The Jargon of the Business Dark Arts

From Brian Alexander’s The Hospital: Life, Death, and Dollars in a Small American Town:

(Phil Ennen, one of the main characters, is the CEO of a struggling small-town community hospital in Bryan, Ohio.)

That was the world where Ennen and the vice presidents now found themselves as they listened to consultants they were auditioning to help create a strategic plan. “Transformational changes dictate that leaders within the physician enterprise focus on enterprise sustainability.” So they drove. They drove at “solutions.” The consultants offered entire suites of solutions. The solutions could be “leveraged” toward “accelerating the journey to risk capability.” There’d be “applied analytics” in “the Achieve solution set,” which was “purposely designed to assist physician enterprise leaders to align compensation models and strategic priorities, maximize productivity.” “The Achieve solution set not only drives current performance improvement but also establishes the forward-looking strategic, financial and operational structures to provide for the future risk capable physician enterprise.” Change was driven. Results were driven. Everything was “forward-looking” and “dynamic.” Zoom!

It wasn’t just about style. Ennen thought the world—and especially the world of medical care—was complicated enough without further obscuring meaning and understanding by spouting terms of the business dark arts. Such terms were deliberate obfuscations, thrown up as fortress walls to keep the uninitiated outside and throwing cash over the walls to the mysterious magicians inside so they’d shout down their wisdom. Now, though, like it or not (and he didn’t), Ennen and the others were knocking on the gates of the consultants.

What a great line by Alexander: “Such terms were deliberate obfuscations, thrown up as fortress walls to keep the uninitiated outside and throwing cash over the walls to the mysterious magicians inside so they’d shout down their wisdom.”

The book came out in March of this year and is a meticulous deep dive and narrative take of modern American healthcare through the lens of small-town America as a community hospital struggles to stay independent and survive.

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