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What's in a Name?

December 1, 2001
by Richard L. Peck, Editor
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    By Richard L. Peck, Editor   We here at Medquest Communications had an interesting "cultural moment" a few weeks ago. In compiling a new publication for the hospital design field-a new area for us, and one that we're very excited about contributing to-we had occasion to refer to our DESIGN publication. That is a long-term care design showcase magazine that we have published annually for the past five years. Asked to clarify the difference between DESIGN and the new HealthCare DESIGN publication, yours truly said that the latter was involved with designs for "acute care."

I was admonished by a well-known interior designer who has been long involved with hospital construction and renovation projects. Hospitals, she said, refer to what they do as "healthcare"; they don't trouble to make the distinction between "acute care" and "long-term care." In other words, hospitals are the "main event" in healthcare. Everything else is relegated to niche status.

Hearing this led me to understand more fully why long-term care has such a difficult time getting across its case to the powers that be, particularly in Washington. Too many legislators just don't perceive it as being worth troubling much about. Any doubts I had on that score were laid to rest when Larry Minnix, president and CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA), told a press conference about a recent Capitol Hill encounter he had. Noting the absence of any reference to long-term care in a piece of healthcare staffing legislation, Minnix suggested to a sponsoring congressperson that long-term care has its own problems, deserving specific attention, and spelled out what those were. The congressperson confessed to "never having heard it explained that way before," and made sure that special reference to long-term care was inserted into the bill.

Long-term care is, of course, a crucial part of the "healthcare" continuum, and growing more central to it every day. It's just that not everyone believes that. Until they do, the world will go blithely on its way: underpaying, over-regulating, punishing providers with gusto-and eventually wondering why the system just doesn't measure up to their needs.

It's time to call long-term care "healthcare," too. NH  

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