Wednesday, November 18, 2015

ASHA Staff Meet Best-Selling Author John Elder Robison

Photograph compliments of Ben Sledge.
ASHA's diversity team planned a wonderful opportunity for ASHA staff today. They arranged for John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye, Be Different and Raising Cubby, to come in and talk with us about his experience growing up with an autism spectrum disorder. 

Mr. Robison stressed the importance of identifying children on the autism spectrum early and getting them services -- services that are most often provided by speech-language pathologists. He's a wonderful story teller and the time flew by as he talked while a slide show of his photographs played in the background.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Seeking Recognition as a Great Place to Work

Arlene Pietranton, Lisa Cole and I with Ron Friedman
at Washingtonian's Great Place to Work Event 10/22/15
Building your brand as an employer of choice goes a long way toward attracting talent. Seeking external recognition through an award program is an effective strategy for building your brand. Awards serve as external validation to potential candidates and some come with loads of free publicity. We don't count the resumes we receive, but companies that do report a 30% spike in the number of applicants they receive after being named to one of Fortune Magazine's lists. 

Once we attract these talented individuals, they stay. Our average tenure is 9.3 years at ASHA and our turnover runs half of the average in the DC metro area. Being deemed a great place to work enhances the pride we all feel in working at ASHA and that carries over to some degree to how our members feel about their professional organization. It enhances our sense of community.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Specialty Drug Management

Last week, I attended an excellent MidAtlantic Business Group on Health Meeting on Specialty Drugs. I suspect most benefit plan managers have been really paying attention to drug costs since the release of the new Hepatitis C medication that cost $84,000 per treatment. That led to fretting over the cost of the new PCSK9 treatment for high cholesterol -- $14,000 a year (compared to $600 for generic statins.) Then, we hear about a former hedge fund manager with more brains than ethics who bought up rights to an old drug and raised the price from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet overnight. (If you missed that story, see the links below.) No surprise, that this was the best attended MidAtlantic Business Group on Health meeting I've seen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sitting Won't Get the Better of Us! -- Standing Desk Update

Our colleagues, Mike Schmidt and Kevin Brooks are busy installing our new standing desks. We purchased the Ergotron standing desk. (We got better pricing purchasing in bulk.) The Ergotron works well with our current furniture and it's easy to raise and lower. The feedback from staff members that have been set up so far is very positive. 

Once the installation is complete, we'll have Zack, our ergonomics expert, come in and help people make adjustments. We've created a waiting list for people that want one now that they've seen them. We eventually hope to accommodate everyone that wants a standing desk. I know can't wait to get mine. 

Do you want to make the case for standing desks in your workplace? If so, check out the collection of articles we've put together. We used many of them when we pitched the idea here. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Communication Evolution -- ASHA in the News

We're on the cover of Employee Benefit News! Last December, Vlad Gyster at Airbo asked me if I'd be interested in talking with Andrea Davis at Employee Benefit News (EBN) for a story she was working on for their January issue about communicating with millennials. Andrea and I talked and then EBN sent a photographer out to our office. He did a whole photo shoot with millennial ASHA staffers and our HR team. Then, the January issue came out and we weren't in it. Bummer. Well, lo and behold, out comes the September issue and we're on the cover. You'll find the story on page sixteen.

When you're interviewed for a story like this, you never know how you'll come across. (I've had a garbled quote or two attributed to me in the past.) Nick Otto wrote a good story and I'm pleased that ASHA has been recognized for trying to communicate with staff in an engaging way. That's something that is near and dear to my heart.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cadillac Tax Notice 2015-52 and Related Ramblings

[I recommend reading my Cadillac Tax Primer that includes information about developing a Glide Path to limbo under the tax before reading this post.]  

Most of the ACA focused on increasing the number of American's with access to health care, but the Cadillac Tax (aka Excise Tax) has a dual purpose. First the obvious, it helps pay for the expansion of coverage. It's expected to raise 87 billion. It's also expected that employers will shift benefit dollars into wages and that people will lose deductions for health care expenses that will raise another 202 billion. 

When I last blogged about the Cadillac Tax, I didn't understand this last item. It's noted in the Congressional Office Budget Report as "other which consists mainly of the effects of changes in taxable compensation on revenues." As I was reading the most recent IRS Notice, it clicked. The ACA isn't just banking on the revenue from the tax which most employers are planning to avoid, it's banking on the increased revenue that will come from the moves employers take to avoid the tax that result in increased taxable income to Americans. For example, if an employer eliminates and FSA that an employee has been putting $2,500 a year into that $2,500 becomes taxable income. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Finding the Safest Care

We have a new tool to help us find a good doctor -- The Surgeon ScorecardOf course, hospital safety matters and I've blogged about that before, but when it comes to elective operations, it is more important to select the best surgeon. The new scorecard covers common elective procedures -- knee replacement, hip replacement, gallbladder removal, lumbar spinal fusion, prostate resection, prostate removal and cervical spinal fusion. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Commonly Used Medications Linked to Dementia

Cleaning out our medicine cabinet.
Every once in a awhile, I come across something that I want everyone I care about to read. The latest is a study that found a significant link between high use of anticholinergic drugs - including popular non-prescription sleep aids and the antihistamine Benadryl - and increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease in older people.

