National News

And The Million Dollar Hult Prize Goes To A Doc In A Box

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 07:18

The challenge: come up with a plan to improve healthcare in slums. There were 11,000 entries, featuring everything from bees to chewing gum as part of the proposal. And the winner is...

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Show-And-Tell: Show Us Your Angry Face

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 07:13

You know the look. Researchers say it's the same all over the world.

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Fire Grounds Hundreds Of Flights At Chicago Airports

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 07:05

The fire in the basement of the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, Ill., caused numerous flight cancellations at O'Hare and Midway.

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Debate Grows Over Employer Health Plans Without Hospital Benefits

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 07:00

A federal calculator that companies use to certify whether their health insurance complies with the Affordable Care Act appears to bless plans without hospital coverage.

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Marriage Rates Are Falling, And For Some Faster Than Others

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 06:44

The share of Americans older than 25 who have never been married keeps getting larger. That cohort is growing much faster for black people, even as many say they want to marry one day.

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Hungary Shuts Off Re-Export Of Natural Gas To Ukraine

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 06:41

Hungary's national gas operator says the "indefinite" cutoff is over domestic supply concerns, but the move comes just days after the CEO of Russia's Gazprom monopoly visited Budapest.

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Belgium Likes Underground Beer. No, Literally

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 06:21

The historic city of Bruges is getting a 2-mile-long underground beer pipeline. Too bad it's from brewery to factory, not brewery to your door.

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China: 'Serious' Terrorist Attack Kills 50 In Xinjiang

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 05:35

First reports of the attack in the largely Muslim region last Sunday said two people had died, but state-run media now say the toll is much higher.

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Student Course Evaluations Get An 'F'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 05:03

Two recent papers argue that using student surveys to evaluate professors is fundamentally flawed.

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More Protests In Ferguson Follow Police Chief's Video Apology

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 04:31

Thomas Jackson, who apologized in a video released Thursday for the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, faced protesters calling for his resignation.

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U.K. Approves Joining Anti-ISIS Airstrikes In Iraq

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 03:38

The parliamentary vote comes after Prime Minister David Cameron urged MPs to authorize participation, saying the self-declared Islamic State poses a "clear and proven" danger to his country.

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Everything Dies, Right? But Does Everything Have To Die? Here's A Surprise

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 03:03

Meet two animals. Both are teeny. Both live in water. Both mature extra fast. But while one dies in about a week, the other — well, prepare to be amazed.

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Everything Dies, Right? But Does Everything Have To Die? Here's A Surprise

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-26 03:03

Meet two animals. Both are teeny. Both live in water. Both mature extra fast. But while one dies in about a week, the other — well, prepare to be amazed.

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U.S. government releases a second revision of GDP

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 03:00

The U.S. government released a second revision to its key measure of economic growth for the spring quarter early Friday. GDP grew at an annual rate of 4.6 percent. Nearly every category, barring consumer spending, was up. Americans, at least last spring, were still leery of splashing out on big purchases, other than health care. Gross national product and later gross domestic product are the accepted indicators of economic health, but a growing body of scholarly research suggests we can do better.

The skepticism around GDP and GNP as measures of well-being goes back decades, and is present in an iconic speech delivered by Senator Robert Kennedy at the University of Kansas in 1968.

“The Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play,” Kennedy said. “It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages.”

And while GDP is easily measurable — an important characteristic for an economic indicator — growth can be deceptive.

“If we have higher divorce rates in a country, then you have lots more money being spent on legal services,” said Julia Kirby, an editor of the Harvard Business Review. “That looks good in GDP, but at a societal level, you wouldn’t say that’s good."   

Kirby says better measures of well-being include whether a country’s population is healthy, educated, happy and getting enough sleep at night. 

PODCAST: The price of AC cools down

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 03:00

First up, there's news that Bill Gross — the man who built California-based PIMCO into one of the biggest money managers in the world — is moving to rival Janus, effective immediately. In what must be an overstatement, PIMCO's biggest shareholder called this a "Black Swan Event," something so unlikely it wasn't worth even thinking about. We look into what has been the talk of financial markets this morning. Plus, 100 years ago, the Federal Trade Commission was born when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Trade Commission Act into law. Since then, the agency has played an outsize role in the U.S. economy, and it's fair to say it's affected all of us. And as Marketplace celebrates its 25th birthday this year, we are looking at the surprising,  sometimes delightful and sometimes destructive ways that prices have changed during that quarter century. Today, we chill out with a look at the price of AC units, and what their changing costs say about how energy consumption has evolved.

Silicon Tally: India is anti-‘Gravity’

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 02:30

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by Joe Hanson, a science writer and host of the PBS digital series "It’s Okay to be Smart."

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Silicon Tally: India is anti-"Gravity"

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 02:30

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by Joe Hanson, a science writer and host of the PBS digital series It’s Okay to be Smart.

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Taking patient ‘happiness’ more seriously

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 02:00

It's a great time to be in the hospitality industry... if you want to go into health care.

In case you haven't noticed, health care is becoming more consumer-focused by the day, and in a fight for our business, insurers and health care providers are hunting for executives whose business is customer service — making sure once we walk through the door, we stay.

Deedra Hartung with Cejka Executive Search says hospitals are starting to pay top dollar for "patient experience officers."

"The right background for a Chief Experience Officer can range up to approximately $250,000," she says.

The Chief Experience Officer is responsible for what you'd expect: making sure a patient feels good about their hospital stay. The challenge for health care providers, says Hartung, is to understand "what makes one facility more comfortable for a patient than another."

Hospital executives struggle to answer the question Hartung raises. Clearly, as long as prices remain hidden and it's nearly impossible to assess quality, the industry will have a customer service crisis on its hands. But with patient satisfaction scores now tied to hospital bonuses (and penalties), some health care organizations have started to take steps to improve the patient experience.

