By David Lichter
NACC Executive Director
Some time ago, a mission leader friend encouraged me to subscribe to the e-alerts of Modern Healthcare to help me stay tuned to important healthcare topics. It has been instructive, as each day some headline reminds me of the challenging times in our ministry settings. Headlines in recent months have included topics such as:
- Home healthcare minimum wage enforcement delayed six months
- Payment reform puts medical-device industry on the defensive
- More U.S. hospitals to receive 30-day readmission penalties
- More Pioneer ACOs bow out citing dim prospects for reward
- Hospitals’ uncompensated care will drop $5.7 billion this year: HHS
- Insurers vying for Obamacare business signal healthy exchange markets
- Epic Systems feeling heat over interoperability
- Open Payments website reveals $3.5 billion paid to docs, hospitals
- ACOs, other delivery reforms shift job roles at hospitals
Browsing these articles reminds me of the pressures healthcare executives experience in trying to navigate their organizations through the uncertain waters of payer mixes, ACOs, data systems, insurances, readmissions, and many other variables that influence the difference between solvency and heavy losses. One member recently told me that her system is losing millions monthly. These are enormous pressures on executives.
Yet in the midst of this, we believe in the vital importance of the spiritual care ministry. We are deeply aware of the people we serve, their search for meaning in the maze of treatment and procedure options before them, and their need for their stories to be heard and their preferences respected. As our executives are appropriately concerned about market share and reimbursable services, how can we align with their concerns while we also align patient goals to care plans, which is our ministry? Recently we made available a few documents that attempt to prepare us to address some executive concerns.
However, I would like to add one other obvious but important perspective: changing “executive” from an adjective to a noun. These are concerned executives, men and women who carry an enormous responsibility for the field, their employees, and their patients and families. Trying to do more with less is their daily concern — trying to keep the “care” in healthcare, wanting not to view patients as market share or revenue sources, but people filled with dignity and bearers of our common humanity. In the 2012 CHA Pastoral Care Survey, one chief executive officer saw the role of spiritual care as “to act in a leadership role in assisting in the development of a culture of respect and dignity for others, and healing for all.”
I know part of my prayer these days is for those men and women whose business expertise is being extremely challenged in these times marked by so many unknowns, as they are expected to try new models of service with diverse payer mixes. How do I hold them in prayer, how do I better understand the business environment within which I serve, how can I find new ways to better position what chaplaincy can offer in these diverse service settings?
The self-examination questions can go on, but at the heart of this questioning is the single resolve that we remain personally grounded in the Spirit, and be the source of healing and hope to all those with whom, to whom, and for whom we serve, including our concerned executives. To that end, you might also find helpful an article in the most recent issue of Health Progress, “The Quality of Mercy: Pope Francis and Health Care.” It offers some helpful reflections on healthcare.
May we continue the healing ministry of Jesus.
David A. Lichter, DMin