Abstract: This article looks further into the value proposition of a sophisticated Interim Executive.
I have become accustomed to being ruled out of a beauty pageant for an Interim Executive consulting position based on rate alone. In most cases, I am told by the decision maker about this problem after the fact. It is common for the decision to be made without consulting me or giving me a chance to negotiate. While I could have been flexible, my flexibility is limited by the opportunity cost of existing or potential competitive opportunities. When I talked with the decision makers, they were frequently operating from the assumption that the gap was too big to close. Instead, they lost an opportunity to get a resource with my background and experience while settling for an alternative solely based on cost. It is clear that these decision makers severely discounted the potential value of engaging a more experienced resource. Or, I could have simply been beat on price by an equally or better-qualified competitor but I doubt it. I have seen too many cases of decision makers making what could be a critical decision based on the hourly rate alone. Lest this come across as bitter, I have not failed to end up with a desirable engagement and I am generally happy with the outcome. I have learned that as Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime (sic), you find you get what you need.” I cannot help but wonder how things are going in the organizations that passed me by.
What would some of the common excuses for a supposedly otherwise intelligent decision maker making a choice solely on rate?
We are in financial distress. Interim Executive Services typically price on the experience and relevance of a proposed interim to a specific situation. This is analogous to hiring a lawyer. One of my friends liked to say that one of the worst things that can happen to you is to end up with the second best attorney in a critical situation. To gain access to the best and most experienced talent in a law firm, you must be willing to pay the firm’s highest rates. The reason that older, more experienced law firm partners’ rates are higher is that the market will bear their rates whatever they are because their time and expertise are in very high demand. For those of us that make a living selling time, you are limited as to how much you can sell. A firm in financial distress can end up in bankruptcy. Another bad outcome for a firm in distress is to default on debt obligations that can result in the Board and leadership team losing control of the organization. Banks and bondholders can and will accelerate the debt and take other actions to preserve their interests. The pertinent question for the decision maker to make in this situation is what is the best resource available to avoid the undesired outcome regardless of cost because the cost of failure is infinitely higher. If you think an Interim Executive is expensive, check the rates of bankruptcy attorneys and debtor in possession consultants.
I can get someone else for less money. Inexperienced or ignorant people do not understand the differences between physicians. They assume a doctor is a doctor is a doctor. They do not understand the difference between a pathologist and a proctologist. This is the kind of logic used by a decision maker that assumes that there is no difference in interim executives and places the first and/or cheapest resource they can find in an effort to get someone, anyone with a heartbeat into a position. The pertinent question in this situation is what is the cost of failure and how small is this cost as a percentage of the cost of the cheapest resource available vs. a competent, experienced advisor. I followed an interim CFO in a hospital that had somehow managed to miss a growing over-valuation of accounts receivable that ultimately led to a write-down of A/R in excess of $50 million and a number of executives including the CEO of the place losing their jobs. Maybe the CEO should have looked at my article on how to avoid getting whacked. In my experience, hiring decision makers rarely account for the personal career risk they may be taking by thier involvement in bringing an interim aboard.
We can absorb the workload. This is one of my favorites. Really? Are you telling me that the departed executive did so little that a potentially prolonged vacancy of their position will not be missed and there is no risk in not having the role filled? If this is the case, the decision maker should eliminate the position. Just because the departed executive may have not been meeting the organization’s needs does not translate to their role not being worth filling with someone that knows what they are doing. As a matter of fact, putting an experienced interim into a key role say CEO or CFO, might go a long way towards demonstrating to the organization how the role should be filled and carried out. If you engage a sophisticated interim, there is a very good chance that the permanent executive you hire to ultimately fill the position will not come close to the value-adding potential of an experienced interim executive. On this point, it is not a good idea nor is it fair to candidates to benchmark them against an experienced interim. This makes it hard on everyone by unnecessarily delaying the recruiting process in some cases and potentially creating unreasonable expectations for a permanent candidate when there is a successful recruitment.
These are but a few of the excuses I have heard as reasons to rule me out of an Interim gig. I am sure my readers can contribute others possibly spawning a series of articles on this topic. One of the key things to remember if you are an interim executive as I said in my article about the value proposition of interim executives is what Zig Ziglar said, ‘You cannot control what someone else is going to do. All you can control is how you respond.” Don’t take rejection personally. Remember, in baseball, a hitting failure rate of 70% or more is considered to be an excellent performance. Another thing to think about is you never know what you may be saved from. I can say from experience that I have been fortunate on more than one occasion to not get something I desperately wanted at the time. You may never know the degree to which fate or divine intervention may be bearing on the outcome of one of your proposals. If you are a decision maker, you owe it to yourself and those around you whose fate may be tied to yours to undertake the most objective, evidence-based decision-making process you are capable of whether the decision has to do with engaging an interim or any other key decision for that matter.