It starts with snapping up executives like Fabian Marechal, who runs Penn Medicine's new Musculoskeletal Center. Marechal's pedigree is impeccable; he cut his teeth with Marriott and Ritz-Carlton.

"You know, in my practices, you won't see magazines that are two years old or dead plants," he says, laughing. But Marechal's not joking.

Marechal says he's learned a lot from his time in the hospitality sector — one of the most important lessons is that people must feel cared for. So frontline staff greet customers like a doorman or concierge at the Ritz, and walk them over to the kiosk to help with registration. It's a little thing, Marechal concedes, but with big symbolic value.

"I think all of this helps patients be more engaged in their care. [It shows] people are going to listen to me, people are going to acknowledge me. It changes your mindset from the get-go. You are more open and you feel more safe and secure to listen to your caregiver," he says. Another lesson Marechal picked up along the way: Better customer service can turn that new customer into a repeat customer.

Health insurers have every incentive under the sun to improve their customer service. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans have begun to shop online through the public exchanges for their insurance coverage, and this may be the wave of the future for many Americans. The firm that makes online insurance shopping easy — okay, as easy as it can be — will have a significant advantage over its competitors.

Aetna's Dijuana Lewis, whom the insurance company hired away from Wal-Mart, says the message is clear.

"It's all about knowing the customer, what the customer wants and how they want it. Health care hasn't really been approached that way," she says. It sounds simple, and it can be.
But Harvard's Ashish Jha has seen plenty of missteps in the industry's rush to "know their customers."

"I've seen a lot of hospitals that have made big investments in things like having a pianist in the lobby of the hospital," he says. But pianos are easy. Jha says the hard work — the work that wins consumer loyalty — is training staff to better connect with their patients, and sticking with it long enough to change the culture.

Maybe, Jha says, an infusion of hospitality executives will bring that kind of dedication and a bit more humanity to health care.

Taking patient "happiness" more seriously

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 02:00

It's a great time to be in the hospitality industry...if you want to go into healthcare.

In case you haven't noticed, healthcare is becoming more consumer-focused by the day. And in a fight for our business, insurers and health care providers are hunting for executives whose business is customer service; making sure once we walk through the door, we stay.

Deedra Hartung with Cejka Executive Search says hospitals are starting to pay top dollar for 'patient experience officers.'

"The right background for a Chief Experience Officer can range up to approximately $250,000," she says.

The Chief Experience Officer is responsible for what you'd expect: making sure a patient feels good about their hospital stay. The challenge for healthcare providers, says Hartung, is to understand, "what makes one facility more comfortable for a patient than another."

Hospital executives struggle to answer the question Hartung raises. Clearly, as long as prices remain hidden and it's nearly impossible to assess quality, the industry will have a customer service crisis on its hands. But with patient satisfaction scores now tied to hospital bonuses (and penalties), some healthcare organizations have started to take steps to improve the patient experience.

It starts with snapping up executives like Fabian Marechal, who runs Penn Medicine's new Musculoskeletal Center. Marechal's pedigree is impeccable; he cut his teeth with Marriott and Ritz-Carlton.

"You know, in my practices, you won't see magazines that are two years old or dead plants," he says laughing. But Marechal's not joking.

Marechal says he's learned a lot from his time in the hospitality sector—one of the most important lessons is that people must feel cared for. So front line staff greet customers like a doorman or concierge at the Ritz, and walk them over to the kiosk to help with registration. It's a little thing, Marechal concedes, but with big symbolic value.

"I think all of this helps patients be more engaged in their care. [It shows] people are going to listen to me, people are going to acknowledge me. It changes your mindset from the get-go. You are more open and you feel more safe and secure to listen to your caregiver," he says. Another lesson Marechal picked up along the way: better customer service can turn that new customer into a repeat customer.

Health insurers have every incentive under the sun to improve their customer service. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans have begun to shop online through the public exchanges for their insurance coverage, and this may be the wave of the future for many Americans. The firm that makes online insurance shopping easy—ok, as easy as it can be—will have a significant advantage over its competitors.

Aetna's Dijuana Lewis, who the insurance company hired away from Walmart, says the message is clear.

"It's all about knowing the customer, what the customer wants and how they want it. Healthcare hasn't really been approached that way," she says. It sounds simple, and it can be.
But Harvard's Ashish Jha has seen plenty of missteps in the industry's rush to 'know their customers.'

"I've seen a lot of hospitals that have made big investments in things like having a pianist in the lobby of the hospital," he says. But pianos are easy. Jha says the hard work—the work that wins consumer loyalty—is training staff to better connect with their patients, and sticking with it long enough to change the culture.

Maybe, Jha says, an infusion of hospitality executives will bring that kind of dedication and a bit more humanity to healthcare.

Happy 100th, FTC

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-26 02:00

One hundred years ago Friday, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Trade Commission Act into law, creating the agency of the same name. Since then, the FTC has played an outsize role in the U.S. economy, affecting all of us.

The commission's mandate is "to prevent business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers."

"I don't think the mission of the FTC has changed really at all," says David Thomas, who worked for the agency in the early 2000s. What has changed over the last century is the agency's focus — from monopolies during the Progressive Era to deceptive advertising and privacy issues.

"When new issues arise in the American economy, the FTC has the tools to deal with them," says Bill MacLeod, chair of the antitrust practice group at the law firm Kelley Drye. He says the commission pays a lot of attention to technology, data security and virtual currencies, like Bitcoin. "The FTC today is as different as the means and media of communication are today," MacLeod says.

The commission still has to approve mergers — that is a responsibility it shares with the Department of Justice. And right now it's considering some big ones, including Zillow and Trulia, and Sysco's proposed merger with US Foods.

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