THE BLOG
03/01/2013 05:19 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2013

The Trillion Dollar Woman

It has been awhile since I have blogged here on HuffPost. Blame it on the "endless" presidential election of 2012 or the seemingly disheartened state of healthcare reform in which hospital leadership, providers, insurers and consumers themselves all seem equally confused and slow to move.

I am a women's healthcare expert and have been for the past 25 years of my life talking to patients, doctors, nurses and healthcare executives. Allow me to take a moment to take a stand on what I believe the future of healthcare in my country needs to be and to share a simple strategy for getting there.

First and foremost, women are not only the largest consumer of the $2.6 trilion of healthcare services in the United States, but also the primary decision maker for 90 percent of family medical care. Any future plans to transform our national healthcare system and health status of our country's population needs to be women-centric.

Healthcare policy strategists and planners need to take into account not only the psycho-social perspective of women and health but also their needs as primary gatekeepers to comprehensive family health. We need to provide extreme confidence, ease of use, seamless coordination, and feel-good outcomes, more along the lines of Nordstrom's customer service rather than an average hospital's. I recently finished a motivational book on lessons in customer loyalty from this retail giant called The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence by Spector and McCarthy.

Fueled by a drive for enthusiastic customer engagement, emotional inspiration and remarkable transaction experiences, American hospitals and healthcare provider practices, like Nordstrom's, could become the vibrant business and community enterprise it aspires to be. But until our hospitals and healthcare providers stop spending more time trying to keep things "almost" the same than trying to change them, we are stuck in a grinding healthcare reform slow down.

All it takes is a review of a report commissioned by IBM in 2012 to learn some invaluable lessons critical for any industry's growth. This survey called Leading Through Connections is a summary of thought leadership from more than 1,700 CEOs in 64 countries spanning 18 industries.

Three core concepts of the report consistently rise to the surface of business success: leading with values, connecting personally and proactively, and partnering for innovation. Obviously each of these characteristics keep industry leaders like Nordstrom thriving, but how would they pertain to hospitals?

What would it mean for a hospital to define its values of what is most important in their behavior to the community and make a real operational promise to deliver on those values in healthcare? How can a hospital redesign its outreach and communication to connect personally to each patient it serves and learn something about them in a two-way dialogue. What would it mean for our hospital administrators to be proactive in their communication to community and staff? And lastly, how many healthcare partnerships or accountable care experiments would disappear if, as the IBM survey suggests, a partnership should not be pursued if it does not result in something remarkably different than either partner currently provides.

Over the past 15 years, my company, Spirit Health Group (Spirit of Women), has been helping hundreds of US hospitals rev up revenues with an enhanced focus on women, the creation of community promise, programs for personal connectivity, and clinical innovation. We recently commissioned a white paper on the future of women's health that provides a snapshot of the immense potential in this service line.

As one of the many "trillion dollar women" in our country, I just have one final reminder to our hospitals, hospital staff, medical practices, ACT before your competitor does.

Take a risk as a leader.

Have the courage to succeed.

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