Big Administrative Decisions


I get accused of being too critical of administrators at times.  Some get angry when I say things like they use us doctors as pawns, they replicate like Administribbles, they speak a language (administralian) to confuse us, they are overpaid and that they don’t really do much.  Well, I am here to apologize.  I was recently stunned and humbled by an email I received. The following letter was sent to me by a loyal reader of this blog who luckily found it.  It is by a hospital CEO:

I truly appreciated the hospitality, level of engagement and open, candid conversations with physicians during my visits to the eight Beaumont Health hospitals in April. I have learned a lot about the people and the culture of the organization. From everything that I’ve seen, Beaumont Health is comprised of great people who really care about taking care of patients and families. This tells me that, by working together, we will be successful in improving the health and wellbeing of the population we serve and will become a leader in high quality, affordable care for Michigan and beyond.

During my visits, the most frequently asked question was when we would have a new logo, color and hospital names. I am pleased to inform you we are very close to a decision and will be presenting a recommendation to our board for input and approval.

This is an important decision, so we are proceeding carefully and basing it on research. Last year, we engaged a national consultant to conduct internal research on naming and color who interviewed 106 executives, physicians, leaders and board members.

In research conducted in January, 70 percent of the market was unaware of the affiliation of BHS, Botsford and Oakwood, although, fortunately, 80 percent felt positively about it when made aware. To help raise awareness, the phrase “part of Beaumont Health” was added to print, radio and billboard advertisements on May 1.

The selection of a logo, color and hospital names is not about us. It’s about the patients, and what name will be easiest for them, and what color patients prefer and will be easy to see in road signs and building signs.

Once our logo, color and individual hospital names are decided, our work really begins. We’ll launch a new awareness campaign and you’ll begin to see new signs, stationery, badges, etc. We then have to define what we want our brand to stand for in the eyes of our patients and the community.

That brand promise will be brought to life by all of you in your daily interactions with patients and families. Advertising may get patients in the door, but it’s the medical care and experience that you provide that makes them want to come back again and again.

If we all keep patients and families in the center of what we do, we will do well for them, and Beaumont Health will be an organization we’ll all be proud to be a part of.

Thank you for all you do.

John Fox
CEO, Beaumont Health


You see these are big decisions.  Forget paying the nursing staff more.  Forget retaining doctors.  Forget keeping the prices low for patients. That only comes (maybe) after we get the color right!  Reread this section from above:

“This is an important decision, so we are proceeding carefully and basing it on research. Last year, we engaged a national consultant to conduct internal research on naming and color who interviewed 106 executives, physicians, leaders and board members.”

Yes, you read that right. It has taken a year for this big decision to get done. And I am sure the national consultant was cheap.

So, what color did they pick?  Well, after many hours, by highly compensated staff, the debate raged on but ultimately came down to….drumroll please…cobalt blue.  Yes, cobalt blue was “recommended by management and approved by “The Board” after extensive work by the marketing team working with outside branding experts and supported by internal and external research.”

I am sure these administrators are now saying, “Woosh.  Thank god that decision is over.  Now, onto bigger matters. How do we get a raise?”



Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  10 comments for “Big Administrative Decisions

  1. Lady Di
    May 20, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Ahhhh Doug. . . was ready for a nice, heart-warming story about a hospital administrator; laughed so hard the Pepsi was coming out of my nose. I must be NPO when I read “Authentic Medicine.”
    (Snorting out carbonated bubbles hurts!)

    • Doug Farrago
      May 20, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      Glad I could help.

  2. Pat
    May 18, 2015 at 11:05 am

    This is one of the funniest pieces you’ve ever had on here.

    • Doug Farrago
      May 18, 2015 at 1:18 pm


  3. Bill Ameen MD
    May 17, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Mommas, don’t let your kids grow up to be doctors…Tell ’em to be healthcare administrators!
    The suits just can’t seem to get it right. At the hospital I retired from, a couple of years ago they brought on board a “patient advocate specialist” (whose claim to fame was that she had worked for Deepak Chopra!) and rented a local theater, filling three times with hospital staff to show everyone how to be “patient advocates,” costing thousands, and at the same time, did anyone get a raise? Probably no one besides Chopra’s assistant.