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Most Americans expect the health care system will deliver effective treatment and support them through trying times when they get sick. But in reality, health care in America sometimes hurts even as it helps. Appointments can be difficult to get. Clinics and emergency rooms are often overcrowded. Doctors’ recommendations can be confusing and difficult to follow. And when the bills arrive, the costs can be unexpected and devastating. More than 40 million adults in the United States experienced serious illness in the past three years. More than 41 million provided unpaid care to elderly adults during the past year.
Health Care in America: The Experience of People with Serious Illness, a project of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the New York Times, and the Commonwealth Fund, is examining the experiences of Americans with serious illness — the sickest of the sick — and those who help care for them. Our goal is to understand whether our health care system is doing all it can do not just to treat illness but to help people cope with illness. Where is the system failing to meet people’s needs? How is it adding to already heavy burdens? Can the most seriously ill Americans afford the care our health system delivers?
To help answer these and other questions, we surveyed nearly 1,500 Americans with serious illness and the friends or family members caring for them. We considered someone to have serious illness if, within the past three years, they had two or more hospital stays and visits with three or more doctors. Below we discuss what we found. We then point to opportunities to help ensure that American health care not only saves people but also supports them in their time of need.
People going through serious illness often experience profound loss: loss of control, loss of independence, loss of time, and the loss of capabilities that most of us take for granted. The physical, emotional, and financial toll can be life-altering. It can mean an end to the activities that give life pleasure; growing isolation from friends, family, and familiar places; and an inability to work or support others. And there is the worry of being a burden on family and friends.
People with serious illness experience distress over and above the physical symptoms of their specific condition. And our new survey reveals that many are distressed. Sixty-two percent feel anxious, confused, or helpless at some point. Nearly half have emotional or psychological problems. Social isolation, a known risk factor for worse health outcomes, is common, with one-third of respondents reporting feeling left out, lacking in companionship, or isolated from others.
Many people with serious illness want to continue working or continue to provide care for family and friends who need their help, but they face high hurdles. Nearly three of four have had problems related to work or their ability to care for others (Appendix 1). Half reported being unable to do their job as well as they could before. Twenty-nine percent lost a job or had to change jobs. Half reported wanting to work but being unable to do so.
It’s fair to say that several consequences of serious illness — the distress, isolation, confusion, and lost earnings — are simply part of being sick. In some cases, they are probably inevitable. But being sick in America also means carrying some burdens that our health care system foists upon us.
Americans have high expectations for their health care. Most believe that when serious illness strikes, their health professionals will be fully prepared to make a diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment. This belief is not wholly unwarranted, of course. News stories brim with pioneering medical advances. For people with what were once fatal and untreatable diseases, there are now cures. Once harrowing chemotherapy regimens have been replaced by pills taken once a day. New technologies are improving the quality of life for many people with serious disabilities.
A health care system that promises so much would seem capable of minimizing the burdens of illness and care, of helping people cope. But for too many, American health care does the opposite: it places unexpected and unnecessary burdens on the sick. People struggle to obtain effective treatments and services. Pervasive fragmentation and lack of coordination across the health system make obtaining services heavy labor for people with advanced illnesses or frailty.
How common are such problems for this vulnerable group? In our survey, six of 10 people with serious illness reported at least one problem receiving care (Appendix 2). The difficulties people reported are symptomatic of the confusing patchwork that is health care in the United States. Nearly a third of those with serious illness spoke of trouble understanding what their health insurance covered. Twenty-nine percent reported being sent for duplicate tests or diagnostic procedures by different doctors, nurses, or other health care workers. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they experienced a problem with conflicting recommendations from the health professionals that saw them. One of five had difficulty understanding a doctor’s bill — a confusion not just about the costs of care but about what services were provided.
Unnecessary tests and procedures are not only redundant and costly. They carry their own risks to health. Safety in health care is, in fact, an ongoing challenge, especially for patients requiring complex care plans. Nearly one of four adults in our survey reported a serious medical error in their care. We know from other studies that people with serious illness are especially prone to diagnostic errors, prescribing errors, and communication mishaps. Every doctor and many patients can recall missed abnormal lab results, failure to account for allergies, and lost information that led to terrible side effects, or even death.
