and I’ll devour it . . . I’ll want to take a closer look, “let me analyze this and get back to you.” What does it indicate? Do we have a trend here?

Data generates thought and here are some of the pieces to the healthcare story in their rawest form. There they are the stats for the year just ending. What is the real picture? Healthcare is a complex industry but are the numbers indicators of thriving or surviving? For just a moment I even question if looking in the rear view mirror of history makes any difference with recent industry changes sure to bend any of these future curves; but I continue.


The first graphic, in what now is the familiar USA Today’s style: “Total US Healthcare spending in 2013.” At $2.9 trillion, or 17.4% of total GDP it represents an increase of 3.6% over the previous year … the explanation indicates that this rate of growth is the lowest since 1960.  

Now as a supplier to this market, as a tax payer, and as a healthcare consumer (both as a company and an individual) I am interested in what this really indicates. What does it mean? A number by itself without background or frame of reference is just a number. Somehow $2.9 trillion sounds like an incredibly large number to me. While slowing down to a 3.6% increase (slowest since 1960) could be an indication that expenses are finally getting under control.

But 3.6% of $2.9 trillion is still over a $100 billion increase . . . and we all know that a smaller percentage growth on a bigger number may still yield a higher total dollar increase. So while the percentage may have slowed, the total number increased. The actual dollars may still have increased more than the previous year. If you were presenting this would you rather say? “Healthcare expense increase exceeds $100 billion.” OR…“Healthcare expense increase growth rate lowest since 1960.”

Maybe we can get a little more insight with the next number, the % of GDP for healthcare at 17.4%. Here the statement on the graphic says that “this is where it has remained since 2009.” So it would appear to be growing at the same rate as the total GDP. The good news is that it is not growing percentage wise but …it is also not declining. You might want to know more…how does that compare to other countries and what is the average per family? I have so many questions and are understandably suspicious, okay maybe even cynical, of the explanations preferring to draw my own conclusions.

The next statistic that catches my eye is the turnover rate for Hospital CEOs.  The most recent data recorded is for 2013 with 20%, the highest since they have been collecting data. Now is this as a result of dissatisfied CEOs or dissatisfied boards, or simply a function of a significant amount of baby boomers calling it quits? How many were promoted, fired, quit or part of a merger or acquisition? There is further analyses to be done to really get behind the numbers and so much is open to interpretation.

Now all of this might provide great industry background music but what does that mean to you? Will market exuberance or downturns impact you? Do any of these numbers indicate that you will get the money you need for your renovation project? Will you be able to add staff? Will the hospital go ahead with the expansion? That’s what you want to know and since you want to know it, we do too…that’s why we read and study this stuff!

Although significant, the global healthcare numbers may really have a less profound impact on you than their face value. Just like the venerable Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once said about the state of his party, “All politics is local.” What Tip was really saying is that at a time when the dominant national party was the loyal opposition, Tip was still able to consistently hold on to his Congressional seat.  

And so it is, even though there may be a slowdown in global healthcare growth; expansion may be rampant on your local campus with construction everywhere and cranes defining the skyline. You see healthcare “may be local” too.

While some numbers do require subjective judgment and interpretation, others do not. Think of the difference between the determination of the winner of an Olympic gymnastics competition and the victor of the 100 yard dash. After the gymnasts routine a group of judges rate them based on their interpretation of performance criteria.  Following their card display, there are cheers and jeers. Contrast that to the 100 yard dash where a photo of the finish is all that is required.

Yes I do look forward to the healthcare numbers yet I know enough to know there is more to the story and I await the “judges” (healthcare experts) interpretation since they know more of the numbers behind the numbers.

However, when it comes to food temperature, those results are just as conclusive and immediate as the photo finish. Stick a probe in the food item and read the temperature . . . no judges needed. To you these numbers may be ever more important than the percentage of GDP we spend on healthcare.

The interpretative part of this service may be your surveys; and that is the recognition that the highest correlation to food quality is food temperature. Get the temps right and the patient satisfaction scores for food will follow. Any “10” on temperatures will usually yield a high score for food quality too.

Aladdin has been in the hot and cold business for nearly half a century.  The iconic thermos bottle may have started it all but we have continued with our present line of meal delivery systems from Ready-Chill®, to Heat-on-Demand® to Convect-Rite III® and even our newest product, our Allure® soup dome designed to provide piping hot soup, stews and cereals to delight your patients. 

You can be assured that we are driven to understanding your needs, reporting truth in numbers, and to providing you with results that are always better by degrees

 Marty Signature

Martin A. Rothshchild, President

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