  4. Steve O'
    May 17, 2015 at 10:34 am

    The unpleasantness of good healthcare lies in its tie to Reality. Quackery, on the other hand, lies in the parallel world of fantasy, which is unbounded by dull and dreary Reality. Patients with steatohepatitis from obesity and untreated diabetes, in Reality, have a terribly unexciting answer to the disease – treat the diabetes, lose the fork. Some will hit bottom, get sober, trudge through the path of Reality, and I encourage and support them. I must live in Reality too, and I rarely am surprised in a good way in the dull world of Reality.
    Quackery is a much more colorful place, as fantasy usually is. Magic! Tortured Genius! Grateful Disciples! Holy Water and Anointing oils! Quack oncology appears to be the most lucrative, as the production line is so short, weeks to months – maybe a year. Branded medicine is perhaps a little more reality-oriented than straight quackery – right in the middle. Comforting, enjoyable billboards of happy people, children, puppies and flowers. Much happier than leiomyosarcoma.

  5. May 17, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Are we sure this was not written on April 1st?


  6. Steve O'
    May 17, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Branding the doctors.
    For some hundred years, we have created the world of the brand. People are carefully schooled to think that they have no comprehension of quality, style or design. But Ralph Lauren does. Martha Stewart does. Vera Wang and Hugo Boss do. Calvin Klein.
    The pressures of industrial modernism have been weighing on American medicine for decades. The mistake of Modernism is that it is the solution, no matter what the question is. Each decade’s new and different – like today’s TechnoDrivel – comes back with the same stale answer with new lipstick on it.
    The price of branding things is the substitution of choice for decision. You get one from Column A, one from Column B. Robotic algorithms are finite and small in number. The need is for the customer to select one from Column A, one from Column B.
    The internet, far from freeing the patient consumer, reinforces this nonsense. Seizures? Treat with Aptiom, Trileptal, Sabril or Zonegran. If the product “fails,” the answer always lies in the noncompliance of the patient. There is no need to question the clear and brilliant FAQ online. Choose a drug, and if the right result is not obtained, sue someone for negligence. There is no longer such a thing as the wrong drug for a particular patient – drugs work, so patients must be inadequate. This is the mindset of industrial modernist medicine. The modern discovery most relevant is that cobalt blue is #3d52c8. Perhaps we can discover the soothing effect of Blue Light Therapy for Alzheimer’s and metastatic breast cancer. Once the brand becomes all, and the product becomes an afterthought, quackery will abound. With digital-biofeedback-EEG’s tied to lights sources of different wavelength, we shall no doubt match every ICD-11 to an appropriate hex illumination code. But does it mean a damn thing? Such questions are never asked during the twilight of a civilization – that time of the winter evening when all is bathed in a dim but iridescent bluish light. Dig it.

  7. Dr Bonz
    May 17, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Seriously? Is this real? It reads like one of those satirical articles in “The Onion” or something like that! This would make a good SNL skit! Wow. Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

  8. Ed
    May 17, 2015 at 8:04 am

    Well, Doug…. You fail to comprehend the importance of branding and brand recognition.

    Patient care be damned!
    Without “customers” there can be no patients!

    Where would Nike be without the “swoosh”?
    Or McDonalds without the Arches?
    Or Apple without the “Forbidden Fruit” Apple logo?

    Let’s not forget the chosen Cobalt Blue (sometimes called Parrish Blue)!
    It is the choice of many artists! Renoir, Van Gogn, Monet and Maxfield Parrish.
    It (the color, not the artist) has positive affects on the mind and body. It IS the color of the spirit! blue invokes rest and can cause the body to produce chemicals that are calming and exude feelings of tranquility. Blue helps to slow human metabolism, is cooling in nature, and helps with balance and self-expression.

    So, please, all those hours spent by administrators, consultants, logo experts, surveys, and (probably) hundreds of thousands, if not a cool (blue?) Million $$$ are well spent!

    Unless, of course they go overboard (as I have done here) and develop “the blues”….

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