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The Cheesecake Factory: a model for health care?

Published: August 09, 2012
  • Author: Patrick J. Skerrett,


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non profit denver
August 31, 2012

This is a really funny comparison, and sad at the same time. To think that people get better quality of service from a place like the cheesecake factory over a hospital is crazy.

Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH
August 13, 2012

The phrase “centralized control” says it all.
Go tell someone their mother’s prognosis/demographic doesn’t warrant some curative treatment and she’s required to get the
palliative instead.

The “doctor-patient” relationship is an individual one that provides medical care to the individual. There’s no such thing as “health-care”, only doctors and patients. The rest is just there as infrastructure.

Keep your “centralized control.” It’ll work about as well as other government run industries…doctor as government worker, yeah that will attract the best and brightest.

jacob alfonz
August 20, 2012

I kindly disagree IMO.

Donald W. Light
August 13, 2012

Comment on Atul Gawande’s BIG MED in The New Yorker Aug 13, 2012

For the past three years I’ve had the privilege of teaching at Stanford about how other affluent countries have produced higher quality outcomes than in the U.S. at substantially lower costs. Few of them have anything to do with the Cheesecake Factory and running a quality restaurant chain. While Atul Gwande’s article BIG MED has some interesting details further in, the analogy with the Cheesecake Factory will mislead readers, I fear.

The examples to feature of well-measured quality outcomes, clear protocols, well-coordinated teams, and incentives that reward better quality at lower cost are the remarkable achievements of Kaiser Permanente, Group Health of Puget Sound, the Veterans Health Administration, Marshfield, and Intermountain. Local examples from Boston, unfortunately, don’t come close. And when we read that the orthopedic surgeon, John Ready, is so tied in with a knee-implant manufacturer that he says “I’m my rep’s livelihood,” we know we are knee-deep in high-margin, cost-inflating medicine. In few other countries would are such relationships allowed to develop, for obvious reasons.

Gwande writes that “…good ideas still take an appallingly long time to trickle down,” but does not explain why. What readers need to learn is how the organization of American medicine and incentives work against those good ideas. It’s not that physicians are not smart or flexible, but rather they will lose power or profit or prestige implementing cost-saving ways to increase quality. The budget-based, well-organized exemplars I mentioned, where physician-managers spend a year getting a new good idea into practice, deserve emulation. Only that would eliminate opportunities for more revenues and profits.

The most exciting development I know in ICU quality is taking place at the Mario Negri Institute in Bergamo, Italy. One team at this famous non-profit research institute has persuaded the heads of 163 ICUs across the nation to develop clinical outcome measures and to track their performances. Each year, median scores rise and several hundred more critically ill patients live who would not have the year before. As Gwande points out in his description of Dr. Ernst trying to do the same in 4 ICUs (with no systematic evidence of clinical gain), the Mario Negri achievement since 2005 is remarkable. Now they are funded to teach ICUs in four other nations how to give better care to the sickest patients, but the United States is not among them. Let’s read more about how they do it, as part of a non-profit dedication to patient care, rather than to market share and revenues.

Donald W. Light, Ph.D.
Network Fellow, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University
Professor of comparative health systems, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey

Jim Bouman
August 10, 2012

One could wish that the misbegotten burg of McAllen Texas, and all of its physicians would be interested in seeing a transformation along these lines of their health care “system”.

[Why? Can someone please tell me why we insist on calling the current hodge-podge a “system”?]. There is nothing systemic about it. NOTHING.

Dawn Bell
August 09, 2012

Dr. Gawande’s metaphor strikes home–so many issues/points are raised in this article, but I’ll focus on just one I could especially relate to–Mr. Luz’s experience with his elderly mother. The patient’s experience in our healthcare “system” is often abysmal, marked by lack of coordination and communication which certainly impacts the perception of quality if not actual quality. Doctors need systems of care to support what they do. Patients desperately need systems that are comprehensible, navigable and more importantly responsive to their needs. Will “big box” hospitals help with this? I think so. We’re at the beginning of a tectonic shift in medicine where the hospital will solidify its role as the center of healthcare delivery (and accountability). Eventually they will employ nearly all healthcare providers and will have enormous leverage on how medicine is practiced. Christina Monti sees it–be the change.

Jim Bouman
August 10, 2012

And that will require the abandonment of fee-for-service, aka “piecework”, remuneration. Health care is simply too crucial to our long term survival, both as individuals and as a society.
After Dr Gawande’s experience with the White House and its fumbling attempt under Hillary Clinton to bring some (not much)reality to health care I hesitate to propose this:
Atul Gawande as chief architect of a USA Health System. But, we need him, we need his ideas and realistic assessment of what must come next in medicine in America.

Neil Ravin, MD
August 09, 2012

The problem is the American healthcare system is not a single corporation where a decision is made and, for better or for worse, the direction flows down the chain of command.
American doctors have the individual responsibility to critically assess the “guidelines” which come out of various organizations and to decide whether or not these are likely to be beneficial to their patients. This means most agree to give aspirin to patients with myocardial infaction, but in many instances the “best practice” of today is poor practice tomorrow–e.g., never give a beta blocker to a patient with CHF; or sustain pregnancy with DiEthylStilbesterol (DES), or even discharge no CHF patient from hospital on spironolactone, or treat patients with bone density T scores below 2.5 SD with bisphosphonates. The problem Dr. Gawande sees is simply a lack of communication, dissemination of information. The problem is more complex–critical thinking requires the physician to say “No,” sometimes, and that may benefit patients.

August 10, 2012

Yes, I am agree with MR.Neil Ravin. “American healthcare system is not a single corporation where a decision is made and, for better or for worse, the direction flows down the chain of command.”

August 09, 2012

Have you looked into calorie count and portion size at Cheesecake Factory? Just because foods are made on premises doesn’t mean they are healthy. I agree non-processed is a step in the right direction but we’ve got a long way to go.

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