Anticholinergic drugs block the action of acetylcholine which stimulates muscle contractions. They treat things like gastrointestinal problems, overactive bladder, respiratory disorders, insomnia, depression and allergies. Benadryl and Tylenol PM are commonly used anticholinergic that are sold over-the-counter. In the study, the drugs were found to have a cumulative effect that may not be reversible. 
You can view a list of anticholinergic drugs available by prescription on the Mayo Clinic Site. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Does Your Organization Have a Glide Path to the Cadillac Tax?

A Skimm Style Cadillac Tax Primer

What's the Cadillac Tax?
The ACA expanded health coverage to millions. The Cadillac Tax helps to cover the cost of the expansion by taxing employers that provide "high-cost" health coverage to their employees. AKA -- Excise Tax.

What's a Glide Path?
When I was at the World Health Care Congress, I heard big employers like Disney refer to a glide path. They've projected how the tax will impact them and have plans in place that will allow them to limbo under the tax thresholds (more on that later.) FOMO -- I want ASHA to have a glide path too.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Five Big Ideas from the World Health Care Congress #WHCC15

I had the good fortune to attend the World Health CareCongress. The event pulls together some of the most respected leaders in healthcare and shares the issues of the day from diverse perspectives. I walked away with pages and pages of tweets and notes. Way too much to summarize session by session. I decided to let it sit for a while and then come back to it and share the ideas I continue to think about. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Defining What it Means to be an Engaged Healthcare Consumer

In the health and wellness arena, everyone is talking about engaging consumers, but are we clear about what we're asking people to do? As far as I am aware, no one has defined what specific behaviors an engaged healthcare consumer demonstrates. I’d like to create a definition that outlines how an engaged consumer behaves. I plan to share it with our staff to clearly communicate what we are asking them to do. 

If you’re interested enough to have read this far, I’d like your help crowdsourcing a definition. I’ll get us started and I hope you’ll jump in and use the comment feature to share your thoughts. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Couponing for Prescription Drugs -- Guest Post by Reed Racette

Reed Racette published this article on LinkedIn and I'm sharing it here with his permission. Reed described his take on an experience he had from a customer service perspective, but it's just as illustrative from the perspective of managing prescription drug costs. In Reed's case, their pharmacist lead them through the process which is where the exceptional customer service came in. However, it's something you can do for yourself or a family member. I work with Reed's wife, Kellie, at ASHA and she told me the coupon they found covered the entire cost of the medication saving them more than $2,000. Many thanks to Reed and Kellie for sharing their story.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

We're Taking a Stand

When I toured Motley Fool last year, I was impressed by the number of people I saw using standing desks. The treadmill desks and cycling desks they had weren't being used when I was there, but a lot of folks were standing. After my visit, I talked with our facilities director about offering a standing desk to ASHA staff and he agreed to pitch the idea to our CEO with me. 

I really had no idea how many people would want to stand while they work. We conducted a little survey to see how many folks would be interested and 150 people responded that they would. That's over half of our staff of 280. 

We plan to start by purchasing 100 units. I hope to eventually accommodate everyone who wants one. We set up a demo model and we have people coming by to kick the tires and take it for a test drive to affirm their interest. (You can see Paul, one of ASHA's audiologists, testing it out in the picture.) Zack Koutsandreas, the ergonomics expert that works with us, recommended an Ergotron desk mounted product. We like the way it attaches to our desks and how easy it is to raise and lower.

It's fun to hear how excited people are about using a standing desk. We plan to use a lottery to distribute the first 100 giving priority to people that work five days each week in the office. (40% of our staff telecommute one or more days each week.)

Interested in trying a standing desk? Maybe you can use these articles to make your case. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Test Your Flu IQ

The CDC is projecting a severe flu season and it is now widespread in Maryland and Virginia. Experts recommend getting a flu shot (It's still not too late.) and following these six steps to stop the spread of germs.
  1. Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  3. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  4. Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
  5. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  6. If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
I also recommend taking a few minutes to complete the Well Flu Quiz from the New York Times. You can learn the answers to these questions, "What surface is the most friendly to the flu virus? Where’s the best place to stand when you’re talking to a sick person? And how are Australians curbing germs in schools?" and more....

* Precautions taken from