Health care can be extraordinarily expensive for anyone, but especially so for people with serious illness. Millions of Americans are ruined financially by the costs of their treatment. Although most survey respondents reported having insurance coverage, nearly one in 10 were uninsured. Even with coverage, many are not adequately protected from health care costs. More than half of people with serious illness in our survey (representing more than 21 million people) experienced one or more dire financial consequences related to their care (Appendix 3).
Apart from its sometimes lasting health consequences, serious illness also appears to cause long-term financial problems for many. More than one-third of survey respondents used up most or all of their savings. Nearly one-quarter were unable to pay for basic necessities like food, heat, or housing. Nearly a third were contacted by a collection agency for unpaid bills. And the financial consequences are not felt by patients alone. More than one in four survey respondents reported that the costs of care placed a major burden on their family.
The burdens described above are not an inevitable companion to serious illness. They are a consequence — at times inadvertent, but no less real — of how our health system operates today. But things could be different. It is fully within our means as a nation to improve the experience of the millions of Americans living with serious illness and the millions more who help care for them.
In fact, strategies for delivering a better health care experience — one that ensures comprehensive, holistic care while always respecting the dignity of the individual — already exist. They just need to be adopted on a much wider scale.
Americans have high expectations for their health system. They spend more than the citizens of any other country with the hope that the right care will be there for them when serious illness strikes. But along with the treatments and services that can improve life for the seriously ill come an unwanted and unnecessary set of physical, emotional, and financial burdens. These burdens result from the choices made by policymakers, practitioners, payers, and others. Listening to the voices of people with serious illness, reckoning with the human costs of our current system, and lifting the burdens that health care places on us when we become sick may be the most important work health care can undertake.
Clover Health, the Medicare Advantage startup with a data-driven strategy, is struggling financially and operationally—and in some cases, members have paid the price.
Such is the conclusion of a new report from CNBC, which relied on interviews with six anonymous former Clover employees and advisers. Here are some highlights of what they told the publication:
Clover Health declined to comment about the claims made by CNBC’s sources. However, those are not the only struggles that Clover has had, according to previous reporting by FierceHealthcare. In 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services fined the company after receiving a “high volume of complaints” from new enrollees who were denied services by out-of-network providers after being told by Clover that they could see any provider they wished.
And last month, Clover co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Kris Gale stepped down from his post. Gale, who remains an adviser for the company, helped “build a foundation from which we can realize the true potential of this business,” Clover Health CEO Vivek Garipalli said in a previous statement.
However, Clover’s vision for using data analytics to disrupt the health insurance industry has won the San Francisco-based company a significant amount of investment capital. In a funding round in May, it raised $130 million, putting its total value at $1.2 billion. The insurer also began serving Medicare customers in Georgia, Texas and Pennsylvania in 2018, a significant expansion since it previously sold plans in only New Jersey.
The bottom line: The “medical bills score” is the single most important measure of how we are doing in health care from the public’s perspective. And ultimately, if Congress ever passes a new health care bill, it is how the public will evaluate that plan — from Graham-Cassidy to Medicare for All and everything in between.
The numbers that matter: As we found in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in February:
It makes sense that people who use more care have more health care bills, but it also reveals how poorly our system performs from a consumer perspective when people who need care the most are protected the least by insurance coverage.
The impact: People are not just whining about necessary cost sharing. In a survey we did with the New York Times, we found that:
Not surprisingly, the uninsured (41%) are more likely to have problems paying medical bills. But this is not a problem limited to the uninsured: 30% of the insured – think voters — have problems with medical bills.
The back story: The share of the public reporting problems paying their medical bills has not moved much in recent years. The Affordable Care Act has extended coverage and better financial protection to tens of millions, but it doesn’t have much of an impact on affordability beyond people covered by the Medicaid expansion and the marketplaces.
In the far larger employer-based health insurance sector, deductibles and other forms of cost sharing have been growing about five times faster than wages, and deductibles have been growing especially sharply for people who work for smaller employers. .
What to watch: Health care is a pocketbook issue for most of the public and the American people have their own scoring system. They may give this or that mostly partisan response about a health reform idea on a poll, but until they see how they’ll get help paying their health care bills, they will ultimately be disappointed by every health reform plan.
Revenue shortfalls and financial distress persists
iVantage report: 210 are on brink of immediate closure