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What business are hospitals really in (part 2)?

May 9th, 2006

I've been thinking a lot about my previous post about how to sum up a hospital's mission statement. What I dislike about most mission statements is that it's "operations" focused versus "customer" focused. And it's usually too abstract. It's too "management-y." Employees can't sink their teeth into these and take ownership. The example I mentioned last time: Citibank isn't in the "financial services" business, they are in the "peace of mind" business. I noted that maybe hospitals are in the business of "new beginnings." Still, that's pretty weak, too.

What's interesting is that different hospitals think about this mission statement differently. Take a look at some of the great hospitals of the world and their mission statements:

For example, Mayo Clinic's mission is this:
"Mayo will provide the best care to every patient every day through integrated clinical practice, education and research."

Bumrungrad Hospital, the internationally-renown hospital in Thailand, has this as its mission:
"We provide world class healthcare with care and compassion."

Johns Hopkins's mission
* To be the world's preeminent health care institution
* To provide the highest quality care and service for all people in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human illness
* To operate cooperatively and interdependently with the faculty of The Johns Hopkins University to support education in the health professions and research and development into causes and treatment of human illness
* To be the leading health care institution in the application of discovery
* To attract and support physicians and other health care professionals of the highest character and greatest skill
* To provide facilities and amenities which promote the highest quality care, afford solace and enhance the surrounding community.

Cleveland Clinic's mission statement (thanks Rita): "The mission of The Cleveland Clinic is to provide compassionate health care of the highest quality in a setting of education and research."

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (thankst theora!): The progressive control and cure of cancer through programs of patient care, research and education."

Mass Gen: "To provide the highest quality care to individuals and to the local and distant communities we serve, to advance care through excellence in biomedical research, and to educate future academic and practice leaders of the health care professions."

Granted, you could argue that hospitals don't need a compelling mission statement because employees know why they're there. They can understand how their job impacts patients because everyone is a patient, too.

Here's a zany idea. I want to see a hospital come out and say that their mission is to create the healthiest communities on the face of the planet. Why stop at "healthcare services?" Why not cast a grander vision. Say Northwestern Memorial Healthcare in downtown Chicago - that their vision is to make Chicago the healthiest city in the world. Wow, now that would be an exciting place to be. If I was an employee there, I would feel motivated - I'm not just making patient's lives better, I'm making my city better.

Of course, if that really was the vision, a lot of stuff changes, doesn't it? The hospital would have to go much deeper into preventative care, "wellness" programs, fitness centers, health literacy, partnerships with other hospitals, and maybe even policy/legislative action. Maybe competing hospitals within the same market would have to comprimise a bit - e.g. if you guys develop into a world-class cancer center, we'll just refer patients to you there - as long as you refer your patients to our newly created cardiovascular program. Pretty soon, competition isn't hospital vs. hospital, it's city vs. city.

Nonetheless, how cool would that be? For a band of hospitals not just to treat disease, but to really truly "take ownership" of a city's or even a region's health.


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